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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Most of your marketing efforts are probably wasted too...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 22-Apr-2010

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Are you involved in selling high-value, complex products or services to a business audience?  I recently suggested that most of your sales efforts are likely to be wasted - you can read the article here.  But there’s no reason to let marketing off the hook.

John WanamakerJohn Wanamaker, the US department store pioneer, is often quoted as saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”.  And naturally the problem is not just associated with advertising – the challenge affects every form of marketing.

Of course, today’s marketing media offer the promise of much better targeting and near-instant feedback on who you have reached and how they have responded.  But technology by itself isn’t enough to eliminate the waste that is still associated with many marketing investments even today.

The Medium is the MessageMarshall McLuhan believed that the medium was the message, and there’s no doubt that the media through which any message is delivered affects its form and impact - probably far more than he anticipated when he coined the phrase back in 1964.

But it’s still critically important to get the message right as well as delivering it effectively – and that involves mastering the basics of a compelling value proposition that addresses the urgent needs of an ideal customer profile.  Misalign any of these three elements, and you’ll still end up wasting a great deal of your marketing effort.  

And although the feedback new media provides can help you refine your targeting, it’s no excuse for laziness and there remains no substitute for creating a great brief from the get-go.  So let’s spend a moment considering each of these three components.

Addressing urgent needs

Until there is a need, there can be no solution.  And without a solution, there can be no sale.  But there is an important hierarchy of needs, and whilst interesting needs might get you considered, and important needs might get you evaluated, only urgent needs will get you bought.

Does this imply that you should only focus on urgent needs in your campaign?  Well, no – but if you choose to address interesting or important needs as well (and there’s often a good reason to, because of some of the subtleties of the human decision making process), to avoid wasted effort you had better make sure that you have created collateral and sales tools that can help these “opportunities with potential” to acknowledge that they have urgent needs.

Ideal customer profile

It’s no longer enough to rely on demographics alone (size, geography, industry, etc.) to define your target audience.  Today’s best B2B marketers are also looking out for the trigger events that spark buying processes, and identifying with the behaviours and motivations of their likely champions within prospect organisations – as well as mapping the spheres of influence that inform prospect's decision making.  

To avoid wasted effort, it's worth thoughtfully crafting buyer profiles (or “persona”) for these potential champions as well as the organisations they work for - and investing in influencing the people and organisations these champions are likely to turn to for advice as well as the prospects themselves.

Compelling Value Proposition

But even with intelligent targeting of needs and audience, much effort still gets wasted in the absence of a compelling value proposition.   In addition to targeting your most valuable prospects, your value proposition must align your most powerful capabilities to their most urgent needs, differentiate your offering from the competition, elevate the need to act, mitigate the risk of change, provide proof to back up your claims, and make a well-chosen offer and call to action.  If any of these elements are weak or missing, your value proposition is diminished – and much of your effort wasted.

Marketing is a Process, Not an Event

My final recommendation is that you consider marketing as a process, not an event.  When you are selling complex, high-value offerings to a B2B audience, you can’t hope to cram all your messages into one communication.  But if you haven’t anticipated what the whole story is, or where, how and when it is going to play out, your good work will still be wasted.  John Wanamaker would surely not approve...

By the way, we've recently published a 2-page checklist that captures some of the lesson's we've learned from today's most scalable businesses - you can download it here.

Topics: B2B Marketing, B2B Buying Process