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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Why B2B Marketers Need to Stop Claiming That Their Solution is Better

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 15-Mar-2012

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“Our Solution is Better”. It’s a claim made by many B2B technology marketers, based on a perceived feature set advantage. Maybe their offering has a faster processor, uses the latest chipset, or has more memory, or greater functionality. Similar claims are made about software. But any advantages are inevitably going to be transient as competing vendors leapfrog each other in the feature/function war.

If you want to position your brand in a way that is going to last, going straight to “better” isn’t going to get you there. Because if you want your company to stand out from the crowd in a distinctive, memorable and lasting way, if you want to stand for something meaningful and memorable, you shouldn’t start with “better”.

You see, if you want to be seen by your prospects as their obvious and favourite choice, you need to start somewhere else. Before you can claim to be better, you first need to establish that you are relevant, and then show how you are different. This relevant>different>better sequence is critical to successful B2B positioning.

First, ensure you are relevant

If your prospects don’t find you when they start searching for solutions, claiming that you’ve got the best offering isn’t going to help. So the first stage in successful B2B positioning is to ensure that you are seen as relevant when your prospects start to evaluate their options.

When B2B prospects evaluate the market, they tend to think in terms of categories. They either find themselves looking to address a category of problem (“I need to reduce my spend”) or for a category of solution (“I need a spend management service”). So it’s critical that you position yourself within the categories of things - problems and solutions - that your prospect thinks they are looking for.

Trying to invent a brand new category that does not appear to be relevant to the search for a solution is particularly dangerous. If you are trying to break new ground, and have a legitimate reason to do so, then at least ensure that you position yourself with reference to categories of things your prospect to already familiar with.

Second, show why and how you are different

Now you’ve been positioned by your prospect in a category they believe to be relevant to what they are trying to do, you need to show how and why you are different. You need to show how your company takes a different approach to other alternatives that your prospect may be considering. You might want to offer them a fresh perspective. But above all, you want them to be come curious, and to want to learn more.

Simon Sinek nailed this in his splendid TED video “Start with Why”. He points out that our most compelling leaders, and our most attractive companies, don’t start by describing what they do, they start with explaining why they have chosen to do it. They explain their mission in terms that are relevant to their audience. And they stand apart from the crowd by having a different and compelling approach to solving our problems.

Finally, you can claim to be better

Once you’ve built a relevant and different message platform, you can finally, legitimately and lastingly claim to be better. Not because of some transient feature or function or artifice of your current solution, but because your unique approach to helping your customer solve their problems delivers better outcomes for them. You see, better is about their outcomes, not your solutions. But you have to build your foundation first.

Now, take a look at your messaging

Take a look at your company’s current messaging through the Relevant>Different>Better lens. Is it ensuring that you get found because you are relevant, that you get considered because you are different, and get chosen because you help your customers achieve better outcomes?

You might find it interesting to capture your current elevator pitch using this simple template - (based on Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm) and then think: how could we lead our prospects to the natural conclusion that we can enable them to achieve better outcomes?

A final thought: it will probably have already occurred to you that Apple do this particularly well. But what other technology brands would you identify as being either spectacularly good, or spectacularly bad, about positioning themselves in their markets?

Topics: B2B Marketing, Crossing the Chasm, Thought Leaders