When you think of B2B brands, do you think obsessed brand loyalists and superfandom?
Unfortunately, an excess of B2B marketing today depends on traditional (ahem, outdated) tactics and benefits-focused messaging.
But this actually creates an opportunity for "forward-thinking B2B marketers to leapfrog competitors, rising above drab and boring content marketing by delivering messages, programs, and content that educates and compels potential consumers to action," according to Ken Rutsky.
Ken is author of Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades, and Ignite Movements (yep, parades for B2B brands).
He's been in B2B marketing since digital marketing was new-hat, with roles at Intel, Netscape, McAfee, and more. Launching to Leading is a playbook that helps marketers create the messaging and positioning that will vault their companies to market leadership, and this week we're thrilled to talk with him on the Marketing Cloudcast.
Take a listen here:
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our interview with Ken.
Startups and small businesses need to craft their unique viewpoints. But for lasting market leadership, those viewpoints can't be self-serving.
“A viewpoint is a story, but it’s not about telling my story as the provider of solutions. It’s really about telling my customer’s story.” Ken puts this in terms of the hero’s journey: a hero gets disrupted from their reality, they get pulled into the pit of despair, they meet the god or goddess, they’re given a gift of magic, and they return to their world to change it for the better.
The problem is that marketers tend to position their product as the hero instead of the customer. The customer needs to be the hero because, as Ken points out, “it's the customer’s story, not yours.” Instead, make your product or solution the magic in that journey. As it turns out, Ken says, “Selling magic is really transformational.”
To sell magic, you need to refine your unique value within the customer’s context. Once you talk to your customers about their world and understand why their approaches won’t work, you can start to introduce how you can help. This is when you can articulate your unique value and sell your magic, but Ken cautions, “It only makes sense if you set it up in the customer’s context.”
And in keeping with the hero's journey, remember that the customer is the hero, and you're only the magic that helps them solve a problem.
“We all need to move to Missouri because we need to do ‘show me’ marketing, not ‘tell me’ marketing.” In other words, Ken suggests finding new ways to help a customer understand what value you bring to the table. He highlights this with a great example: “If you think about the way you used to buy a cell phone, you walked into a very unfriendly, captive channel store, and all the phones were under a glass table, and you had to beg to touch one. Apple changed that by changing the buying process from looking to an experience.”
Even though Apple sells the majority of their products online, plenty of people walk into stores and interact with Apple technology before they’ve made a buying decision. Or in a B2B context: if you show up, you need to have a good demo.
Ken would even argue that you need a great demo on your website if you want to even get the ball rolling. Ken strongly believes, “You’d better find other ways to demonstrate your value through the buying cycle that are experiential, not just descriptive.”
Ken suggests thinking about your marketing as a lifecycle that goes from launching to leading. A business, product, or product series needs to start with market creation. Recruit a group of passionate users and do everything you can to please them and catalyze them to create the market.
“However, once you get to that group you haven’t finished — you’ve just started,” he advises. You need to become the clear leader in that small but passionate market you've created. This is when become even better at articulating your value, as you listen to customers and what they're getting from your product.
He continues, “It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time about how you’re going to change the world when you’re still in market creation phase.”
According to Ken, “You have to shift yourself away from just thinking about selling to thinking about facilitating buying. You have to shift away from just thinking about value and content to thinking about context.” So instead of just thinking about how many units or memberships you'll sell, think about how to facilitate a better buying process from the customer's context.
You can set up the most cutting-edge marketing program that money can buy, but if you don’t use it to say something that is meaningful to your potential customers within their context, you won’t see results. As Ken puts it, “Technology doesn’t solve everything,” and if you don’t shift your mindset, you won’t convince anyone of your market leadership.
And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Ken (@Ken_Rutsky). Get the complete scoop on B2B marketing in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.
New to podcast subscriptions in iTunes? Search for “Marketing Cloudcast” in the iTunes Store and hit Subscribe, as shown below.
Tweet @youngheike with marketing questions or topics you’d like to see covered next on the Marketing Cloudcast.