A solid B2B marketing strategy requires differentiators that actually stand out.

B2B Marketing Strategy: What’s a Real Differentiator?

Sean Campbell
Authored bySean Campbell

A solid B2B marketing strategy requires differentiators that actually stand out. This seems obvious. But unfortunately, in B2B tech, great differentiators are hard to come by.

Tech Needs Better Differentiators

Here are a few ways technology companies tend to target the commonplace when they should be highlighting the unique.

Multi-Cloud Is Not a Differentiator

Sure, “multi-cloud” used to mean something special. When AWS was the only game in town, Azure was struggling to get recognized, and GCP was still on whiteboards in Google HQ, multi-cloud was actually a differentiator.

Today, however, multi-cloud is a given. Either a technology company’s solution is on multiple clouds, or it will be soon.

Over-reliance on “multi-cloud” in your B2B marketing strategy and messaging is not going to make you memorable to customers.

“Digital Transformation” Is Not a Differentiator

“Digital transformation” is one of those phrases buyers first heard from the analyst community (Gartner, Forrester, etc.). Analyst firms are exceedingly good at labeling things with a new turn of phrase. Not only does it sell new reports, but it leads to new clients.

Unfortunately, the uniqueness of these analyst community-created terms quickly drops to absolute zero. As soon as buyers are made aware of a new trend, nearly every technology company will claim they are supporting, accelerating, or leading that trend. Typically in an H1 on their site.

The problem here is two-fold. One, in many scenarios, these terms are squishy, in that they don’t have a clear definition. Is a company “transformed” or “transforming”? Two, once everyone is on the bandwagon, these phrases lose their ability to differentiate, because everyone is on the transforming treadmill.

The key problem is that buyers will be unclear on what exactly you’re transforming. Since you’ll have to do a lot of explaining anyway, may as well lead with the specifics of your solution upfront rather than an overused, vague term that all of your competitors are probably claiming too.

Analytics Are Not A Differentiator

The inclusion of analytics in this list might seem strange, as many assume analytics are a differentiator. The platform or app with the best ability to extract insights should win, right?

Unfortunately, technology companies use the word “analytics” to describe any degree of reporting their product provides regardless of how deep their analytics functionality is.

In the old days (10 to 15 years ago), there was reporting and analytics. Reporting was a straightforward process that took limited time and skill. Analytics was something that took time and required real number crunching and business knowledge to result in compelling insight.

Today, a tool that generates a pie chart and bar graph is often labeled as an “analytics package.” But a pie chart hardly takes any time, doesn’t (typically) provide unique insight, and certainly doesn’t require a large amount of number crunching.

Just remember, basic reporting isn’t analytics.

Artificial Intelligence Is Not a Clear Differentiator

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the more amazing technologies that organizations will interact with over the coming decades.

However, in tech, “AI-powered,” “AI platform,” and “an integrated AI” can all (unfortunately) mean many different things. One technology company’s AI integration may be a rudimentary chatbot, while another AI is off solving the mysteries of the universe.

Buyers don’t know how to gauge the efficacy of the AI solution without more information about what it actually does.

Instead of being general, be specific. Does your AI speed up a business process? Or, does it generate a unique set of insights over time? Does it alleviate the need for a degree of custom development? Or is it really just AI frosting on a traditional software stack?

“Robust Ecosystem” Is Not a Differentiator

Many tech companies say they have a “robust ecosystem” as though they have a growing rainforest with a small collection of mammals and reptiles and a strong food and water supply all existing on a small planetoid floating above their desk. Of course, this isn’t really the image they want to evoke. So why hinge a B2B messaging strategy on a term that’s been oddly repurposed from biology?

Also, there is no way to measure what “robust” means in regards to the ecosystem’s health. Is the vendor suggesting they have a large number of partners? Or are they suggesting they have a stable of long-standing partners? Or something completely different?

That’s the point, “robust ecosystem” means nothing that you can bank on.

Instead, specify what you mean by “robust ecosystem” and how it benefits your buyers. Are you talking about your vast array of partners or long-term relationships with industry leaders? Do these relationships guarantee that your customers will never be narrowly nudged toward partner products that benefit your financial relationships rather than the solution that best fits your customer’s use case?

“We Have An API!” Is Not a Differentiator

There was a time when a B2B marketer could say a technology platform “exposes an API” and generate leads off that fact alone. Today, not so much.

Today, a B2B marketer in tech needs to recognize that everyone has an API. The differentiator comes in how many business problems your API solves, and how easy it is to use.

Too often, companies just say, “we have an API” and leave it at that.

Don’t be that B2B marketer. Instead, show how your API enhances a specific developer pain point, how it saves a certain number of lines of code (on average), or the types of applications that were built with your API in much less time than before.

“Industry-Leading” Is Not a Differentiator

What does it mean to say a technology solution is “Number 1”? Or worse yet, that the solution is “industry-leading”? Nothing.

Companies need to back up these claims. Without providing support via a Gartner Magic Quadrant, a different analyst report, or independent research of some kind, you aren’t changing minds. Worse yet, you might be telling a lie.

Instead of saying a solution is industry-leading, leverage metrics. How many clients do you have in a given vertical, with a given size of company or that match with a buyer need? If you can’t benchmark your market growth in an objective way, “industry-leading” is just “industry fluff.”

Integrations Are Not a Differentiator

“We have X number integrations,” says the home page of a SaaS app.

Are these integrations useful? Does anyone use them? Technology companies rarely answer these questions.

It’s common these days to see a website for a SaaS application tout the number of integrations that are supported. Buyers typically find that many of these integrations have a limited number of users. In some scenarios, you’ll find the developer who wrote a given integration is an audience of one.

This isn’t to say that integrations are bad. Great integrations truly make 1+1=3. These are the integrations you need to tout. Tell a story about how developers need one less software purchase or integration because of the integration you’ve developed with your partner.

Don’t hinge your B2B marketing strategy and messaging on “hundreds of integrations.” No one will use that many integrations, at least all at once.

“Scalable” Is Not a Differentiator

“Scalable” may be the word that means the least when it comes to a technology company’s differentiation attempts.

Here’s what scalable means: “the ability of a computing process to be used or produced in a range of capabilities.” So, basically, all a technology company is saying with “scalable” is that their solution can be used a lot or a little.

Stating a solution is scalable isn’t even a table stake. It’s just a fact of computing. A company can use any piece of software or hardware a lot or a little.

What matters more to buyers is how a software or hardware product performs when used. This is why you’re more likely to see “scalable” on a website than on a performance benchmark report. The latter is something a buyer can compare, and the former is just a fact of life.

How Well Does Your Home Page Differentiate?

Now that you’ve read this post, I have a job for all you B2B marketers reading. Check out your company’s website. How much of your website is devoted to poor differentiation attempts?

I guarantee a website composed of fewer words that highlights actual differentiators will outsell a site that’s heavy on vague copy.

Words alone are not powerful. Only when they are combined with the right audience and context do they unlock their potential.

Cascade Insights can help you hone your B2B marketing strategy. Our team can do the research that leads to great differentiators and we can help you communicate those differentiators in ways that buyers will love.

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