In the B2B buyer’s journey, buyers have to wade through a lot of nonsense to find relevant information.
Improving win rates is within your control. After many B2B win-loss analysis research projects, we have found that simple adjustments can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your sales team.
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B2B tech messaging tends to be big, broad, and vague. Which is the opposite of what savvy B2B buyers are looking for.
So often, B2B marketers leave customers in the dark in terms of:
- The intended audience.
- Relevancy to buyers’ “jobs to be done.”
- How the product or service uniquely solves their business problems.
- Whether the messaging is to be believed at all.
After conducting scores of B2B message testing studies, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the truly horrifying.
Here are some common messaging mistakes to avoid before you launch your next landing page, product marketing initiative, or content calendar.
Horror Story 1: It’s Unclear Who It’s For… And Who It’s NOT For.
Tech companies, powerful visionaries that they are, have a tendency to go really broad with their messaging. For example: “Your vision. Your Cloud.” Or: “Cloud for all.” But is it really for everyone?
B2B products and services are rarely intended for the use of any and all. Unfortunately, it’s rare for tech companies to make it immediately clear who their intended audience is.
Buyers shouldn’t have to work to figure out whether a product or service is relevant to them. B2B messaging should make it really obvious. Whose life will be made easier by this B2B solution? Use visuals, smart layouts, and clever formatting to make sure the eye is easily drawn to copy that identifies and speaks directly to key buyers.
Horror Story 2: It’s Not Written In The Voice of The Buyer(s).
Is your target buyer technical? Do you have someone technical on your marketing team? You should. At least make sure you get someone technical to vet your messaging.
Technical buyers will lose confidence in your solution if the messaging gets the jargon wrong or strings random concepts together in a way that doesn’t make sense. Or if it skirts specifics and stays vague. (Also, technical buyers will be turned off by anything they consider “fluff.” They don’t like marketing buzzwords.)
Context matters. Don’t message in a vacuum. Do what you need to do to author, edit, and verify that you’re writing messaging that resonates with your key buyer personas.
Here’s a place where understanding your target buyers’ “jobs to be done” really comes in handy. You’ll score lots of brownie points if you can speak to the specific issues your solution solves for the intended buyer.
And remember, B2B buying decisions usually happen by committee. In other words, you need to convince a group of stakeholders, not just an individual.
Your B2B tech messaging should speak to all the key buyer personas involved in making the purchase decision- not just the end-user.
Horror Story 3: The Messaging Is Stranded From The Brand Strategy.
The goal isn’t just for the customer to remember the product. You also want them to remember the brand.
If your product is part of a larger suite of solutions, your messaging shouldn’t make it sound like an isolated offering.
Graphics are often an effective method of demonstrating that a particular solution or tool is part of a holistic suite of offerings.
Your B2B messaging strategy needs to connect the product or service back to the company.
Horror Story 4: It’s Poorly Written.
Bad grammar creates an unnecessary obstacle for communicating the relevance of your solution. Especially if your target buyers are non-native English speakers.
In our B2B message testing studies, we’ve watched scores of buyers use the bulk of their energy trying to parse out the intention behind our client’s initial attempt at messaging. This prevents customers from moving down the purchase funnel.
Make things as easy as possible on the buyer. Communicate clearly. Don’t make them work to figure out why it’s smart to buy your product or service.
So. Use complete sentences. Simplify your wording. Amplify your main message so that it’s the most noticeable thing on the page, the paragraph, etc. Only attempt to convey one idea per sentence. Make sure you can get through a sentence without having to take a breath when reading out loud. Shorten the sentence if you can’t. Edit. Edit a lot. (More on this here.)
Horror Story 5: There’s No Hierarchy of Emphasis.
Tech companies love listing the attributes of their product or service. Unfortunately, they often neglect to explain how these features solve problems for their target buyers.
Also, lists are just plain hard to read. Reading a list gets monotonous and boring. Which of the many adjectives is the reader supposed to remember? What’s the main point of the product? What makes it special?
Say you’ve got five key selling points. Please do not pack all five key points into one sentence or even one paragraph. That will mute the impact.
Instead, give each key point its own space and separate emphasis. Add in supporting points as needed. Make sure the supporting points strengthen the main idea, rather than sounding like isolated factors.
Strategic messaging requires a hierarchy of emphasis. Your marketing team needs to be clear on the main selling points of the solution and the supporting, secondary factors.
Readers are more likely to remember what is given the greatest emphasis. If everything has the same level of emphasis, readers may struggle to remember anything at all.
What do you want the main takeaways to be? Emphasize accordingly.
Horror Story 6: Unsubstantiated Boasts, Vague Terms, & Marketing Buzzwords.
During our market research studies, we’ve watched many B2B buyers grow suspicious over broad messaging claims.
Unless you have substantial, authoritative backup for making such a claim, shy away from declaring yourself “the best” or “the leading solution.” When such lofty claims are made, we’ve noticed that B2B buyers often take it as a challenge to think of a brand with a better solution.
Further, to be blunt, messaging that reads like marketing wrote it puts many B2B buyers off.
B2B customers often take vague terminology as a red flag, as it may indicate that the solution is being pushed by a company who doesn’t understand how it will actually be used.
Further, marketing buzzwords tend to scare off technical buyers. These customers will only be convinced by brands that get what their day-to-day entails.
So, be as specific as possible. What does your solution actually do? How does it do it? How will it fit into the work of the buyer? Specifically, what value does it bring to your key customers?
Also, marketers, make sure to run your messaging by someone who is well-versed in the business and technical context of your target buyers.
To summarize: don’t make your buyers work to figure out your solution’s relevancy and value-add.
Make sure your B2B messaging:
- Identifies the intended audience. It should be very obvious who the solution was built for.
- Is written in the voice of the buyer. Messaging needs to get the B2B buyers’ business and technical context right.
- Connects to back to the brand strategy. Give the reader an easy pathway to related solutions and information.
- Is easy to read. Pay attention to good grammar and avoid run-on sentences.
- Has a hierarchy of emphasis. Be clear internally on the top 2-5 selling points you want the reader to take away. The main value-add should have the most space, visual draw, ink, etc.
- Is specific. Avoid vague terms, unsubstantiated boasts, and marketing buzzwords. Explain how your solution accomplishes the benefits you’re boosting. Back up your claims.
Need some help with messaging strategy? We offer B2B messaging upgrades.
Special thanks to Senior Consultant Colleen Clancy, Senior Research Analyst Hercules Randolph IV, and Research Analyst Courtney Bae for advising on this piece.
With custom market research and marketing services, Cascade Insights helps companies seize opportunities in the B2B technology sector. We work with everyone from enterprise tech stalwarts to up-and-comers in fields such as FinTech, MarTech, Health Tech, and more.
David Fisher, author of Hyper-Connected Selling, knows that technology-enabled sales is great, but it’s never going to satisfy the need for human connection.
Chloë Thomas, author of “B2B eCommerce MasterPlan” joins us to talk about B2B eCommerce. Yes, B2B companies need to go online. No, they shouldn’t be taking their cues from the Amazon consumer experience.
Chloë’s book: http://a.co/fZpuzum
It’s not just newly-promoted, doe-eyed marketing managers who make serious management mistakes. Seasoned enterprise executives aren’t immune to expensive screw ups either. On the latest episode of the B2B Revealed Podcast, Herding Tigers author Todd Henry explained that mismanagement of creative teams leads to talent loss and companies that underperform compared to their peers. Henry shared some tips for conscientious creative leadership.
Creative Goals Need Business Results
Managers need to make sure their teams understand how their work affects the larger business goals of the company. This helps avoid an ego-driven company culture. Creative success should be measured in terms of business results.
“The reality is, for most of us, we engage in work that we don’t always love, we don’t always agree with necessarily, but it’s our job to get it done,” Henry said.
In a business setting, creatives need to be able to produce great work even when they don’t control the larger vision for the project.
Your Job Description Now Includes “Threading Needles”
Leaders need to understand how to build an environment where creativity thrives. According to Henry, that requires providing stability without getting near the border of Boredom Land. Without stability, the team will find itself working on the same problem over-and-over again, without every finishing the project. With too much stability, the team won’t feel creatively challenged. It’s the leader’s job to walk that fine line between stability and boredom.
To key elements of a great creative environment are:
- Clear expectations.
- An even playing field.
- Protected time for creative cycles.
- Stakeholders throughout the company who are invested in the creative team’s work.
- A steady flow of exciting projects.
Is This Meeting Over?
Like it or not, meetings are a fact of life — especially on creative teams that depend on collaboration. Yet, even though we all wish we’d only have to sit in on useful meetings, the opposite is often true. That’s why at some point in all of our careers, we’ve all walked away from meetings scratching our heads and wondering, “Wait, what did we decide again?” Great creative leadership is about making this as uncommon as an enterprise company with no marketing vendors.
According to Henry, good leadership means being able to say, “Okay, this is the decision and now this meeting is over.” That’s true even if there are still 20 minutes left on the scheduled event. That kind of clear action is uncomfortable for people who don’t want to put their neck on the line for controversial or risky decisions, but is critical if your creatives are going to do effective work. Decisiveness eliminates confusion. Don’t less unnecessary meeting time detract from needed periods of creative focus.
Chekhov vs. Chesterton
Focus on building a culture that fosters creativity, but in a way that doesn’t just seek to flip over tables and start from scratch every time. To illustrate this, Henry referenced two quotes.
“There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road” Henry quoted G. K. Chesterton, the notable English writer. “The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”
Then, in contrast, Henry pointed to a quote from Anton Chekhov, the famed Russian poet, who advises, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
A great creative leader knows how to balance these two extremes. They know that they shouldn’t just throw everything out because it doesn’t make sense, but they also know that they need to remove unnecessary distractions for their team. Finding that balance creates an environment that allows creatives to reach new heights.
Push Play to Expand Your View of Great Management
This interview with Henry was packed so full of valuable insights we couldn’t fit them all in one article. Listen to the episode for more on constructing a creative environment, best practices for managing a creative team, how to (smartly) give up control over decisions, the secret benefits of having a pet project, and some great book recommendations.
Your video doesn’t need to go viral to be a success. Despite that, too many marketers chase views at the expense of reaching the right viewers. In the latest episode of the B2B Revealed Podcast, we dug in on this topic with viral video expert David Feinman, the co-founder of Viral Ideas.
You Can Pay Bills With Sales, Not With Likes
Many professionals are tempted to craft a video with the sole intention of getting thousands of likes. For Feinman, that much emphasis on going viral is a waste of resources.
“In the B2B space it’s really tough to make something pop,” said Feinman. “What we like to think about from a B2B perspective is do you actually need to go viral?” B2B audiences are limited by nature. It’s more important to convince your niche pool of potential buyers than to go viral with the general public.
Feinman went on to give an example of a trucking company. They could have spent months creating a video that reached millions of viewers. However, there were only 20,000 purchasers in their vertical in the United States. For them, having a video that reached only that 20,000 people was more valuable than reaching millions of people. Why go viral with people who aren’t going to buy?
It’s a bit like sending a letter to a friend. Sure, if you send mass mail to every household in Boston they’ll get your letter, but you could save a lot of time, effort, and money by simply addressing the letter specifically to your friend.
Your Video’s Subject Matter Matters
Spend time finding a topic that will allow your video to further your business goals. When picking a topic, Feinman stresses that what you personally find interesting is not necessarily what customers will find interesting.
The best way to make sure you’re making a video that’s customer-centric is to use the messaging that’s already proven to drive sales.
Once you’ve got the subject matter locked down, you need to figure out the why behind the message, says Feinman. Explaining why you do the things you do will keep your viewers engaged. Then, instead of feeling like they’re watching an infomercial, they’ll feel like they’re being told a story — one they’re invited to be a part of.
Will this approach lead you to the top of the YouTube leaderboard with a viral video? Unlikely. Will it get you business? Yes.
Set Your Sights on Micro-Viral Videos
If reaching the right audience is more critical than total views, you may be wondering what goals you should have for a video. As Feinman explained, most B2B businesses should be looking to go viral inside of their own vertical. After all, you aren’t looking for a consumer-scale viral video that lands on Good Morning America. Instead, you’re looking for a video that goes viral in your industry.
“Thinking about and reframing where you need your audience to be in a B2B environment might not be viral, per se,” said Feinman. “But, it might be micro viral in that we hit our entire target market. To me, that’s a huge win for any B2B audience.”
That’s a win that’s achievable for B2B companies, so long as they make the video in the right way. For that, listen to the interview. You’ll learn what the video making process should look like and some practical tips for creating a stand-out marketing video on a budget.
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B2B Market Research
- — Competitive Landscape Analysis
- — Product / Service Launches
- — Market Opportunity Research
- — Channel / Market Research
- — Influencer Marketing Research
- — Message Testing Research
- — Customer Journey Mapping
- — Market Segmentation Research
- — Key Buying Criteria Research
- — Win / Loss Analysis
- — Brand Research
- — Go-to-Market Research
- — Buyer Persona Research
- — B2B Usability Testing
- — Account-Based Marketing Research