If you search B2B positioning online you will see that there is a LOT out there. And a lot of what is out there will tell you that it is “easy” — but if it is so easy, why do so many companies miss the mark?
One of the core truths I have noticed through years of working with B2B brands is that, when you are close to something, it can be really hard to see it for what it is. Leaders of tech companies who focus on enterprise solutions tend to be prime examples of this. When they are focused on solving complex problems and creating an equally sophisticated solution, it can be hard to keep the big picture in view.
We are going to look at how to avoid that dynamic through what I call the Three Commandments of B2B Positioning, the core ideas that tech companies need to consider as they work to clearly communicate their value to the market.
View the text alternative for The B2B Buyer’s Trust Journey video below.
1. Know Thyself
Your mission, vision, values, and goals. Your origin story. Why was the company created? What is the essential nature of your business? What do you do differently than anybody else? This is all a critical foundation. Get some of the core stakeholders together and have them tell some stories.
When we work with a company in a brand development effort, one of the first steps in our process is to engage company leadership in what we call Story Court. It is a structured time of story mining where we have them tell us stories of victories, failures, how things came to be and how they have LEARNED as an organization. It is GOLD. Those stories are the basis of the brand and the foundation for understanding where you stand — and can stand — in the market.
2. Know Thy Category & Competition
The second commandment is Know Thy Category and Competition. Differentiation is the key to carving a place in the market. It starts with a clear view of your category. Category is a big topic we cover in several installments in our blog and won’t talk too much here, but Category is your playing field. It is the lens through which the market sees you. Even if you have a revolutionary solution that carves a new category you have to launch from a place that people understand and can relate to. Again, more about that on our blog.
Then you have to know your competition. What are their unique value propositions, selling features, overall tone and voice? Understand their company culture, values, mission and people. Assess their depth of substance and quality via social channels and industry blogs. Mine what your team, and your customers know and think and feel about them. Get a sense for their overall branding, visual identity, imagery, and how they "display" themselves in the marketplace. Where are they advertising and how much are they spending there? Next, determine what makes you different. Where can you stand out? Where can you show up to be heard and seen? It is about looking for those blue oceans where you WILL get noticed.
3. Know Thy Customer
The third commandment is Know Thy Customer. Kapost reports that only 23% of B2B companies consider their marketing strategies to be truly customer-centric. Most are product or channel-focused and that’s because it is so much easier. Why? Because you already know what your product does; the hard work is understanding the problems your customer faces.
The Role of Empathy
Knowing your customer is about empathy: finding ways to listen, understand and identify with your customers and the real challenges they face. So why do tech companies struggle so much here? Empathy generally isn’t activated in the business sector of our brains. When most of us are in that mode we tend to be competitive, determined and solution oriented. Add to that the fact that tech companies are typically founded by technologists and technology solves problems. That focus on solving naturally pushes us to taking on the hero role in the story.
Most B2B solution buyers are in a position in their career where they want to be the hero. In a lot of cases, the decision to go with a particular solution can make or break their career. It is high stakes. If you and your solution take the hero spot, where do they fit? What is their role? See the problem? You can’t be the hero. Your role is to help equip the hero to succeed. This has huge implications as we consider marketing efforts.
buyer Personas & BUYER MATRIXSM
Normally, somewhere in the beginning of a marketing effort, many companies will create a buyer persona. These can be helpful but they normally do little to foster real understanding because they are created around the idea of an “ideal client.” They are often way too general and they inherently bring in our personal biases. Instead, you have to mine Danny’s real-world problems. Listen to them and frame your approach around them. Once you have that, then you can position your product directly into that picture.
At Golden Spiral the way we do that is through buyer matrix. We have several resources on our site that line this process out in more detail. In a buyer matrix you list out your buyers, and then through interviews with your sales team and actual customers determine what exactly are the problems they face that are in any way related to your solution. Then line out how precisely how you answer their pain points. This is the key! Observe carefully. There will be themes and patterns that emerge. This frame becomes the basis for how you communicate your solutions. Based on that picture, determine how you will position your solution to meet their needs.
Let's recap the three commandments. First, frame an authentic picture focused on the why. Second, get a clear picture of your market and how you stack up and stand apart. And third, mine the information you need to know your customers' pain points then create an empathetic narrative and position your product to meet their needs. Ignore these and you will just create more noise in the market. But a great product surrounded by a great customer-centric positioning effort will create an irresistible pull.