Messaging in the B2B tech space reminds me of being a teenager at a summer concert in the 90s, standing at the edge of an intimidating mosh pit. All these dudes with no shirts on, crashing up, down and into each other. Their wild, individual efforts morphing into one giant wave of movement in the crowd.
This scene is a lot like your competitive space. Everyone is trying so hard to shout louder about their product that you can’t hear one voice from another, and everything blends into one crowded and sweaty sea of sameness.
If you want to get out of the pit, it has nothing to do with volume. Those who rise above the noise choose a different angle for their message and leave the mosh pit for higher ground.
Here are five deliberate actions you can take to differentiate your message.
Map out your competitor messages. Then zig where they zag.
You know exactly how your product features stack up to the competition. But do you have a clear read on how your competitors are positioning their solution through messaging? If you want to sound different, first you need to thoroughly understand what sounds the same.
Achieve insta-clarity by filling out this handy little chart:
Set aside 30 minutes and check out the websites of at least 4 of your top competitors. Fill in the columns with their information, plus your own. You’ll quickly see which messages are being worked ad nauseum, and what’s not being talked about.
Identify the well-worn roads and choose a new one for yourself. Maybe you’re in the sales intelligence arena where everyone is talking about closing deals and leads faster. But you offer proactive strategies that build a better pipeline to future growth, which is a new and different story.
Find your messaging focus (and stick to it)
Most clients come to me with an old messaging framework that’s primarily functioning as a dust collector in their marketing department. I feel bad for these frameworks because the potential is always there – the flab just needs trimming back.
99% of the time a messaging framework fails is because it lacks a singular focus and prioritized supporting messages.
The framework becomes merely a vehicle to shove in as many messages as you can. Like dipping carrots in ranch dressing.
Here are signs that your messaging framework needs focus:
- Your value proposition has 14+ words
- You can’t land on a brand promise
- Your pillars serve to organize your features
- Your taglines sound like everyone else’s
- You don’t know your “stake in the ground”
Without focus, absorbing your message is like drinking from the firehose. Not even the most primed and educated buyer can ingest it all at once.
A focused messaging strategy is like a pyramid. At the top is your overarching focus – a singular idea that people can quickly understand and latch onto. Ideally, it’s different from what your competitors stand for.
That idea is supported by roughly 3 pillars that embody your top-level benefits. And each of those is supported by specific product features – the tertiary messages.
The most challenging part is finding your focus, and sticking to it. LeadIQ does a great job of clearly communicating their focus: custom B2B account and contact data. It’s clearly different from the many automated data providers out there.
Ask yourself this: if your company stood for one thing, what would it be? How could it start the conversation about your product?
Get out of your features and talk to customers
I hate to say it but you and your product are like an old, married couple – set in your ways, taking wonderful things for granted, and wearing your comfy clothes all the time.
(Of course, you’re still an awesome couple like these two…)
Now, I have nothing against comfy clothes! My point is that it’s near impossible to get a fresh perspective when you’re in it every day. That’s why you have to talk to customers to create an effective messaging framework.
Yup, it’s time to shake things up and get some people on the phone or book some coffee dates. Surveys do not count.
Talking to customers is hands down the most important step to take with your messaging. Plus, they’ll do a lot of the work for you. They’ll tell you what they care about, why they chose you and what makes you different. They’ll even give you the right language. All you have to do is listen.
I recommend having a free-flowing conversation, but here are some points to cover:
- What feature couldn’t you live without?
- Why did you choose us over similar solutions?
- How would you feel if you couldn’t use our solution anymore?
Customer conversations are a goldmine. Many-a-time a customer has shown me the light about which features really matter, what value proposition resonates, and what makes a company different in a real, non-marketing-y kinda way.
Stand up and share your point of view
As an innovative company, you clearly have your own point of view on the industry and how your tech will shape the future. It’s what motivates your team every day. But is that story told on your website?
I know lots of people poo-poo About pages, but it’s a place where you can and should talk about your beliefs and point of view. In life, that’s how we choose the people we hang out with, and that also factors into business. Your own point of view will always, always set you apart.
I had the pleasure of working with Proscia, a digital pathology platform with a vision to help cure cancer. Their messaging was extremely product-focused to help sell into various audiences, but they felt their bold vision for the future was getting lost in the mix. We worked together to integrate their vision for both the industry and their product into messaging that serves them well today.
Forget the beige mission statements and gimmicky manifestos. Spend time riffing with your team on what got you building this product. It will naturally flow into your product story.
Say it with personality
When you’re focusing all your energy on communicating the greatness of your product and its many features and benefits, the style of writing naturally heads to vanilla territory.
That’s why simple, inoffensive language is de rigueur in the B2B tech space. (We have Apple to thank for that.)
Don’t get me wrong, a vanilla personality is OK when your messaging is clear and concise. It’s solid, respectable writing. But any direct competitor who also has their messaging sh** together will probably sound just like you. Your edge disappears.
I challenge you to be one of the brands bold enough to express personality through messaging. It’s so easy, affordable and effective that I wonder why more companies don’t try it.
For example, Buffer is a well-reputed social media automation platform. Their benefits and features are crystal clear, but there’s no personality here. So, to me, they become just another set of features to compare with another solution.
Compare them to MeetEdgar, a social media automation solution with a fun, carefree vibe that reinforces their value proposition: enjoy the time you’ll save using our product. MeetEdgar feels fun and approachable – I wanna dive in and try them out.
We’re B2B but it’s always person to person. (Yes, my eyes are rolling at that statement too, but it’s true and worth reminding ourselves once in a while.)
Your message is a work in progress
Messaging is critical to your marketing and sales – but it’s not a one-and-done exercise. It will never be finished or perfect. Like everything else, it’s iterative and should be regularly reviewed, tested and optimized.
What’s important is your desire to work at it, and deliberately find ways to elevate your message from the mosh pit.