Why Is Messaging for B2B Companies Today So Difficult?

b2b messaging

Disruptive and Transformational Technologies

Technology is advancing like never before. With advancements in AI, machine learning, iOT, analytics, and so much more, it’s becoming more and more difficult for businesses to keep pace. Industries are being transformed and the world we live in is changing before our eyes.

As an agency, we work with many tech clients who are in the midst of this change – racing the clock to get to market before the competition.  And while many have worked tirelessly to build the best technology in their realm, they struggle with how to position and message their product or solution to their target audiences.

Messaging for Disruptive and Transformational Technology is Hard

Disruptive technologies require a different approach to messaging and positioning. Discussing features and benefits isn’t enough. In order to be truly disruptive, these companies need to change the perception of what is possible. Their messaging needs to articulate why potential customers should believe in their solution and how the technology will enable a different future. As such, B2B messaging needs to:

  • Articulate that there is a problem with the status quo of today
  • Ignite a shift in perception around about why customers should believe in a transformational way of thinking
  • Position the product or solution in a way that both rationally and emotionally articulates the value proposition directly to key target audiences
  • Clearly show audiences how your offering can transform their way of doing business

These are challenges we often see our clients having a hard time knowing how to integrate brand-level messages that center on the “why” piece of messaging the story. Instead, they lead with the “what” and “how.” When things are so complicated and are so transformational in nature, the messaging needs to be holistic in nature and incorporate the entire story – a story centered around the customer, not the technology itself. This departure from product takes courage.

Our role involves helping our clients make the complex simple. We find a way to unpack the technology and what it enables customers to do, and put it in more human terms. We make it easy for people to understand how the technology will help their business be more successful. Even the most innovative technology in the world will never see the light of day if people don’t understand know how or why to buy it.

The Role of B2B Messaging

To be successful today, tech companies have a lot to achieve. Selling product, influencing prospects, inspiring investors, building categories, building market share, and driving revenue. Marketing teams are on the hook to deliver meaningful and differentiated messaging platforms to help support sales and ensure the brand presents a unique offering. This means B2B brands need a strong narrative and compelling messaging in place to cut through the noise.

In our work with high-growth tech companies, we’ve seen first-hand how the role of messaging can drive change. Because of this experience, it has become more important than ever to get it right. There is a growing need to differentiate complicated technology products into easy to see “value” in the form of solutions that meet target audience needs.

Seems easy? Not so much. Much of our work is alongside CEOs who come from strong engineering backgrounds. They feel immense pride in the products they have worked so hard to engineer and develop. And naturally, they want messaging to lead with product. They see features and benefits as the only way forward.

However, we know this isn’t the only way. My background is in selling technology. I know first-hand what sales teams need to be successful, and I see the role of messaging as critical to the sales organization’s success. I have sold technology on three continents and bring this sales-led approach to every client engagement by adding a unique of understanding technology, how to position it, and how to create a brand narrative and messaging – messaging that addresses the big idea of why the technology matters while demonstrating how it solves a customer’s business problems.

That’s why, at Emotive Brand, we believe strong B2B messaging is about hitting the sweet spot between brand, sales, and marketing in a way that excites, resonates, and activates buyers.

Getting it Right

Getting messaging right is a real challenge. Most often, messaging is an output of a larger brand strategy. As such, it has to crystalize what you do, why you’re better, and what you can do that no one else can. It’s not easy to articulate these values to your target audiences in both rational and emotional ways that activate them to do something.

It’s old news that a lot of B2B messaging – especially within the tech world – sounds the same. But there is a larger problem at hand – a problem we’ve seen happening for a while now. A lot of messaging used by B2B companies isn’t aligned with what the customers or the businesses they are trying to reach really value. What companies are missing is the articulation of something more than features and benefits: true opportunity, values, and meaning.

Supporting Marketing and Sales

We’ve talked again and again about the role brand strategy plays in supporting and driving business strategy. So when the time comes in the brand strategy process to develop messaging, it needs to align and support two major functions within a company: Marketing and Sales.

It’s about driving two workflows within a company. Marketing needs B2B messaging to build out a go-to-market strategy and create sales enablement programs. Sales needs messaging to know how to talk to customers, position the product or solution, and close deals. If the messaging isn’t strong enough, marketing teams struggle to fill the funnel and convert leads. Sales has a hard time responding to RFPs and closing deals. In short, it’s detrimental to both teams’ success.

Smart B2B messaging can drive sales and marketing forward, positioning you to better reach and connect with the businesses who matter to your success. To do so, make it: 

1. Customer-centric

A shift needs to happen from product-centric to customer-centric. This means increased focus on articulating the valuable, unique opportunities you can offer your target audiences. In the B2C world, it’s easy to focus on consumers.

The mistake a lot of B2B companies are making today is thinking that the businesses they are trying to reach are only making rational business decisions. And while B2B does require a high level of rationale, it’s important to remember that there’s also a lot of emotions at stake for B2B buyers. Many businesses today feel that they have an important to role to play. They are mindful of cost, aware of how things are going to play together, and passionate about finding the right solutions fit to their business.

2. Research-led

In our client work, the tightest and most meaningful messaging we’ve developed for clients has involved some level of research – both quantitative and qualitative.

There’s a lot of value in talking to people one-on-one. It gives our team the ability, as a third party, to gain direct access to customers, prospects, and even lost deals to understand the audience’s needs first-hand. This level of empathy enables B2B messaging that can truly connect with people – with their rational needs on the right emotional dimensions. That’s why getting to the heart of their motivations, pain points, and needs is critical and can be the difference between thriving and failing.

3. Top-down

Like many strategic elements, messaging has to start at the top. This means the leadership teams must be involved. Moving messaging beyond features and benefits is a process, and key leaders have to buy into a more customer-centric approach or it will never be fully embraced. 

Once top execs are on board, they can work to align the sales and marketing teams at the highest level. This reinforces the messaging systems you’ve built by ensuring that people are talking about your business in ways that align with it across people and platforms.

The sales force is then equipped to utilize the B2B messaging in powerful, dynamic ways and able to provide feedback to marketing about what is and isn’t working. The collaboration between these two groups makes both the messaging stronger and the impact of the brand stronger – driving ROI and sales.

Messaging as a Driver of Business

Messaging can drive brand awareness, equity, and buying decisions by bringing your value proposition to life for your key audiences. With strong B2B messaging in place, your business can then develop a powerful corporate narrative that brings all aspects of the business, brand, and vision together.

In B2B, messaging can be a vital solution in humanizing your brand and business. It can make it easier for your sales and marketing team to connect with your future clients in important ways that will fuel your business forward. The transition from solely rational to a blend of both emotional and rational can be a challenge. But when you take the lead and embrace the process of identifying what really matters to your audiences beyond just the functional elements of your product, sales will take off, marketing will start to pay-off, and your business will be positioned to stand out and thrive.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

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