Why is the messaging of B2B technology so dull? Why doesn’t it connect with prospects? Why do so many companies sound exactly the same?
In our 20 years of working in the space, we’ve puzzled over these questions endlessly. We’ve heard and hypothesized many answers:
- Tech companies are engineering-centric, and aren’t interested in messaging.
- B2B companies have complex decision-making processes, so appeals to humanity/emotion don’t work
- It’s expensive.
- They’re driven by metrics and it’s hard to measure messaging.
A lot of these may be true, to varying degrees, at many B2B companies, but we’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something a bit more basic at the root of the problem. We’ve found that many B2B brands are stuck in what we call The Cycle of Messaging Mediocrity. They create ineffective messages over and over, and can’t find a way to break out of the cycle. How does the cycle happen, and how can it be overcome? Read on.
In the beginning, there was the message, and it was bad.
Every business struggles with its message from time to time. As successful as your business might be, there are bound to be bumps in the road. Maybe you struggle to connect during your startup phase, maybe as you mature into a more stable company. Maybe you take on new leadership – in marketing or in other C-level positions. As we discussed recently, messages aren’t static – they evolve and change with time. Old messages go sour, new messages miss the mark. It’s inevitable. And this is where the problem begins.
Everybody Has An Opinion
Once the business starts to struggle, questions start to arise. “Why isn’t this working?” “I talked to a prospect and they hated our web site.” “The data says lead gen is down.” “Prospects need more technical data.” “No one “gets” our tagline.” The reasons and opinions come from every corner, because everyone is a messaging expert, right? With all of these disparate opinions, it becomes difficult to satisfy every agenda and need. Marketing gets put on the defensive, and starts trying new messages. Lots of them. A webinar here, a new home page there, a new sales deck, some targeted display ads, some landing page testing. Some things work, some don’t. But there’s no magic bullet. Without consensus, there’s no clear direction to take, and the message becomes scattershot. It’s everything and nothing.
Sometimes the marketing team attempts to satisfy everyone, and they develop a message that is so watered-down to satisfy the least common denominator that they arrive at a vanilla, boring message that resembles every other competitor’s.
And the results are what you’d expect.
And that new vanilla message, or that combination of everything-to-everyone messages falls flat. Results aren’t what you hoped or needed. There’s a lot of hand-wringing, sometimes finger-pointing and occasionally new marketing personnel arriving on the scene. And the cycle starts again, unless someone takes the steps to put an end to the cycle.
So how do you break the messaging mediocrity cycle?
Everyone Gets Involved
A successful message begins with the organization taking it seriously. The C-Level needs to be actively engaged in the process of message development. Yep, the touchy-feely world of brand meets the rational, numbers-driven minds of the organization. CFO’s, CTO’s, CIO’s CEO’s should all have a stake in the new message’s creation, and especially the leader of HR. As we always say, a message created only by the marketing department lives only in the marketing department. People from across the organization should have a voice in what their brand stands for. When they are involved in the process, they have a greater understanding of the new message, why it was created, and what it really means. They’re much more likely to spread the message to their teams, and to external audiences.
In our view, the brand’s message shouldn’t be something that an outside agency imposes on an organization. A great message grows organically from its people, through the products they create, through the way they interact with customers and each other. It’s much more than a tagline or a pretty logo. It’s built on the brand’s purpose and how the brand satisfies the emotional needs of customers. No matter how good an agency’s message is, if the people within an organization don’t buy in, it will ring hollow. It will be inauthentic, and will not resonate with prospects and customers. It will just be some words and pictures created by some outsiders.
It’s about emotions.
We’ve talked at length about the importance of emotional values, so I won’t belabor it here, but businesses that are built on delivering emotional values for their customers succeed where competitors don’t. If your message is product-centric, extolling its virtues, rather than customer-centric, focusing on how you make their lives better, then prospects will not respond. Your product is a means to an end for customers. And the sooner you understand what that end is, the faster you will present a message that makes them stop and take notice. With apologies to Maya Angelou, “Customers might forget the name of your product, they might forget what functionality it does or doesn’t have, but they will remember how it made them feel. “
If you’re stuck in the cycle of messaging mediocrity, we can help you break out. Contact us today!