Over the years Isurus has published various thought and opinions pieces on the challenges B2B marketers face. Every now and again we look to the past to see if what we said then still rings true today. A number of years ago we published a thought piece called 7 Communication tips from the B2B trenches that provided a simple check list for evaluating your company’s communication efforts. Over ten years later the principles behind the recommendations hold. The following is a summary of that document.
Business decision makers are busy running their organizations and reacting to the “crisis du jour.” Their desks are piled with trade magazines filled with ads, they receive direct mail from you, your competitors and every other category they interact with company, and they receive sales calls on a regular, if not daily, basis. These communications challenges are difficult and there is no silver bullet. However, based on research with business decision makers we’ve developed broad recommendations for B2B marketers aiming to overcome these challenges. Although each company and sector faces a unique set of communications challenges, the following seven themes apply in some degree to any company–including yours.
1. Don’t message to threshold conditions: If you don’t meet threshold conditions you’re not in the game anyway. Instead, talk about aspects of your product or company that differentiate your offering and provide you with competitive advantage.
2. Don’t assume they know: Your customers and prospects don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about your products as you do. Decision makers have a business or department to run, and they’re not as up-to-date on trends in your sector as you might think.
3. Don’t overuse buzzwords: It’s easy to fall into the trap of loading up your communications with buzzwords. The decision makers we talk to often say that buzzwords are for people who don’t know anything about the category. Commonly used buzzwords also rapidly cease to be differentiating.
4. Be careful with the “Solution Sell”: Emphasizing solutions can make it difficult for decision makers to understand what you can actually do for them. Further, it can prompt your prospect to ask, “How can they have a solution for me already if they don’t know my problem.”
5. Don’t confuse your opinion with that of the market: The product features you think are most important and valuable are not necessarily the features potential customers will like the best.
6. Avoid being too vague: Your messaging should emphasize concrete aspects of your company or product that are unique; use a concrete value proposition, rather than a vague generalization that would remain credible if you replaced your company’s name with that of your primary competitor.
7. Remember that customers and prospects may be different: It’s easy to think about your prospects as being just like your customers but there may be systematic reasons why some are customers and others not and you may have to communicate to them differently and emphasize different things.
We recommend you use these ideas above as a checklist for evaluating “what you say” and “how you say it” on all of your communications fronts–sales calls, direct mail, advertising, press releases, tradeshows, website, etc.