While it may seem late to the game to be talking about New Year’s resolutions in February, I believe that selecting a really strong one is worth investing some additional time. I typically take the month of January to really think through what I want to accomplish in the coming year, and reflect upon how my activities of the previous year might inform that decision.
In thinking about all the companies I had the privilege of working with in 2016, there is a very common theme across all of them. Every one of them is working harder than ever at engaging with prospects and customers, and trying to figure out the right combination of sales and marketing activities.
Given the vast number of tools available for both marketing and sales functions, it sometimes seems like a trial and error approach, which can often lead today’s marketers into the “bright shiny object” syndrome. All that stuff, however, is about delivery of the message. More important is the message itself. And for 2017, both marketers and sales people need to ramp it up another notch.
While this seems like Marketing and Selling 101, it remains a common issue across organizations of every shape, size and industry. What is buyer relevance, anyway? Here’s what it is NOT: It is not about showing buyers what is relevant about your product or service. Really. It’s not. And this is the part that so many product and service marketers get tripped up on.
It is all about relevance to your buyer’s situation or present state, or desired future state. It is about THEM.
In conversation after conversation with marketers and sellers, the challenge is always the same.
It’s so simple and so hard at the same time. Here it is: Talk with them about THEM. For a while. Until you really and truly understand their story and they believe that you do. Their world, their issues, their goals, their challenges, their imperatives…get the point? THEIR’S, not yours. That is the best and most effective way of getting their attention.
How big an issue is relevance for buyers? It is becoming a bigger one for vendors. Buyers are learning how to do their own evaluation and analysis in advance, and they come to vendors to validate or illuminate their understanding of the offering. They match the offers to their own needs and leave sellers out of the conversation where it matters most. In a study conducted by Knowledgence Associates and IDG Connect about Value Propositions in Buyer Decisions, technology buyers were asked what degree of relevance (high and low) they typically see in presentations for the technology-based purchase decisions they make.
The highest level of relevance reported was 71%, and the lowest relevance was 30%. This broad range speaks to the offer-centric approach that companies typically take. Further, it represents a clear opportunity to differentiate through relevance to buyer needs, rather than features/benefits.
Further, establishing a clear connection to relevant buyer needs early on, in both marketing and sales messaging, can prove to be a significant advantage in earning buyer attention during the early stages of the buyer journey before actual personal contact is made with your organization.
The bottom line on relevance is that vendor failure to demonstrate and explain relevant value propositions aligned with buyer needs and interests can have a dramatic impact on buyer behaviour as it relates to your offering. Most often, that impact is negative.
Lack of Relevance:
Making the Resolution Means Reframing Your Offering’s Story
So, take the first step and make Buyer Relevance your 2017 Resolution. That means literally stepping out of the “noise” of your features and benefits to figure out, question and listen to what your target audience is really doing, feeling, addressing or struggling with. Start with them and stay with them until you can really reframe your messaging in their terms. Start by assessing your current value proposition’s strengths and weaknesses through the Buyer Relevance lens.
Areas to address to increase relevance, include communicating the potential impact on the buyer’s organization, and demonstrating tangible business benefits. Addressing both the risks and rewards that companies need to figure into their decision making can go a long way towards positioning yourself as an advisor to the buying decision, setting you apart from other vendors.
Quantification is also a very important component and should enter messaging early, rather than waiting for the sales conversations. And finally, identify and clearly communicate true, provable differentiators that are relevant to the buyer, rather than merely comparing your “haves” with the competitors “have nots.”
Commit to a Relevance Resolution and elevate your value propositions far above the standard feature/benefit players out there. It will be the best business resolution you’ve ever made.
For more information on buyer value proposition preferences, download the infographic.
Lisa Dennis is president and founder of ValueProposition.expert and Knowledgence® Associates. She is an international marketing and sales consultant, trainer, writer and strategist. Her forte is in helping organizations develop and integrate customer-focused value propositions into the marketing and sales mix of B2B companies across a broad range of industries.