A recent McKinsey study* uncovered an alarming gap between what vendors are saying and what customers want to hear. They compared the core messages of the world’s largest B2B companies with what actually influences buying decisions. The results were fascinating.
Here’s why customers aren’t responding to your message:
- The things you say the most are the things they care about the least. McKinsey’s survey of over 700 global executive decision makers revealed that the themes vendors touted the most (such as sustainability, diversity, and global reach) actually had a minimal impact on buyers. Yet, the messages that were most important to buyers (such as honest and open dialogue, specialist expertise, and values fit) were the ones least emphasized by vendors.
- Everyone’s saying the same thing. The study also uncovered “a surprising similarity” among the brand themes these companies were emphasizing. In other words, when it comes to messaging, B2B marketers tend to follow the herd. This makes it very difficult for buyers to tell vendors apart from each other. (No wonder so many deals are lost to “no decision”.)
How do you break the mold and create truly differentiated messaging?
First, put your corporate agenda aside.
Come to terms with the fact that many of the things you care about as an organization are not the things your prospects want to hear about. Your corporate accomplishments. Your accolades. Your claims to be a global leader. It’s not that these factors aren’t important (even to customers and prospects) – it’s just that they aren’t the differentiators that drive an effective sales message. For those, you have to look elsewhere.
Then, find out what your buyers actually want to hear.
How do you find out what matters most to buyers? Ask the people who interact with them every day. As the McKinsey researchers pointed out, one of the smartest ways to uncover customer pains and priorities is to have honest dialogue with your salespeople. If your message is not informed with this boots-on-the-ground, word-on-the-street perspective, it will come across as out of touch and irrelevant.
Lastly, craft a message about the customer’s world, not yours.
Armed with real customer insights from salespeople, begin to develop a sales message that’s all about your buyer. Instead of asking, “What makes our company so great?” – start by asking, “What’s the one small, but important, part of our customer’s world where we can make a really big difference?” Great messaging is never about you – it’s about your customer.
*SOURCE: McKinsey Quarterly, 2013 Issue #4, “How B2B companies talk past their customers”