I haven’t taken an official poll, but I’m pretty sure there’s one question B2B sales and marketing leaders ask us more than any other. It often comes up in the very first meeting with new clients or gets asked after we’ve spoken at an event. And it goes something like this…
“Our company has all these different products and services. We’re in all these different markets. We’re talking to different decision makers with different responsibilities … different levels of understanding … and different needs. Do we need different messages for all of them?”
It’s a reasonable question. And the answer is Walmart.
That big Walmart store down the road from you has around 140,000 SKUs. While you’re there, you can eat lunch, get your car repaired, have your eyesight examined, rent a movie, buy a canoe, pick up a prescription for your mom and a fish for your aquarium. Although they seem to be out of stock at my local Walmart, you can even buy a $25,999 diamond ring on their website.
So, which of these products and services is Walmart known for? None of them.
Walmart is known for having “everyday low prices” on the kinds of things people use in their everyday lives (Admittedly, the everyday low-priced $25,999 diamond ring seems like a stretch, but I can only assume it would cost more at Tiffany’s.) Mr. Sam Walton built his business on the conviction that customers should get the very best possible price every day – not just during special sales or promotions. That’s what made Walmart, Walmart.
There’s a message here. And it’s greater than the sum of their products.
The No.1 company on the Fortune 500 isn’t worried about creating zillions of different marketing messages and positionings for all its different consumers with all their different needs. It has one core message: “everyday low prices.” The products on their shelves may change from season to season. They may promote different services to different consumers. But their underlying core message never changes. Love them or hate them, Walmart is always true to their cause. That’s how you build a brand.
What about your message? Is it more than just the things you sell?
Let’s face it. We B2B marketers worry about how we can come up with a unified message if we have 5 different software products in the same vertical market. It means we’re getting too close to the products – instead of thinking about what they represent.
There has to be an underlying message – a core message, brand message, foundational message … whatever you want to call it … that really captures the heart of your brand. It communicates the reason you’re in business and tells us how you’re trying to change your customer’s world.
For Sam Walton, that core message was never about toothpaste or TVs or T-shirts. It was about giving people “everyday low prices” on the things they needed in everyday life. He communicated this in his business model, in his company’s culture (you should hear the stories about their famously no-frills corporate headquarters), and in his marketing message.
No more hollow messages.
If you only talk about product and service specifics, you’ve got a hollow message. You’re missing the core that makes all the other messages meaningful. That core message is the one you’ll be remembered for – and yes, it can and should be the same core message no matter how many different products you have on the shelf.