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I was listening to a product launch webinar early this morning. The speakers were droning on and on about technology and architecture and innovation.  Not a customer benefit in sight - other than the usual generic claims of 'market leading' performance,' unmatched' reliability, 'next generation' features and all the other 'me toos'. 

To be fair, the vendor was presenting the product facts quite well.  But they were leaving it to their listeners to sift through the technology claims to apply its capabilities to their own situation.

This is a high risk approach. Especially if your competitors are sharing powerful stories that hits those listeners right between their eyes.

The simple fact is that marketing is not about you. It's about your customers and how your company or solution can help them be successful in their business.

You're probably thinking "But I have customer success stories."  Sure you do. But most of the success stories I read follow the same basic format:

  • They start with an overview of the customer's business and industry.
  • Then they transition with some FUD or dramatic claims about impending doom and gloom if a solution isn't found.
  • Then they dive right into a description of the customer's technical infrastructure, the technology solution in question and all the geeky details you'd ever want to know about the vendor, their product and its innovation.
  • Throw in some customer quotes that get by the customers' PR mavens (translation: they don't say much) and you have a case study.

Look at your own case studies. My bet is that you will have to look hard to find evidence of  customer value other than those related to your technical claims. What you will most likely learn is how great your technology fit into the customer infrastructure, how technologically advanced it is, how fast and reliably it performed and how easy it was to program or manage. And some generic customer statements that could be said about your competitors.

If you don't believe me - try this:

  • Grab one of your customer success stories.
  • Now grab one from a competitor for the same solution ( and same customer profile)
  • Delete your company and product names.  Delete the competitor's as well.
  • Now compare the two case studies. 
  • When I do this with a client's material - we usually see that the two stories are nearly the same.  Maybe different words - but the core claims are often the same.
  • Where's the differentiation in that?

To be a successful Phoenix, we marketers need to start thinking and speaking in the context of the customer's world.

How do you add this layer of messaging to drive home the full power of your technology?

There's an  easy method that I've used for two decades.  For every claim in your positioning matrix, ask yourself one simple question.

"So What?"

What does this mean to my customer?  What specifically does my solution allow them to accomplish, resolve or change that is a good thing for their business? What's in it for them?

Answer the "So What?" question from your customers' perspective.  To be most effective, answer it as if you were talking to a businessman, not the technical user. ***

Here's a really simple example to help you get the gist of a 'So What?" thought process.

The Claim: "Our software delivers 4x the performance of the competition thanks to industry leading architecture and highly optimized design."

The So What?: Try some of these statements on for size.

  • A customer in the retail industry was able to complete 4 times the number of orders in the same amount of time while improving inventory management by a factor of 2.
  • A financial services customer was able to scale their web-based transactions by a factor of 5, empowering them to more than double the number of customers they could effectively serve.
  • Thanks to 25% increased transaction volumes,  our software paid for itself in under 3 months.

Yes, the above examples could be much more exacting wrt specific customer impacts - I know that.  It's hard to speak marketing specifics in a 'generic' vacuum. Unless you go back to technology claims:)

I'm hopeful you'll still get my point.

Great marketing answers the 'So What?' question for your prospects and customers.

In every client session, I start by writing 'So What?' on a whiteboard. That way all I have to do is point to it when the techno babble and chest thumping starts.

You'd be amazed how quickly people start to ask themselves the question before they speak -  after I make a few simple gestures toward the sign and we all laugh (as everyone gets the point.)

And from there, a customer-centric marketing story is born.

_______________________________

*** For all the technology marketers who are rolling their eyes, thinking I don't get it. Think again.

  • Yes, technical buyers are one of the audiences we address. 
  • Yes, they get involved in the decision.
  • And yes, you also have to have the technical information to meet their needs.

But technical users are usually not decision makers. And the CIO is a business executive, now more than ever. Only in rare occasions is the buying decision based solely on technology.  If that were the case - we wouldn't need marketing, now would we? So start thinking beyond the technology if you want to create sustainable leadership and differentiation.  Start asking yourselves "So what?"

More Stories By Rebel Brown

Rebel Brown guides organizations and individuals to harness the power of their minds to step into their ultimate potential. A masterful agent of change, for over 25 years Rebel Brown has inspired, coached and empowered individuals and businesses to unstoppable performance and results. As a recognized market strategist and turnaround expert, Rebel guided over 200 global organizations to step beyond their status quo perspectives to create profitable market advantage. She also worked with US and European venture firms to successfully fund and launch their portfolios. She also ran a consulting practice in Paris for three years, working with European clients. Fascinated by the power of our human minds to limit ourselves and our business results, she began her study of neural science. Her core question was simple. What could we do if we had no limits? Today, she brings the power of neuroscience to business (NeuroBusiness),fueling limitless thinking that drives powerful bottom line growth for her executive and corporate clients. Rebel’s work has been featured in media including First Business TV, Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and Business Week. She is a Vistage International speaker and workshop leader as well as NSA speaker. She’s also been named one of the Top 100 Women in Computing. Rebel is also the founder and director of the Unstoppable U Foundation, a non-profit program committed to guiding kids to know that they are born to be Unstoppable!