Stop talking like your competitors!

I may be getting jaded in my old age, but it seems to me that more and more B2B software and technology companies are talking just like their competitors. They all sound the same. They use the same positioning strategy, they make similar claims and they use the same in-vogue words such as transformation, empower, innovate and the list goes on.

It’s as if marketers are afraid to sound different. I even found two fierce competitors who seem to be copying each other’s web sites. Both claim their suites are comprehensive and built from the ground up for the cloud. Both claim to be the leader in their market. And both are transforming the way users do their work.

Talk about “me-too” marketing! That’s the best example I’ve come across but almost all B2B software markets I monitor have at least two competitors making the same claim. In the Business Intelligence market, seven companies are claiming they help customers make better, faster, more informed decisions including companies who should know better – IBM, SAP, SAS and Information Builders.

In the workspace services market, improved productivity is how eight companies position their offering including HP, IBM, Capgemini and Accenture.

There’s a “herd mentality” in B2B marketing

In an article by McKinsey consultants Tjark Freundt, Philipp Hillenbrand, and Sascha Lehmann, their research found “a surprising similarity among the brand themes that leading B2B companies emphasized, suggesting a tendency to follow the herd rather than create strongly differentiated brand messages.”

The words B2B marketers use in their marketing communications also demonstrates a herd mentality. Almost every B2B marketer is using words like “transformation,” “innovation,” “empower,” “game changer,” and “insight” to name just a few popular words. The problem is that by using these words, you sound the same as everyone else. And if you sound the same, you won’t stand out from the crowd.

“Transformation” is without a doubt the most overused word by B2B marketers and even those              in the media. Everywhere you turn, someone is transforming something. But are they, really? I            don’t think so, and this blog explains why you should avoid using “transformation” in your marketing copy:

http://www.messagesthatmatter.com/transformation-overused-in-b2b-positioning/

But it’s not just “transformation” that you should stop using. Try to avoid words that are being commonly used, and especially by your competitors. Most important, use words that your customers and prospects can relate to and understand clearly and instantly.

B2B companies talk past their customers

McKinsey & Company LogoThe McKinsey article, published in October 2013, is aptly titled “How B2B companies talk past their customers,” and makes it clear B2B marketers are out of touch with this sub headline: “New research shows there’s a surprising gap between the brand messages that suppliers offer to customers and what their customers really want to know.”

The research paper says today’s B2B marketers have potentially powerful marketing tools at their disposal such as search, online communities, and Web-based video. “Our research suggests a potential stumbling block, though: a marked apparent divergence between the core messages companies communicate about their brands and the characteristics their customers value most.”

The article is well worth reading. Here is a link:

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/how_b2b_companies_talk_past_their_customers

To position effectively, you need a thorough understanding of your customer and your competition. Both seem in short supply in B2B marketing except the ability of marketers to copy each other.