Why a Recent Forrester Report Shows That Despite Major Branding and Positioning Overhauls, B2B Buyers Are Unable to Make the Value Connection

The best way to claim a position in your market is to stick with it for an extended period of time. The longer you stick with the same position, the more likely you are to claim it. But, many tech companies today, are regularly changing their positioning and messaging.

It’s not that their technology has evolved – or that they’re going after a new market.  It’s the fact that they’re failing to make the “value” connection with buyers. They’re not getting prospects to listen and respond to their messages.

Here Are 5 Reasons Why Tech Marketers Have to Keep Positioning and Re-Positioning Their Products and Solutions:

1) They have an inwardly focused position about their product or company

In a recent discussion, inside my LinkedIn group, Ian Mapp (Head of Marketing & Product Development at Weatherbys Ltd) mentioned that marketing has to stop ratcheting the implied power of their product descriptions as it’s about the prospect/customer and talking to them in a language that they use and understand. Your positioning strategy should have an outward focus on solving customer problems not an inward focus where you’re talking about “product features” or being No. 1.

Effective positioning states a benefit that solves your target audience’s real business problem. And guess what? The target audience really doesn’t care about your company or your product. They care about themselves and the problem they want solved that has turned them into a buyer.

Your target audience will listen to your message when you have demonstrated that you understand their problem. Technology marketers have seem to forgotten this point, otherwise we’d see more marketers and companies engaging in customer-centric positioning.

2) They have no position because they are making multiple claims

The shotgun approach to positioning doesn’t work. When you make more than one claim in your positioning statement, each claim competes against the other and none stands out. You end up with no position. For example:

“Panorama Software helps companies grow revenues, reduce costs and improve corporate performance by enabling collaborative decision making and unlocking actionable insights contained within their data.

The problem with the multi-claim approach is that prospects lock onto different claims. One might remember Panorama as the company who helps grow revenues. Another might zero in on improved corporate performance. And yet another on cost reduction.

Ideally your positioning statement contains one benefit that addresses the target audience’s most pressing problem. Two benefits is OK as long as they don’t compete for supremacy, and they fit together nicely and logically. But stating more than two benefits is a sure way to confuse the market and fail in your effort to claim a position.

That’s because consistency and repetition play the most critical role in effective positioning. It can take at least a year and probably longer to establish a position if you are making a claim that is important, unique and believable. Repeating the same message over and over and over again will help get you there faster.

3) They have at least one competitor that is positioned identically

Every B2B software market I follow has at least two competitors positioned identically. In the Business Intelligence (BI) market, vendors exhibit lemming-like behavior. I have evaluated the BI market two years in a row. Last year, seven vendors claimed their products delivered “better decisions.” Recently, I found that in a year, most of the vendors changed their position, and now seven claim to deliver “insight.” Only three now claim “better decisions.”

Who’s going to own the “insight” position in the BI market? No one. They all sound the same which causes buyer confusion and is likely to extend the sales cycle or result in no decision.

4) They describe what their company does rather than why a buyer should care about their product or company

Many marketers and product marketers make the mistake of stating what a product is or does rather than a benefit. Claims such as the following don’t work because target buyers won’t consider them important; they don’t solve their problem:

“Anywhere, purpose-built CRM – The best part about Infor CRM is that it’s built for your business.”

The positioning statement describes what Info CRM (Saleslogix) is, but does not express a benefit. Thus Saleslogix has no position.

You can avoid the mistake Infor has made by applying the “So what?” test to your positioning statement. For each answer, keep asking “So what?” until you reach one of only three ultimate promises a B2B software product can deliver: 1) volume (sell more); 2) market share; 3) profit. Because these stripped-to-the-bone benefits might not pass the believability test, you may need to go back to the previous level (the last answer to “so what”) and use that statement.

5) They are using the latest in-vogue positioning strategy

If you want to sound like almost everyone else in B2B marketing, use positioning concepts that embrace “empower,” “insight,” “leverage” and “360 view” to name a few popular ones. These concepts are not well received by the decision-making portion of the brain, which responds better to simple, clear language.

“Transformation” is perhaps the most over used positioning concept in B2B technology marketing. Without doing extensive research, I found nine B2B technology companies in seven different markets using transformation to position their company, product or solution on their web site. Here’s an example:

“SAS® Data Management is based on data quality. Built on a unified platform. Designed with IT and business collaboration in mind. And ready to help you transform big data into big opportunity.”

It is almost comical how often it is used, and in almost all cases, misused. Most companies aren’t transforming anything. They are just doing what has always been done, just a little better.

Overuse of “transformation” is just one of several reasons you should avoid it at all costs. I’ll even go as far as to advise that you don’t mention transformation in any of your marketing communications. That’s because transformation is so overused that target audiences have become jaded. They’ve heard it so much that they either ignore it or roll their eyes and call bull shit.

In a discussion about the “transformation” buzzword and 20 others, David Butler (President and CEO of iPositioning) mentioned, “These words may have worked when vendors controlled the buyer journey and the vendor had the ability to create/define markets. Today we market in a customer controlled journey world. Customers just don’t use words like this in their conversations. So I see this as “oil and water marketing.”

How to avoid the five common positioning mistakes

You can download my free eBook: Positioning – How to talk so the market will listen and you can join my LinkedIn community where tech marketing leaders are challenging common approaches and exchanging new differentiated, customer centric ways to communicate so markets respond.

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