By Jeremy Plint Co-Director of Corpwrite Strategy
Having spent most of my career in product marketing and development I know how easy it is to become too focused on your product. The fact is your customers really don’t care about the class-leading specifications or ground-breaking technology; they want an outcome.
For sales and marketing professionals this can be a challenging lesson that requires some reprogramming on their part. After all, they’re comfortable talking about the technical stuff! Why wouldn’t any customer be impressed? In reality customers see it as a tick in a box, not a deal-maker. Any sale decided on specifications is ultimately won by the lowest price. In the absence of a compelling value proposition the customer will always choose price to decide; it’s normal consumer behaviour.
This may seem simple, but for some companies the transition from product-centric to outcome-centric is painful. It often requires a rethink of the systems, processes and practises that have evolved to achieve internal objectives rather than meet customer outcomes. If you’re in a mature market which has become commoditised, the inertia against change can be substantial. And then there’s the human element. The fact is some employees will make the transition and some won’t so you need to be prepared for that outcome.
So how do you start the transition? I think the best place to start is by dusting off your GTM (go-to-market) plan and giving it a makeover. Start by reviewing the ‘Why, Who, What and How’ questions relating to your offer.
Why do you do what you do?
This is where you document your mission and vision. I know this feels a bit ‘touchy-feely’ but it’s a crucial part of your offer. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. If you need convincing check out Simon Sinek’s video, which is still one of the most viewed TED talks in history.
Who are your customers?
When I ask this question some companies include ‘everyone with a pulse’ but that’s not going to work. Be specific; profile your ideal customers not only according to their demographic, but also their particular challenges, business issues and pain points. Otherwise you’re just using the time honoured yet ineffective ‘spray & pray’ approach.
What’s your offer?
Don’t just think about the product. Consider the whole customer journey – think about all the ways you interact with your customers and how your product or services help them overcome their challenges. You’d be surprised how many times this exercise has uncovered hidden gems that customers value about their supplier interactions. The sum of all these things represents the value your customers derive from doing business with you.
How does the market work and how are you different?
You need to look at the market from your customer’s perspective. The key to this exercise is finding your point of difference by focusing on how customers interact with the market. What do they like and dislike? The more information you gather, the more opportunities that will present themselves. For example, is there an opportunity to add value by addressing an unmet customer need? Even if your industry is heavily commoditised, customers need a reason to choose you apart from price and specifications.
Get a fresh perspective
What I’ve found is that clients almost always know this information. Not only are they experts on their own product, they’re also highly tuned into their markets and customers. They simply needed someone (with a fresh perspective) to facilitate the process of documenting the information and developing an actionable strategy. With that framework in place you can then build a consistent set of marketing tools – develop your value proposition; create a messaging matrix for all customer-facing communications, identify your unique selling points, build your digital and social strategy or create training material for your sales teams.
In fact, with your new GTM plan you’ll have the formula necessary to refine all your marketing activity so it’s always focused on your customers and their outcomes. You’ll have a better idea of where to focus your resources and more importantly where not to. There’s a great quote by Michael Porter, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” As marketers this is often our biggest challenge, so invest the time to build (or review) your GTM strategy, I guarantee it will pay dividends for your business.
Luke Maddison and Jeremy Plint founded Corpwrite Strategy after many years in marketing roles with brands such as Canon, CCH, Ricoh and Garuda Indonesia.