My partners and I are consumed with answering the question: how can marketing create compelling competitive differentiation, by itself. We’ve spent the last few months reviewing our case studies, brainstorming, and bumping our shins.
We start off assuming that the product (and the company) is a leader in quality and innovation. However, marketing touches the prospect before they’ve had first-hand experience. If they will lend us an ear, if we can then create a conversation, engagement happens sooner and with an aura of the expectation of satisfaction.
Aha + Tools + Agility = Strategic Readiness
Our journey has led us to a working theory on how marketing can create this competitive differentiation. I’m going to lay it out as simply, and in as few words as possible. You tell us if it passes the sniff test.
The foundational construct is what we call “strategic readiness”. This is when marketing has everything it needs to create this compelling competitive differentiation. There are 3 legs that give this concept stability. You have to have all 3 to pass GO.
Creating a series of “AHA” moments. This involves talking, and carefully listening to prospects and customers, with intelligence and empathy, to gain a deeper understanding of who they are as professionals and people, how they define their needs, and their criteria for a decision.
Each “Aha” moment is a moment of truth. If you are in B2B, and/or market a high consideration product or service these “aha’s” are high value insights.
We find the persona process to be uniquely strong in helping us to gain the insight we need. Per Adele Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute:
“When buyer personas evolve from authentic stories related by actual buyers – in the form of one-on-one interviews – the methodology and presentation allows you to capture the buyer’s expectation and the factors that influence them.”
One could say it’s like getting the answers before the test. Another way to look at it is – we are privileged to know and work with the smartest marketers. But none of them are clairvoyant.
Marketing technology may be the tools we’ve always dreamed of, but you need the persona to know how to use these tools.
“Knowing our customer and communicating with them in their language, in the places they go in an appropriate way… everything else is tactics.”
– Peter Bell, Product Marketing Senior Director, Marketo
MarTech appears to be an area of critical concern, where adoption and deployment are often without the Aha or the Agility, and often result chronic underperformance. A recent poll undertaken by our organization reveals that 90% of marketers are realizing less than 50% of the potential of their MarTech investment. Strategic readiness is the cure.
The term originates in Latin and then surfaces in Middle French and Middle English to mean nimble, fleet, quick. We hear agility mentioned as an attribute of an athlete – the quickness of motion.
Marketing must be agile as a core competency. As we looked through our case studies we found an obvious, but distinguishing trend: the persona process frequently revealed that the emperor was wearing no clothes, that some basic assumptions, some widely held beliefs were dead wrong.
- One company found that their “tried and true” positioning for Market A, told decision makers in Market B exactly what they did not want to hear.
- One company’s product innovation was revolutionary, if not disruptive in a risk-averse market. They learned the appropriate entry point.
- One company entered a new market touting that the benefits of their recent release (11!). The decision makers didn’t care, they wanted the basics (release 1).
This is like open source code. We’re putting it out there and relying on all those really smart marketers we mentioned before to co-develop this. Put a comment here or hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.