Sell Outcomes, Explain Methodology

Posted on August 4, 2015

One area I believe B2B marketers must improve to accelerate revenue growth is becoming customer-centric in their communications.

In a prior post, I described the need for brands to develop a quantifiable value proposition that clearly illustrates how they help customers make money, save money, mitigate risk, or improve customer experience (and then demonstrate financial proof).  I argued that this is critical to initial engagement as we live in an era of shrinking buyer attention span.  Buyer-centric messaging means telling buyers how your brand can impact their business rather than focusing on product or service attributes.

To keep this straight, I have relied on a simple phrase: sell outcomes, explain methodology. The idea is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes: don’t tell me how cool your product is, how many awards it has won, its patented manufacturing process, etc. Instead, tell me how your product helps me (the buyer) reach my business objectives and deliver a financial impact to my business.  Only then have you done enough to earn my attention to deep dive into those other details.

This has a profound impact on sales and marketing communications. If you cannot articulate what financial benefit you deliver, it doesn’t matter much how you deliver your product or service.  Even more to the point, the financial benefit must be relevant to the buyer for it to matter.  This requires brands to routinely ask their customers to validate what they define as valuable rather than assume.  It’s been too easy for product marketing and marketing communications teams to talk about product features and what they perceive as benefits and then “search” to correlate them to financial impact for customers (which is why so many companies struggle to produce case studies with real financial impact data).

Why is this?

Becoming Customer-Centric is Difficult for Established Brands

Old habits die hard for establish brands as they approach the market from an inside-out (as opposed to outside-in) frame of reference. Becoming customer-centric means starting with questions that buyers will ask in the buying cycle.  Buyers want to know how your product or service can help them reach an objective and make a positive financial impact on their company (remember — companies are in business to make money).  Next, buyers want to know how your brand (specifically) can deliver value in a differentiated way vis-a-vis your competitors.  Lastly, the buyer wants to know details about your product or service offering, awards, warranty, pricing, etc.

However, when we observe at how many brands communicate to the market — it’s in reverse order.

If you navigate most B2B websites, the main menu is typically arranged to include the following: Products, Solutions, Resources, Press, About and optionally items like “Partners” or “Support.”  While this looks perfectly acceptable — it’s also perfectly predictable. Where are the statements of business impact for helping the buyer — in the Solutions section? It would be interesting to see a website with a main menu entry called “Outcomes” or “Business Impact” as well as financial stats right on the Home page to capture a buyer’s attention to read more.

Financially Quantify Your Value Proposition Then Lead With It

Ten years ago, it was en vogue for companies with high Net Promoter Scores to post them prominently on their websites or even on signs on their corporate campus.  It was their way of staking claim to customer experience excellence.  An opportunity exists for B2B brands to boldly post the financial impact of their value proposition on their website, in their collateral, and as part of their sales narratives.  Whether that is helping customers make money, save money, mitigate risk or improve customer experience — claim it, then (financially) prove it.

If your brand is not there yet — the good news is that neither are most of your competitors.  The ability to articulate the business outcome(s) that you can deliver to customers can not only accelerate (shorten) your sales cycles, but also improve your profitability as you no longer have to sell on price — but on value.


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