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Product is Not the Hero of a B2B Company's Story


Despite the shift in the B2B buyer landscape that puts them squarely in the power position, I still hear marketers insist that the product is the hero of the story. Well, I'll just rip the bandaid off and say it straight up - You Are Wrong.

As a level set for this post:

The hero of the story is the protagonist or main character. The protagonist has a goal; is impeded by the antagonist/villain in achieving the goal; seeks knowledge along the way from a mentor to vanquish the villain; and achieves victory to accomplish his goal successfully at the end.

Does this description of the hero represent your product? Nope.

Instead, B2B marketers need to make their buyers and customers the hero of the stories they tell.

Try this:

The buyer has a business objective (goal), is impeded by problems or issues (villain) that get in the way of achieving it. The buyer seeks knowledge along the way aided by vendor expertise (mentor) and achieves his objective with the help of your product to enable him to resolve the problems and issues keeping him from achieving his goal.

Nowhere in here is the product playing the starring role in the story.

Now try this:

A CTO and founder of a startup SaaS company that's the subsidiary of a global enterprise is building a new application with a business model dependent upon low price, high volume sales. He knows that, at launch, the delivery and support of his application must be rock solid, the site unwaverable - regardless of how much traffic hits it. This is a key product launch for the parent company with a lot riding on it - including his career.

He's formed a great core team focused on the development of this leading-edge application. He is trying to decide how to support taking the application to market.

He can:

  • Build the infrastructure in house - hire the team, buy the hardware, develop the network, co-locate the servers, etc.
  • Build it in house and spin up the servers from Google or AWS to host it in the cloud - but this also means hiring the team to build and support it
  • Outsource the infrastructure to a managed services provider and keep his team's focus solely on core product development, delivery and service
  • Employ the services of his parent company's IT division to support roll out - which is what his parent company would prefer and his board is pushing for
  • Use the vendors his parent company uses to try and find economies of scale - which could be easier for his parent company to swallow than new, unproven vendors

Some of his concerns include:

  • A move up of launch date that means he has to get the infrastructure up faster than he'd planned
  • Concern about security and compliance in the cloud - his customers will be all over this
  • A reluctance to split his or his team's time between innovations for the new product and managing the infrastructure
  • Scaling the infrastructure if volume grows faster than forecast
  • He's been burned by managed services vendors in the past and has low trust that they'll do what they say they will after the contract is signed
  • Controlling costs to keep slim margins in the acceptable range for the board - they're already slim in the best of scenario forecasts
  • Minimizing any perceptions that will get in the way of his potential customers embracing this new application

If you are a managed cloud services provider, how will you build the story for this buyer?

Will you tell him that the cloud will save the day because you're the leading provider of cloud services?

Or will you:

  • Share deep insights about the challenges of taking a new SaaS product to market and how cloud compares to an on premise deployment for scale, uptime, responsiveness and rolling out product updates?
  • Produce content that talks about the role a managed services team plays in collaborating with the core team to make sure the infrastructure supports new product developments and customer demands?
  • Help him to understand how the security and compliance measures you can provide will be a selling point for his customers - and his executive board?
  • Show him how a pay for what you use model will help him keep margins where they need to be?
  • Share your insights about how the future trends you see for the industry will be easier to address with a cloud infrastructure and why this is important for his app and his customers?

There are many angles your story can take and a number of chapters to unfold that will be integral to helping the buyer build the trust and credibility he needs to take the risk of choosing to use an outside vendor, let alone the cloud. There will be a lot of information he'll need to build the business case and drive consensus with his board and parent company. But only if you can convince him first.

None of the stories this buyer needs revolve around your product or solution as the hero. Your solution is simply one component of the business the buyer is building. The story you need to tell is one that builds the buyer's confidence that he's making the best, lowest risk choice that will lead to his SaaS app succeeding in the marketplace and help to elevate his career.

Do you see the difference?

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

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