B2B differentiation or the lack of it – the real reason why B2B companies don’t succeed.
They only focus on impressing other businesses, rather than making a real difference.
No differentiation. To be successful, you need to market yourself in a way that sets you apart from the rest.
They want to be accepted and liked by their peers. They don’t want to cause a stir. As a result, they blend in. They follow the herd mentality. Everyone else is doing it, so they do it as well.
Not how you make a difference, though. Not how you create demand.
To stand out, you must be distinct and offer a unique value proposition that distinguishes you from the competition. Demand creation is reliant on differentiation. It’s what makes you stand out.
It’s what people remember you for. And it motivates results.
B2B marketing that makes a difference is b2b marketing which distinguishes itself from the competition.
Let me tell you the way I saw Funky Marketing from the start, with 10 years of B2C experience and knowing what’s missing in B2B – marketing as a growth engine and that sells, too.
How do I envision Funky Marketing as a person? (B2B differentiation in practice)
I envisioned the Funky Marketing brand as a person, and it has a lot to do with the name and my story.
After a rough patch in his career, emotionally and financially drained and exhausted physically from a suicide attempt utilizing cocaine, Gaye walked to center court donning a navy suit. His dark shades had ‘L.A. All-Star’ printed backward on the lenses but he didn’t notice, didn’t care, or pretended not to notice.
Gaye was missing and they didn’t know if he will show up. Arriving moments before showtime, while he adjusted the microphone stand, a simple yet infectious instrumental began playing.
Announcer panicked. “Ah, shit! Wrong tape. This is Sexual Healing. ” But it wasn’t.
What happened next would be the only time in history the national anthem closely resembled a rhythm and blues song. Gaye’s national anthem was an über-patriotic, soulful R&B song that would forever change the sound of America.
No blueprint for charisma or showmanship, both of which Marvin had in spades. His innate coolness and suave crooning left listeners feeling the good vibes. Each note left his vocal cords with the pizazz of a street crooner.
Pat Riley said: “We saw something very unique. You knew it was history, but it was also ‘hood.”
For 2 minutes, the basketball world revolved around Marvin Gaye. Within his gravitational pull were MVPs, Hall of Famers, and 17,505 people in the stands.
“We were 2-stepping listening to the national anthem,” said Magic, “It blew us away. We got caught in the moment of this man. People forgot it was the national anthem!”
Gaye said that all he wanted was to be heard by others. That night, it happened. Gaye made the national anthem about love, inclusion, and triumph.
“We didn’t expect anything. We knew he was Marvin Gaye.”
Here’s the recording of that event I mentioned.
But I don’t want this piece of content to be only about Funky Marketing. To get more insights, I’ve asked a few people on LinkedIn how they differentiate.
Here’s what they said.
Having a point of view makes you who you are.
The unique PoV was my pull factor to reach out to the CEO at Avoma and say “This is what I would love to work on.”
Unique approaches and PoVs such as “meeting lifecycle”, “all-in-one approach” and all the minute details we consider keeping the customers in mind, are what make Avoma stand out from the sea of conversation intelligence and revenue intelligence solutions out there!
Being reliable is not a small thing to do.
Wow, I’ve never heard that story about Marvin Gaye, but I resonate with it so much! This reminds me of a discussion I had with my wife over the weekend.
We tuned into the ‘MySpace: The Ultimate Playlist’ and I took hard to notice that the bands that seemed unremarkable or a mismatch of characters (ex., Good Charlotte or Cobra Starship) always stood out to me more than a primed and polished band (ex., The Click Five or 5 Seconds of Summer) both in sound and appearance.
I think that supports your story of Marvin Gaye quite nicely! Unfortunately, in my current role, I definitely feel like we’re guilty of trying to blend in, especially since the need of our industry is moving into an agnostic approach to integration. If our software needs to blend, so do our teams.
My last role, however, had a bit more room for standing out. I really prided myself in creating visuals, like ads and banners on the website or choppy graphics/animations in a video we put together internally and at no additional cost to the company. That set the company apart, and showed that our money was being invested in the product (and not on fancy marketing), but may not have looked as primed or polished as our competition.
But, you know what?
They got attention.
Need help with your marketing campaign, strategy, or execution? Funky Marketing can help! From research to execution, we’ll help you get results. Check our pricing page to learn more.
Monica Moran, Marketing Manager at Edstart said that being different or at least distinct in order to stand out from the “sea of sameness” (borrowing Stacey Danheiser’s phrase) is one of her biggest desires, but she agrees with me that this is hard because it takes guts to be different.
I’ve recently recorded an episode with Stacey, check it out.
Being different to stand out from the “sea of sameness” is one of the biggest desires.
Here’s the way Monica sees it.
One of my favorite quotes by John Maynard Keynes is: “Worldly wisdom teaches us that it is better for the reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally. That is if you play it safe (your marketing looks like everyone else’s) and it isn’t effective – no one really faults you. If you are different and it isn’t effective, it seems more obvious that you are at fault even if the results are the same.
So she said that she has a plan.
– Diagnose current messaging and tactics.
– Identify what can be improved.
– Talk to customers and get direct insights.
– Base strategy and messaging on that.
Map out short and long term plans to change what isn’t effective. Frame everything as an experiment and just try things. See what works; stop what isn’t working and keep doing what is. In today’s world marketing should be agile, fast and iterative. But it needs the right business culture to support this mindset. A culture with “psychological safety” – where it’s okay to try new things and sometimes fail.
B2B business often fails to articulate the value in a manner comprehensible to their target audience.
I would further that b2b business often fails to articulate the value in a manner comprehensible to their target audience. In short, they say what they want to say about their offering and not what the clients are looking for or need to hear. ZINEB LAYACHI and I have encountered this frequently when grilling startups on PitchSLAP, that is to a certain degree a permissible mistake when you don’t know better, but left unaddressed it amplifies and becomes a blind spot in the communications sent out from the company.
This lack of articulation and clarity is another factor of why they blend in, so by virtue of this, differentiation is doing things right, placing the customer at the forefront of your actions and intentions, something I have spoken about at great length in The Conscious Sale.
I may be off the mark but the company reaches a certain size, there occurs a transformation of the individuals into a collective ego, interested in its own self-importance. It’s why challenger companies come along and are received as a breath of fresh air only to lose those qualities that made them stand out when they got too big and assumed an identity focused oneself and not its clients.
Having just got back from GamesCom in Cologne (a big video games conference) there were over 1000 games studios looking for publishing or VC and of the 25 or so that I met with they all thought that the game was enough to stand out in a sea of countless others. So when it came to presenting their deck for publishing and finance none stood out and failed to address our interests as a publisher rather focusing on the game rather than the overall business opportunity the asset represented.
Differentiation is multi-faceted and it’s also relevant to the upstream relationships you seek to establish as well as the downstream customers
I love that perspective and I’m so glad Taran mentioned it. Working with a lot of startups myself, and looking at lots of pitch decks, I find that the fact they start with a problem, and not with a big change, meaning that in most cases they don’t have a narrative,, impacts the way other people, buyers, investors see them.
The ability to differentiate, take risks, stand out, and re-invent yourself can be strangled by the collective ego, loss of a single identity, and decentralisation of power. Generating recurring growth with the status quo can ironically also kill even greater growth gains.
If I use the example of a current client, a global FS bank providing software and solutions to fund/asset managers. For such a large, successful organisation finding the authority and sign-off to further differentiate themselves in the ‘Marvin Gaye’ way is almost impossible in the current structure. The margins for differentiation are so small. That’s why in other large high street banks I have worked with have spun up completely separate business units, rebranded, and gone out to market in the challenger space as it’s the only way to regain some of the creative plasticity and freedom needed to take risks.
Zig when other companies zag – your road to B2B differentiation.
And this perspective is exactly why I asked the question, in the first place. It doesn’t have to be a story, it can be a thing company does for the community, an offer, the way staff talks to people, or customer support.. A lot of variations. And it’s a never-ending journey. I like to zig when other companies zag.
How many personal brand marketers create content to impress other personal brand marketers rather than targeting their customers?
Roger Edwards, Professional Speaker, Consultant, and Trainer, and the 𝗔𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗿 “𝗖𝗮𝘁𝘀, 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻𝘀” joined the conversations directly from Edinburgh.
It’s one of the things about marketing that baffles me. So many companies (not just B2B) seem to aspire to be the same as their competitors rather than standing out and being different. I guess “same” is safer and easier.
And to your point about people creating marketing material to impress their peers – again this is not just a B2B thing. How many personal brand marketers create content to impress other personal brand marketers rather than targeting their customers?
I’m known for my Cat on the Mat talk (and book now) – I guess stories are a big part of my brand! I try and stand out by pushing simplicity in a world that is needlessly complex!
Whether people want to admit it, or not, B2B buyers are people, and people are swayed by emotion, relationships, and past experiences.
Brian Gencher, Fractional CMO and Principal Consultant turned the conversation again into another depth.
Differentiation, providing a real solution to the customer, being customer-centric, and building a strong emotional connection with the audience, are fundamental aspects of B2C branding and marketing. These same fundamentals apply to B2B. Whether people want to admit it, or not, B2B buyers are people, and people are swayed by emotion, relationships, and past experiences. The B2B companies that start to adopt and apply this thinking are the ones that will thrive and succeed. If a company does not differentiate, they move toward being a commodity-based business. Having a distinct brand position is one way to stand out.
There are other ways to stand apart from your competition, and Brian has listed 6 of them, besides brand positioning.
Seven tips to help your business stand out.
1. Be innovative. Lead, don’t follow. Continuously improve your product, service, and messaging to stay relevant to the ever-changing landscape. Stay abreast of consumer, customer, and market trends to provide evolved solutions faster and more accurately than your competition.
2. Deliver a solution to a real problem or need. A deep understanding of your consumer and customer needs allows you to deliver deep emotional and relevant solutions to their problems in a way your competition cannot.
3. Narrow your target market. Focusing on specific, high valued consumers allows you to drive efficiency in your marketing and sales efforts, maximizing revenue and profits while building stronger consumer and customer relationships for long-term brand health and growth.
4. Be honest with yourself and your audience. Be transparent about who you are, what you stand for, what you do, and why.
5. Deliver an outstanding experience. Positive impressions lead to repeat purchases and long-term loyalty with your consumers and customers.
6. DO NOT focus on price. A truly differentiated business, product, or service has real value and merits a premium price. When you try to compete on price, you lower yourself to your competitors’ level, weaken your brand, and risk becoming a commodity.
At my observation, that it’s about time it starts happening, he said that it’s starting and that he has been speaking at various B2B industry associations on the subject of growing B2B businesses using B2C principles.
Differentiation amid fierce competition is a huge challenge.
And I love when we talk about differentiation, and one of the best in Positioning & Brand Storytelling enters the room. Mark Evans, Fractional CMO and strategic advisor for B2B SaaS companies at Marketing Spark joined the conversation.
Differentiation amid fierce competition is a huge challenge. One of the problems is people and companies think they need to be really different. I mean, different in a “wow” way.
The reality, however, is that you can stand out from the crowd by being different in a small or minor way. You need an angle or a wrinkle that makes an impact in some way.
This is an important message that I deliver when I do positioning engagements. It’s about setting expectations and being realistic.
Every market is ultra-competitive, and every company sells the same products with the same benefits and prices. Differentiation allows companies to be known for something and become the option for customers. It’s also important to recognize that companies can differentiate in small ways as long as they stand apart.With clients, I also start with positioning so they can rally around what makes them different.
Here’s one example.
I have a client, Joomag, that offers a flipbook-type platform, although it’s more robust and feature-rich than the dozens of flipbook competitors.
To differentiate amid a lot of competition, we rallied around “performance,” and Joomag helped companies get more ROI from their content activities.
It’s just one word, but it reflects the platform’s features and, as important, resonates with target audiences.
When you keep following the crowd, well, you end up unnoticed, and your “life” is a very predictable thing.
I wanted to get an overview of the topic from a product perspective, so I’ve invited Dragana Grbic, Product Lady, UX Consultant, and Founder at The Bold Zebra to join.
What an example, I could picture myself in the crowd and feeling the vibe. Is this another superpower you have, Nemanja Zivkovic? 🙂
From the product perspective and in my world, differentiation and USP is what make it worth all the effort to bring the product to light. 💡
One of the first questions I ask people when we start building products is why it is different. How will it change the world even just for a tiny bit, but still change it? Sometimes it is easy to answer this, but there are cases where it isn’t.
Building a product that doesn’t solve a particular problem and makes a difference in the everyday life of a user, won’t make a product last. When you keep following the crowd, well, you end up unnoticed, and your “life” is a very predictable thing. The only way one could make a difference, in marketing, product, sales – any part of today’s businesses is going the path less taken.
It is often not that easy journey, but would you rather watch an exciting movie (i.e. Parasite) or the one where at the beginning you know how it will end up (like any rom-com)?
Oh, there is another thing. Differentiating just to be seen is equally bad. Differentiate with the value you bring, that’s where you should aim to.
1. Focus on a narrow ICP (TOO narrow for many companies)
2. Align positioning and value prop with the needs of that ICP
3. Have a deep understanding of ICP goals and needs and regularly produce content that covers their questions.
4. Do it consistently through demand gen and ABM campaigns across the channels where our ICPs are
It’s not a silver bullet, rather a logic.
I don’t jump into a bandwagon of sharing how many views my posts get or posting a motivational fluff.
Every time I think about our customers (who are in most cases VP of marketing of mid-size/enterprise B2B tech companies) who spent 10+ years in the field.
How can I help with my knowledge and skills?
This is a dominant principle.
Copycatting is the fastest way to be ignored and turn a value-driven market into a commodity market.
I don’t get the whole obsession with competitors. In B2C, it’s more important because of pricing. But I see the value only in gap analysis and positioning. Copycatting is the fastest way to be ignored and turn a value-driven market into a commodity market. In an age where solutions are aplenty, only those that stand out will get noticed.
This is why building community is so big at the moment because it’s built of something bigger than just one company’s products there is some sort of broader movement or change ideal but the company is driving it which makes them stand out and attract people to the cause. Those people typically also being ICP.
I love doing that, investing in the community, before we have a product, Sure, we need to know who’s our target, but if we do community first, we’ll be able to listen to their needs and create not one, but multiple products as solutions for those problems, The thing that I see, too many people are trying to do community as a product, and it’s becoming a complete mess because it’s not easy to differentiate.
And the thing is, people/brands already have their own uniqueness and individual points of view. They just have to share it! Get over the fear and share it. All content should have a strong, unique POV they’re pushing.
B2B success starts with an in depth understanding of customer needs and wants. Insights. Then acting on these insights.
I’m just honest. That’s my thing.
Boom! It differentiates her from 95% of the people!
The last one to join us in this discussion about differentiation, or the lack of it, is Alan Hale.
B2B success starts with an in depth understanding of customer needs and wants. Insights. Then acting on these insights. Better to be differentiated, and have a big share of a smaller market than a tiny share in a larger market. Usually the pioneers have a larger share than me too players. You need to be able to answer WIIFM, what’s in it for me? Talk to your customers and find the answer.
I hope all the insights gave you a good overview and the answer to a single question – WHY do you need to differentiate yourself.
You can’t just do what everyone else does and expect to win. You must have an edge, a unique proposition that sets you apart from the competition in the minds of your target customers.
So, you lose if you’re not differentiating your company, products, and services. And it’s only a matter of time before someone else comes along and takes your business.
Differentiation is key to success in any market. But in the B2B space, it’s essential.
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We’re always interested in hearing from our readers. Thanks for reading!