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  • Alan Thorpe

This is why Market Positioning is key to successful B2B Marketing.

Updated: Jan 25

Last week we were talking about getting appointed without a pitch. I said that it's really important that your B2B marketing positions your business distinctively and as experts. Why? Because, ultimately, what buyers want is certainty of outcome. They want to know they're going to get what they want out of appointing you. And the route to that is to focus in and be seen as an expert.

I want to share with you some of the profound business impacts of not being an expert because I do realise that lots of people out there going 'but if we're a generalist we open ourselves to the widest possible selection of opportunities and isn't that a good thing?' Not necessarily. Here's why. 1. Poor fit opportunities. If you're a generalist there's going to be lots and lots of opportunities you look at and go 'hmm, we almost fit that - so we'll pitch for it.' Why? Because you're starved of referrals. Remember from last week 84% of B2B buying decisions start with a referral. It's very hard for people to refer you in if you're constantly jumping around in terms of what you do.

2. SEO. Google rewards people who give the best answers to questions. If you do lots and lots of different things then you're unlikely to give answers that rank you up with the best. Google will hate you.

3. Critically, we talked about getting upstream of buyer selection processes. The 95% of B2B buyers who are not in a buying cycle (S: Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, 2021), to make sure they remember you when they are. Fascinatingly, B2B sales people who offer true insight during this phase get five times as more success as those who don't (S: LinkedIn research).

The result, I'm afraid, is that generalists tend to be always pitching, with big consequences for the business.

- They are less sure about the skills and expertise they need to hire, often promoting the wrong people.

- They are less competitive because costs tend to be higher. Why? there's a lack of repeatable processes and generally lower utilization rates. It's very hard to keep people with lots of different skills & expertise busy all of the time since marketing messages are unclear, expertise less compelling to buyers who just want outcome certainty.

- a low win rate versus an expert. Which is pretty bad. Why? It's back to experts offering better insights and greater outcome certainty to buyers vs. generalists.

Recently I heard a great quote from the CEO of a rival to a company I was working with. He said ' the difference between us and our competitors is that we know we want to be in this business - our competitors aren't sure.' The rival is absolutely killing it because they've got the right expertise, they've got the right business processes, they've got the right pricing; they're delivering the right insights, they've got an expertise focused go to market strategy. It's turned them into global leaders.

Being a generalist is a bit like opening a place of worship where there are 10 different faiths and then trying to prove that you're absolutely committed to all of them. An unholy mess.

So how can you focus your expertise to grow more rapidly? Horizontal or vertical? Horizontal could be 'we're the experts in TV media.' So this would open up lots of different markets, lots of different verticals. But it's still a bit generalist. Vertical. 'We're the experts in media for automotive.' Much more focused, creating opportunity to produced insights that buyers will care about and gain referrals as people move between different automotive outfits. Or, if you want to get really tightly focused, 'the experts in TV media for automotive.' This will be really hard for a generalist to beat - assuming you're good at it and the market offers enough opportunity. Choosing which is right for you depends very much upon your business situation, your ambition, your clients now, market opportunity etc. That's what we're going to be diving into a bit next week.

Do shout if you'd like to get focused and cut through in a way that buyers appreciate. Alan


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