Everywhere I look nowadays I see articles or posts advocating that “It’s all about the story”. But is it? What value does “the story” deliver to your customers or investors?
Technology companies often build marketing campaigns and investor pitches around features and benefits of their products or services – as they define them. The conventional wisdom is that features and benefits are what it’s all about. And that in turn, is their story.
After all, isn’t that what customers buy and what investors buy into? The short answer to both of these questions is, “No”.
This perception is partially attributable to the engineering orientation of management – particularly founders. Many senior executives believe that since they understand the intricacies and elegance of their technology the market should as well – and therefore beat a path to their door. In fact, many products are engineered and marketed from the company’s perspective rather than the customer’s.
Salespeople often rely on features and benefits to sell the product. Marketing teams tend to emphasize these as well – sometimes in very esoteric or overly technical terms. Their messaging often confuses or confounds customers, undermining the business and brand equity. It also doesn’t provide the air cover that salespeople in the trenches need. And because their content marketing is not nuanced to the customer buying cycle, it doesn’t generate leads at the rate they hope. The result is a low return on their content marketing investments.
The Customer is the Story
Features and benefits only have value from the customer’s point of view. The key to connecting with customers – and investors for that matter – is to understand their issues, goals and aspirations. From product engineering to sales and marketing, this means understanding the customers’ environment and needs. It means getting to know their decision team, how they function and what their buying cycle is. These teams are not just the IT staff; application or business owners, and more frequently, compliance and security personnel are also part of the decision team.
What prospects look for is how effectively your solution helps them. They want to understand what differentiates you. And they need to feel confident that if they choose you from their short list, you won’t let them down once they are a customer. All of this goes into their due diligence. Once they see the features and benefits from their perspective, pricing becomes less deterministic to the sale.
A vendor’s true value proposition is how it helps customers achieve their ROI and risk management objectives. This is the most important factor in differentiation. Driving time-to-value ensures customer satisfaction and loyalty. Companies that succeed at this attract more customers and capital.
I’ve had the privilege to work with quite a few technology companies over the years – from some of the largest to early stage startups. In my first briefing with them, most of the stories I hear are…well, just stories about what they think their features and benefits are.
You can hire anyone to craft and tell your story. Or you can try to do it yourself. But the success of your campaigns, lead generation and close rates will be determined by how effectively you communicate to customers how you will positively impact their business.
Your content must educate, demonstrate and validate ways in which your technology helps customers achieve strategic initiatives to drive financial outcomes. Investors will want to hear and see how you will execute on this to drive growth and company valuation. Without closing this loop on how your technology helps customers implement strategy and improve financial results neither customers nor investors are compelled to act.
The messaging in your communications should be clear, concise, consistent and compelling. It should be nuanced to all of your stakeholders – from customers and partners to investors and employees. We call this strategic communications.
Are you connecting with your stakeholders? Contact us. We’ll show you how to connect the dots.