A key challenge for B2B companies is articulating and communicating their value proposition effectively to multiple stakeholders.
There are many people who influence decisions in the buying cycle and the person you are selling to is not necessarily the person who makes the decision. Often teams within B2B organisations achieve excellence in their respective areas, but may be working in silos and failing to collaborate efficiently. This can lead to the frustrating situation where you have a great product and talented people, but are still not growing at the rate you should be. At GW+Co, we have developed a methodology we call Influencer Mapping to unravel strategically complex arguments into a streamlined roadmap towards growth.
Overcoming the sales / marketing chasm
Influencer Mapping is highly effective in breaking down silos and creating alignment between departments, notably marketing and sales. Often these areas are in conflict with marketing focused on long-term brand reach and sales having a more short-term, results-based mindset. But misalignment between these two functions has been shown to cost B2B companies 10% of revenue or more per year. When working in silos, marketing is focused on a discrete phase of attraction and engagement, while sales people just want a list of leads to close. But if sales and marketing are integrated, both will be much more effective. Influencer Mapping can help the two departments in pulling together to move prospects down the sales funnel from initial awareness to qualified leads, to final sales.
Think who needs what, and when
The first step to creating a value proposition map is to simplify your offering. In B2B, where bright, committed people are often operating with detailed knowledge of your products’ features and benefits, it’s natural that messaging can become complex and unwieldy. It’s the classic case of not being able to see the wood for the trees. The result is a focus on features without the understanding that they might not be relevant for all stakeholders. For example, a CEO will need to sign off the budget, but they won’t do that solely on the basis of an engineer’s passion for the product (engineers tend to have a lot of ideas that need budgets). The CEO will naturally be more focused on Capex and productivity than the little extra feature that one client so desperately wants.
Focus on product benefits, not features
It’s easy to get lost in your product’s features and lose sight of what’s important – the benefits that come into play for each user group throughout its life cycle. A feature is no good unless it’s being used. Different people have different jobs, motivations and priorities. A clear-sighted distillation of messaging helps you arrive into a smaller number of key product benefits. Then you are one step further along the path of clear value proposition mapping.
Who are your influencers?
To capture the full range of actors involved in the buying cycle, we divide them into decision makers and influencers. Take the time to understand your influencers more fully, and clarify which benefits are important to them as you move from marketing to sales. Recognise that there are people in your organisation who could become helpers or blockers to the sales process, depending on how you deal with them.
For example, when introducing a new software product into a company, the IT department can be your friend or your enemy in paving the way into in-house systems. By working with the project manager to address their needs and concerns as influencers, they are more likely to be friendly. Or you could be working with an architect on using beautiful, high-end lights for a client’s headquarters. At some point the engineering contractor may try to replace them with something cheaper, due to budget reasons. If you can have a prepared argument framed in a way that makes sense to the right people, this can save your project. In this way, the system provides a framework to identify and prepare for these issues early on.
Creating the map
Once you know the needs and motivations of your influencers, and have a simplified picture of product benefits, it’s possible to map specific benefits to influencers at different points in their engagement with the product. A design-led value proposition map with streamlined messaging has the power to bring people together in pursuit of a common goal. It highlights what needs to be done by whom, at each point of the journey. The map should be shared widely across your sales and marketing teams.
United and aligned
With more visibility on each other’s goals and strategic decisions, this method helps unite the departments to support each other and work together more efficiently. Rather than marketing ‘opening the door’ to sales, they can prepare those coming through it. And sales will have an enhanced understanding of what marketing does and how they can help make it more relevant. When the two functions are aligned, this can dramatically improve marketing return on investment, sales productivity, and top-line growth.