Last week, we laid out thought leadership basics in the pre-funnel, education phase of the buyer’s journey. Although your prospects’ journeys are halfway complete, you’ve barely started talking to them!
As they enter your sales funnel, they know the solution they need. They’re coming to you (and providing their contact information) because now they want to see what those solutions look like: They’ve entered their solution phase. Now you must quickly move them to the vendor selection phase, with you as a top vendor choice.
Similarities and Differentiation Both Drive the Sales Funnel
People are much more likely to remember, respect, and respond to clear, consistent messaging – in the pre-funnel messaging and with the market messaging.
I’m not saying that you can’t have an unusual message. Let me rephrase: You should have a differentiating message.
But your messaging must show prospective clients how your solution fits in with the rest of the market. If you’re not a first-in-category solution, your context should include the buzzwords and concepts used by other solutions in your category. Ideally, you should include thought leadership that explains the market objectively and includes context that highlights the value of your particular solution.
During a recent chat with Les Yeamans, RTInsights’ proprietor with much wisdom and insight, he described the problem like this:
People have a lot of choice about traveling to Chicago – bus, train, plane, Uber, etc. – each with its own pros and cons. The first content priority for bus companies is educating prospects about all the advantages of bus travel (e.g., no long waits, no TSA checks, first-class quality seats, sightseeing, less risk). Their second content priority is demonstrating the critical differentiators of their bus service relative to others.
First, be in the market. Second, differentiate yourself. Cite independent research or use independent voices to show your similarity to other solutions, even if only with respect to the problems you solve. Third, incorporate that objective content into customer case studies, white papers, and video, to demonstrate how (and why) you’re better than those solutions.
Your sales reps and account executives will thank you, because providing this context eliminates friction in the sales funnel. It sets up your prospects with questions they should ask as they narrow down a solution.
First-in-Category is No Exception
Even if you have a first-in-category solution, think twice before positioning yourself that way.
Someone has almost certainly already tried to solve the same problems you have, but perhaps in more conventional ways – bus, train, plane, Uber, right?. If not, your clients might wonder if it’s really a problem after all.
We saw this scenario in the database industry, for instance, when vendors for multidimensional databases, noSQL databases, and Hadoop™ demonstrated how they solved some of the same problems as relational databases, but more effectively for their use cases. When you peel back the covers, the differences are stark. But to gain acceptance, every vendor class first showed how they fit into the context of collecting, storing, and using data.
Enable your prospects to think of conventional products that solve similar problems and then showcase how you solve those problems differently and better.
Now It’s Your Turn
To claim a place in the market and different yourself from your competitors, leveraging objective, market-based thought leadership becomes essential early-to-mid funnel content.
Aligning this thought leadership with sales support maximizes the effect of your differentiators and makes the best use of your sales force’s time and efforts.
Video, PDF, or interactive success stories — ideally framed as case studies in objective thought leadership – work well to maximize the throughput of your sales funnel.
We’ll talk more about sales alignment and success stories in future posts.
Remember to fit all of this into your content strategy, by the way, and start driving those conversations forward.
RTInsights go-to-market services go way beyond white papers and thought leadership. Consider us your strategic sales and marketing partner.