This week I ponder; If you are a B2B vendor and think you are sales and marketing-led or product-led – do you need to choose? Or should you?
If you know anything about me, it’s probably that I am a long-time B2B technology vendor dude; I’ve done it all, from pre-sales, development, product management, and product marketing to CMO, and I even flirted with being an industry analyst for a bit.
One of the things I have noticed, and I have been thinking about this week, is that vendors tend to lean in a specific direction in how they want to be seen. They are product-led or sales and marketing-led.
Maybe not exclusively, but at their core, they either see themselves as building cool products that solve problems and if they do that, people will come – or they drive their business and their product roadmap by what’s hot in the market or what will sell.
In this little ramble, I want to explore that we need to be doing both, building your product for your users and building your marketing for buyers.
It’s not building a brand gap
Splitting these two things like that might suggest that in marketing, we are there to perform some sort of Jedi mind trick and lure someone into a product that’s ultimately shite.
I’ve mentioned the brand gap in the past (for example, here on Rockstar CMO), in that there are two brands; the one you promise (the one you talk about) and the one you deliver (the one they talk about).
No amount of marketing will (long term) solve a shit product or service problem.
A particularly cynical Seth Godin once observed:
“Some organizations work very hard to weasel in the promises they make. They imply great customer service or amazing results, or spectacular quality but don’t deliver. No, they didn’t actually lie, but they came awfully close. The result: angry customers and negative word of mouth.”
So, not that.
Build for users
Obviously, the product is built for the people who are getting shit done and know the problem they want to solve and what we say about our products is what it can do.
It’s sometimes said that “features don’t sell”, but of course, the functionality of your product is critical as we get to the bottom of the funnel and close to a deal.
And in specific categories, that funnel and a step-by-step customer journey is disrupted with free trials and freemium versions, where features and their usability are firmly part of the pre-purchase customer journey.
Look at how great products like Slack or even Zoom initially invaded our enterprises. They didn’t market to our C suite; they were useful to users, priced under the buying gatekeepers’ radar and trojan horsed their way in.
Today the product can sell, and that’s what Product Led Growth (PLG) is all about, so we need to build for users, but…
Market for buyers
However, having more features undiscovered by the people with the problem does not help them to act and solve that problem.
Someone willing to take that step with a free trial or freemium version of a new product, to instantly become a user before they are a buyer (I mean following a buying process or having someone else play the buyer) without building the trust (overcoming the Fear of F’in’ Up) that it will solve their problem is taking a leap of faith.
They are early adopters at the thin end of the Technology Adoption Lifecycle (or Rogers’ Bell Curve). So build it, and a few will come.
We can just put something shiny and maybe a little bit shit in the path of an innovator and early adopters, and they might pick it up for the pure geeky novelty.
But, to get to that fat bit of the market, the majority, we are talking to buyers who have a decision process.
They have processes, friction and fear that we need to overcome.
And, as Geoffrey Moore opined in Crossing the Chasm, there is a big hole, or err. chasm.. that users or buyers fall into between being early adopters and the majority.
It’s a leap.
They need to know the story of how it can help them.
So, the marketing is for the buyer, the influencer, and the one with the aspiration. It bridges the gap between being an early adopter and the majority. It responds to the dream of what could be achieved and appeals to why they want or need to do something.
It lights the blue touch paper that gets buyers, influencers and users wondering what they could do and inspires them to think about how they can achieve it.
(Rather than his reeling off product features saying what it can do)
So, to make ART (awareness, revenue and trust), we need to build the product for users and marketing for buyers – we are solving different problems for different people, but appealing to both sells.
No robots were involved in the writing of this copy, however the image used in this blog post was created using A.I. through NightCafe Creator
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I’m a 3xCMO, now a marketing strategy advisor and podcast host at Rockstar CMO. Although, I’m not a rock star, but a marketing leader, strategist, content marketer, columnist, speaker, industry watcher, and creator of ART (Awareness, Revenue, and Trust) for the companies I work with. But most of all, I am an enthusiastic tea drinker.
The half-baked thoughts shared on this blog may not reflect those of my employer or clients, and if the topic of this article is interesting or you just want to say hello please get in touch.