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Tuesday 2¢ – Empower to the Business Users

This week’s 2 cents is inspired by a chum as I wonder about the ubiquitous phrase in B2B marketing “empowering business users” – but do they want it?


Empowering Business Users is one of those phrases we use in B2B marketing that is as ubiquitous as being leading, innovative, data-driven, and, more recently, AI-powered.

And yet, do business users want to be empowered?

I was reminded of this as my chum Robert Rose opined on his This Old Marketing podcast that in his over two decades of working in content management, as I have, too, the promise that our solutions would empower business users has never really come to fruition.

It depends, of course, on your definition of “business users”. In the content management category, the skills of publishing a web page moved from IT to a select group of skilled folks in marketing. Empowering them as the creation of a web page became de-skilled from the hand-rolling HTML and CSS to a different specialist skill.

But the implication of the promise of “empowering business users” was a democratization that all business users would be hooked into a knowledge management hive and that we’d be serving content to our audiences from the source of subject matter expertise.

It’s not the technology’s fault. Yes, absolutely anyone can publish to the web, far easier than they could 20 years ago, but do they want to?

No, like salespeople who don’t want to be empowered to maintain a CRM; business users do not want to be empowered to create content; they just brief the specialist team that does. I am empowered to change the oil in my car, and I love cars, but I don’t.

Content creation is just one example from a category I know well, but as I mentioned, “empowering business users” is liberally applied across all B2B categories. Do any business users want to be empowered?

Currently, I am working in a very new B2B software category that is very data-heavy: platforms that use thousands of data points to decide the best place to install EV chargers.

The alternative to using this kind of platform, which aggregates all that data and displays it simply, is a mountain of spreadsheets, various mapping products, some gut feel, and a fair amount of data smarts.

I’m not here to sell this solution to you; it’s just a different example to the CMS category, which I assume if you know me, you will know well.

Compared to that alternative, the spreadsheets, the plethora of open browser tabs and the general uncertainty around the decision, which is the job to be done, this category of products genuinely empowers business users.

Like a marketer able to create a web page without IT and do our job unencumbered by the whole process of briefing someone else on what we need, people who plan the infrastructure around us are able to plan where to put EV chargers without the friction and time of relying on someone else.

And we know that, as marketers, trying to convince people who are less connected with what we need about why we need something to be “just so” is friction.

So, to the question I posed at the beginning; do business users want to be empowered?

Well…

I think our platforms should de-skill the task so that our specialists who have the job to be done are able to do it more efficiently without depending on people with more specialist skills but are not as connected to the job to be done.

Not quite as catchy.

Maybe let’s stick to “empowering business users”.


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