B2B messaging is a key component of doing business. All go-to-market and customer programs run on messaging. However, the different roles on revenue teams often create conflict with the messaging each of them chooses to use.
It seems perfectly reasonable to each role to choose messaging that fits the “box” of their respective objectives. But when each role goes about messaging without benefit of collaboration or an over-arching strategy, what results can be thought of as the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience of the story.
Marketing creates messaging to position the company in market, draw attention to the brand and create awareness and advancement for prospective buyers and across the customer continuum.
Sales thinks marketing messaging is, well, too “marketing like,” so they replace it with the casualness of personalized conversation for face-to-face meetings—including those conducted virtually—which can result in lost context and relevance, depending on the buyer’s experience with the brand, and via which channels, thus far.
Product managers focus on tactical product features and “cool” things they want everyone to know about—sometimes to the exclusion of the value of the outcomes from the features—which is what buyers and customers care about.
Customer success obsesses about helping customers find and sustain satisfaction from using your products, often tailoring messaging to each customer that may not reflect the overall brand message.
The perspectives of each of these roles on the revenue team are pretty standard. The nature of each one’s responsibilities serves as justification for their point of view. But, without coordination, the stories each of them tells can make the company “feel” a bit off-kilter and result in confusion for those on the receiving end.
This mixed messaging used to not be that big an issue as buyers had limited access to information. That’s no longer true. It hasn’t been true for quite a while, yet this issue persists. Buyers engage with marketing and sales and customers and product folks interchangeably during their interactions and experiences with companies and throughout their lifecycle with a vendor.
Confusion is a problem. It causes people to doubt the truth of what they’re seeing, learning, and hearing. This is when brand trust goes out the window and buyers choose the “safe” option if they choose to do anything at all. Confusion also makes it easier for customers to jump to an infinite number of alternatives where they perceive everyone to be on the same page. Safety and assurance are key emotions in buying and staying decisions.
A Scenario for How Conflicted, Confusing Messaging Happens
Marketing redesigns the website in preparation for a big, new product update. They include content for relevant roles—some brand new—and use cases and product specs, customer stories and testimonials. The messaging goes through multiple reviews with the executive team to gain approval for use.
Sales creates new POV decks and messaging for their sales reps to take the updated product to market. The use cases they choose differ from those on the new website. And the way the deck teaches reps to talk about the product is different from what’s on the site and emphasizes features the product team sees as secondary.
The product team has renamed the components of the updated solution without considering all the places the old product names and labels are used in existing content, or the challenge of getting the sales team to adopt new messaging for the conversations they’re used to having using the old naming.
Customer success is struggling to adopt the new messaging given the way your customers talk about the solution they purchased and learned, and they don’t seem willing to form new habits, so the success team is now straddling new naming with old.
The result? Confusion for your revenue team and for your buyers and customers. Essentially, everyone.
How does this happen?
In cases like this, it’s usually because no one person has control of the umbrella story and how it rolls out across the revenue team. When this is true, each role takes on the authority for their own chapter of the story and conflict ensues.
As a side note: conflict is a key component of storytelling, but in relation to obstacles your hero must overcome, not confusion.
Architect B2B Messaging and Stories Around Customers
It really doesn’t matter what you or anyone on the revenue team thinks. What matters is what your buyers and customers think, want, and need—whether they know it or not yet.
Your story must be architected in a way that allows buyers to drive their experience. If the parts of the story your audience encounters don’t help them advance or—even worse—confuse them, they will move on in search of more relevance with less effort.
There are five main questions it’s imperative to answer when architecting messaging and stories:
- Who is the story for? (hero)
- What problem do they want to solve? (antagonist)
- What does the outcome look like to them? (goal)
- What do they need to know to choose to get that outcome? (plot)
- What obstacles do they face along the way? (conflict)
The answers to those questions create the framework for your messaging that presents a compelling story.
The first three questions can be answered from high-level down to a specific persona and use case.
Answering the fourth and fifth questions is how you’ll tell each of those stories in execution. There should be overlaps that bring consistency, as well as help them advance as they build confidence through learning what they need to know. It’s the context that will shift as the audience (hero) changes along the way.
There are, of course, more questions, there always are. But those five are the cornerstone questions to answer to create the frameworks for B2B messaging that supports active stories that compel your audience to engage and advance.
If the overarching umbrella story (high level) is the thread pulled through all your stories, you’ll have consistent, connected, and cohesive messaging in a context that resonates with your buyers and customers for their specific situations.
Get Revenue Teams on the Same Page for Sustainable Growth
Silos are the enemies of consistency and brand resonance in B2B messaging. Now the buyers can access information from nearly everywhere and every channel and interact with all the roles on the revenue team, it’s imperative that the story everyone is telling—from marketing to sales to product and customer success is telling a version of the story that is consistent and matches up to the overall brand story every step of the way.
The adoption of Revenue Operations puts these conflicts in stark focus. RevOps makes sense given the changing expectations of buyers. And it’s about time we unify customer-facing teams under one umbrella. But if messaging isn’t deconflicted across channels and conversations, your brand will suffer from confusion that serves to alienate, rather than to create affinity that drives sustainable growth across the customer continuum.