Don’t confuse your customer with what you’re selling versus what they’re buying. What do we mean? Your customer is buying a solution to a problem. Is that what you’re selling?
The Wrong Message is One of the Root Problems of Most Marketing
In our experience there are a number of reasons why marketing is unsuccessful. Two of the easiest to spot and fix are:
1) Wrong Audience
Your marketing messages are running against an audience that doesn’t need your product or service, or
2) Unclear marketing message
If you’ve targeted the right audience, then there’s a good chance your marketing efforts are failing at describing how you solve the customer’s problem.
In this article we're talking about the wrong marketing message and the wrong approach.
Failing to Address the Customer's Problems
One easily fixable marketing message problem that we often see with B2B marketing is messaging that focuses on product or service features and fails to address the customers’ problems.
Marketing communications and sales information should be aimed at simplifying the decision-making process for customers. It should start to do this by focusing on what your customer is trying to do, and the benefits of your product or service.
Features versus Benefits – Know the Difference
Many non-marketers confuse features with benefits. The seasoned marketer knows the difference and when to use each.
A feature is something that your service “is” or “does”. A benefit is something that your service “means” to the client.
Features are characteristics of your product or service hat describe its appearance, components, and capabilities.
To translate a feature into a benefit, ask the question, “so what?” If a feature of your service is providing 24/7 help desk support, ask “so what?” The benefit is that 24/7 help desk support provides peace of mind to make sure your problems are solved anytime of the day.
Go through this exercise for all of your features. You’ll find that many of your benefits begin to overlap. This is okay and to be expected.
There is a place for features in B2B marketing. Technical buyers will want to know your features, but before you can get them there you need to communicate the benefits to them to get their attention.
Charles Revson, one of the founders of Revlon, the cosmetics giant, was famously quoted as saying, "In the factory we make cosmetics. But in the drugstore we're selling hope."
Lead with benefits, follow-up with features as proof-points
Your marketing should lead with stating the customers problem, and the benefits of how you solve the problem. Your product features are proof-points that you should use to support your benefits.
We’re big fans of the marketing hourglass concept in the Duct Tape Marketing System.
Features should be used at the Trust or Consideration stage to back up your value proposition and your benefits.
Features are the, “reason to believe” that your benefits are true.
What happens if you have too many benefits and your messaging is starting to get cluttered? You need to understand which benefits are important to the customer and in which order.
Understanding the Customers' Problems - Pains, Gains, and Jobs-to-be-done
One of our favourite tools to understand which benefits are important to customers is the Jobs-to-be-done framework, popularized by Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School.
This theory is based on the notion that people buy products and services to get a “job” done. Think of a job as any problem your customer is trying to solve or get done and can be a function or activity.
From the customer’s perspective successfully completing the job may involve some type of gain they are looking for, or it may mean less pain for the customer.
- The job can have a social or emotional aspect to it.
- The job that your customer is trying to get done usually doesn’t change much over time.
- People want products and services that will help them get a job done better and/or more cheaply.
- Better could be done faster, more conveniently, with less effort, with better results.
- People seek out products and services that enable them to get the entire job done on a single platform
Marketing success comes from understanding what the job is, and what would constitute a gain or a pain from the customer’s perspective.
- What is the customer trying to achieve?
- Why is the customer trying to achieve that goal?
- How will the customer be impacted if she cannot achieve the goal?
- How will the customer be impacted if they are successful in reaching their goal?
- What did the customer use or do before your product or service to reach this goal?
- What must you deliver for the customer to reach this goal?
What does your product or service actually do for the customer? While not intended to be a literal question, it can be helpful to start by listing out product benefits while throttling any discussion of features.
By addressing the customers' goals for what they need to get done you move your messaging and positioning from trying to sell your product or your company to presenting the solution that the customer wants to buy.
Accounting Industry Examples
We run across examples of this regularly in accounting industry marketing. Here are some common ones.
What You're Selling
what the customer is buying
Saving money on taxes
Maximizing tax refunds
Filing on deadline to avoid penalties
Business Advisory Services
Knowing which expenses can be deducted
Managing cash flow
Budget forecasting to understand what they can afford to do
Peace of mind to know that payroll has been submitted properly, that staff will be paid, and that there will be no issues at year end
A qualified and competent business advisor for their finances, at a lower cost
These are just a few of the examples that we see regularly in the accounting, tax, and bookkeeping industry.
Successful marketers know that marketing is problem solving on behalf of the customer. The customer has a problem, and they want to buy a solution to that problem. Don’t worry about trying to sell yourself. Be the solution that the customer is buying.
TIP: If you're not sure where to start, complete our complimentary Marketing Strategy Assessment.
This tool, specifically designed for accounting firm marketing, will provide a good starting point for what you should consider working on.
Plus, you'll get a free 20+ page book of recommendations just for you.
Contact us and we'll review your performance and objectives
Our Experts will develop a custom strategy and roadmap just for you
Your Marketing Roadmap...
and Watch Your Business Thrive!
You implement, we can coach you, or we can do it for you - the choice is yours