Once in a while, a product or a brand will leap up from the rest and throw a thunderbolt of revelation that, YES. This is exactly what I need! This was meant for me! You know, the kind of message we strive to deliver in our marketing that answers — irrefutably — the question: “What’s in it for me?” Lots of marketing experts point to Apple’s famous “1,000 songs in your pocket” iPod message as a definitive value proposition, and that’s not off-base. What reasonable person could argue that it doesn’t answer the question “What’s in it for me?” – with the added appeal of succinctness? But when it comes to marketing B2B and enterprise solutions, a tagline doesn’t get purchasing officers lining up to give you a P.O. No, they need something more. It’s not about being clever. It shouldn’t be mysterious. And it takes work.

What problems are you solving?

One of the best-practice tenets taught by Pragmatic Marketing for the product development world is that for products to be viable in B2B, they need to address business problems that have three characteristics. What if we used them as our barometer when we’re marketing B2B solutions?
  1. They’re urgent. If the problems are not pressing, the budget will go first to something that is.
  2. They’re pervasive. If not enough people are having these problems, the budget will not be prioritized.
  3. They are worth paying someone to solve them. If companies think they can solve them for “free” in-house, or live with them, then they won’t find the solution valuable enough to purchase.
Now, this is a litmus test for feature requests for product development, not consumer messages, but it certainly carries over effectively (and importantly) into marketing B2B technology. In other words, not only does the product your engineer develop have to address these problems, but your marketing does as well. It all has to come across in your messaging. (True confession: On my positioning projects, I recite these as a mantra in collaboration meetings to develop messaging frameworks: “Urgent, pervasive, worth paying to solve. Urgent, pervasive, worth paying to solve.” It elicits a lot of eye-rolls, but a lot of value-proposition discipline too.)

Whose problems are you solving?

In any good what’s in it for me elevator pitch, the “what” is only half of the equation, the solution to the problem. Without defining the “me,” the person most concerned with the problem, your message is unresolved; like a city phone booth in a movie scene, the phone keeps ringing and ringing as pedestrians walk right on by because they don’t know if it’s for them. Describing the product or features, or telling everyone how great you are, just isn’t enough. (Sorry, old-school engineering-driven companies. Not sorry.) The market has to come to that conclusion, not you. That means the target audiences, the buyer personas deciding or influencing the purchase, need to see themselves reflected in the solution. Businesses don’t make purchases – people do. Even when marketing B2B solutions, the story has to be about “me.”

From solving to positioning

Who and what are more than just the fundamental elements of all stories, and more than the two crucial parts of the problem equation. They’re the building blocks of positioning. When you tell your “What’s in it for me?” story, you’re doing more than actively marketing a solution – you’re establishing its context in the greater marketplace. You’re solidifying a foundation on which to build all the stories, marketing materials, thought-leadership articles, and sales tools that will support the business of delivering your solution. So what’s your “what”? Who’s your “me”? Start with those, and the story will find its audience — and it will find its way to the purchasing officer, too.