Don't talk to Lawson Abinanti about B2C marketing. It's not his thing. B2B software and technology, on the other hand? The B2B marketing and messaging consultant has quite a bit to say on that subject!

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Lawson, founder of Messages That Matter, a fast-track positioning solution for B2B brands, joins me in this episode of Marketing Smarts to discuss B2B branding and positioning: how to differentiate your product or service from the competition, and how to align your messaging throughout the organization so that it reflects your brand position.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

B2B positioning is fundamentally different from B2C (04:15): "In B2B software, the ultimate promise you can make is profit share and volume. When you do that 'what if' test, that's where you end up: profit share and volume. In consumer marketing, it's 'healthier, wealthier, and sexier.' I haven't had to use that for a long time. I really don't do the consumer side because I don't understand it, but I really understand B2B software and technology because I've been in that business for 25 years. You start trying to position around [healthier, wealthier, and sexier] and you're in trouble." 

No content piece is an island (05:22): "I call it 'silo marketing'—everything is done one-off. All of a sudden you've got a video you've gotta do, so you sit down for two hours and come back and debate some more and, eventually, figure out what you're gonna say. Same thing when you're doing an email campaign or you're doing banner ads or whatever. It's always "let's figure out what to say,' and when you add up all that time it's huge and very unproductive, because it's all based on opinion and biases.

"If you go through and position your product or your company or whatever you're selling, your service, your offering, you've figured out what to say already. To claim a mental space in your target audience's mind, consistency and repetition are absolutely the keys. Figure out your theme, your positioning statement, 12 words or less, not including the company name. It's a declarative sentence. It states a benefit for why the buyer should care. When you do that, all of a sudden you have a theme for all these marketing campaigns. I teach people to create a message strategy.... We don't leave anything to chance about figuring out what to say. The focus becomes on the execution of the concept.

Do some research to differentiate your B2B brand from the competition (09:21): "Go to the websites of the competitors. I figure out how they're positioned. I have a perceptual mapping tool that was developed in Excel by a friend of mine...and that perceptual map creates a graph that makes it very easy to see how everyone's positioned in the marketplace. If you're going through a positioning process, you would use a perceptual map to find out where the unclaimed space is. If you're trying to just figure out whether you're [already] making a differentiated claim or not, you'd go through the same process, but you'd include your position in that perceptual map."

B2B positioning isn't easy, but it can be simple (10:09): "If you're starting from scratch, [differentiating your brand] is really as simple as identifying your audience's most pressing problems, stack-rank them, develop a positioning statement that addresses that problem, and then determine whether it's unique or not. And if it's unique, you've hit it on the head. The trick is to have the good research on the customer problems to be able to do that quickly. This is where there's a real disconnect, at least in companies in B2B software and technology. 

"The product manager or Product Marketing knows all this information that marketing needs, but for some reason it doesn't get transferred over. So Marketing has to start from scratch, and they really shouldn't have to because it's already done, and they could then take that next step and do the positioning or, hopefully, Product Marketing has already done the product positioning in conjunction with the team (including Marketing and Sales). Because positioning should be done by a lot of people so that you get buy-in."

Successful B2B messaging requires a ruthless focus on your ideal customer profile (21:32): "You have to go after that ideal profile and forget about all those one-offs you won. 'We sold over there and we don't want to miss that one...' No, you've got a really good core constituency, and that's who you want. You'll get the one-offs anyhow. [If] you try for the one-offs, you lose the good ones. Be ruthless. that's what I'm talking about."

To learn more, check out

Lawson and I talked about much more, including why and how to involve sales in the positioning process, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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