“To survive in a world of ‘killer competition,’ you can either distinguish yourself from your competitors or offer the lowest price.”
That’s the opinion of Jack Trout, co-author of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, late president of Trout & Partners, father of the positioning concept.

Second in a 5-part series: www.marklives.com

In this month’s conversation with Johannesburg-based author Mark Eardley, we discuss why differentiation seriously matters and how customer centricity (what Forrester calls customer obsession) plays a key role in getting your firm to stand out from the crowd. It’s about differentiating based on your customer experience — making CX one of the key things that distinguishes you as an organization.

Listen up, B2B marketers: You do NOT understand this concept. Not at all.

B2B Marketers Don’t “Know” Their Customers

Last year, we looked at 60 B2B websites in 12 different industries. (Note: subscription required.) We were looking for one thing: How well does the content show that these sites understand their customers and offer practical, interesting ways for those customers to engage?

We looked at 15 factors and scored sites this way: 0 = can’t find any evidence of this practice;
2 = passing grade, “you’ve got it”; and 3 = “best practice! outstanding!”
15 times 2 equals 30. You should be able to get 30 points to pass, right?

WrongIn fact, we had to drop the passing score to 25 to get anyone to pass — then only six did.

I use this example to illustrate how B2B marketers fail to focus homepage content on buyers (not products), to provide content that targets different roles, or to use narrative or video to tell customer stories — among other things. As a result, you can look at any five sites in a similar market category and barely distinguish what separates one company from the next.

Avoid The Low-Price War

So you all must be happy to be in a race to offer the most capability at the cheapest cost to buyers, aren’t you?

If not, then you will want to look at your messaging and positioning from a customer-centric perspective. When B2B buyers explore technology solutions to business problems, the content they find most helpful is information from peers: case studies, testimonials, and industry examples. In our most recent customer content credibility study, 71% of the responding B2B technology and business buyers agreed that hearing from customers is most important to them. (BTW: A report on the next installment of that study will be coming out in a couple of months.)

Customer stories are proof that you do what you say. They should also demonstrate what it is like to work with you — to validate that your customer experience is unique and as you promise. Customer-obsessed companies are the best at closing this loop — at getting their customers to share stories and recommend them to others.

Think about it: Customer experience is now the best — and sometimes the only — way to differentiate in this digital age, an age when competitors can see and copy your feature claims (and prices!) at any time. The thing your competitors can’t copy is your CX. So why not message and position your advantages to buyers based on experience? Beyond messaging, sharpening up your customer advocacy programs is a sure way to ensure that you have the customer experience evidence you need to support your unique CX position.