B2B Marketing: Act Less Like a Rock Star and More Like a Roadie


Rockstars not wanted

Why customers (not you) should be the heroes of your content marketing stories.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I was talking with 20 business owners in the Kauffman FastTrac New Venture program about the power of story for business communication.

“Who or what should be the hero of your marketing stories?” I asked the group. Quickly, the answers came in: “The product! The company! The founder!”

While those three topics are certainly important for any marketing story bank, I asked the group to consider others. After a few moments, one person called out, “The customer!”

Budding entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who sometimes think of the customer after their cool product or service. We’ve all seen big B2B brands cast their latest offering as the hero of the marketing story, with the customer as a side note: “This year’s software platform has two XJ7a dashboards instead of just one. Wow!”

Natural enthusiasm and an abundance of technical knowledge make it tempting to frame your product or service as the “rockstar” in your marketing message. Avoid this.

Instead, consider a “roadie marketing” mindset. Great roadies are proactive, extremely flexible, and most importantly, help their rockstar clients shine in doing what they do best. The humble guitar techs and loading crew do the grunt work that makes those rock and roll moments possible. In the same way, show how your organization’s products, services, and people support your clients as the true rockstars in growing their own businesses.

How to be a B2B Marketing Roadie:

1.       Share a story.  The elements inherent to a story, (such as conflict, hero, and resolution), will practically require you to describe scenarios, success stories, and use cases instead of dry lists of features and benefits. Naturally, clients will be central characters in many of these stories. And if you feel you simply must convey facts, figures, and data, a story is still one of the best ways to make the numbers memorable and meaningful. Ironically, the research data consistently shows that stories work better than data does alone. Think about that one for a minute…

2.       Take a client’s perspective.  Ask your clients to get involved and actively shape the story. User-generated content, case studies, and video testimonials put your clients front and center.  A client can connect with the audience (your target customers) better than you can. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer showed “a person like me” has re-emerged as one of the three most credible spokespeople, with its biggest increase in credibility since 2004.

3.       Embrace imbalance. One rule of thumb for content such as case studies is to let your clients do most of the talking. If two-thirds of the material in a story is about your product, service, or organization, then flip the ratio. Interview your clients, listen closely, and use their authentic words—even if it’s not the perfect corporate-speak you’d prefer. Prospects listen more closely to their peers than they do to your sales and marketing lines, anyway. A 2011 Forester research study on enterprise software purchasing behavior showed that peers are the number one source of insight at 93%. Salespeople are trusted just 22% of the time

4.       Don’t “rescue” the client. Take a step back. Show how the client solved their problem – with your help, of course. If the arc of your marketing stories always involves your company or product as the knight in shining armor riding in to save the day and douse fires, it removes the potential energy from the story. Your clients aren’t victims in need of saving, they’re rockstars! And you can be a darn good roadie for them.

To be a rockstar marketer, act like your clients’ roadie

Now, take another look at your organization’s marketing content. Is it framed with your organization as the rockstar?  How can you reposition to allow the client to be front and center?

Be a roadie marketer and help your customers shine like rockstars. In return, you’ll be a rockstar in the eyes of your clients and prospects!

What other B2B roadie marketing practices would you add to the list?


Flickr photo is creative commons license, Attribution 2.0 Generic, courtesy of PabloBM


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