An agile process to develop B2B technology positioning

How are your customers are changing and adapting to the new ways of living and working? Can you help them with your products, services and communication?

Are you finding it difficult to differentiate your offerings in a highly competitive market? Why would your customers choose you over others?

Technology has become integral to the way we live and work in the post Covid world. Yet technology (especially B2B) organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate their offerings. Traditionally, B2B technology organisations positioned themselves on product/solution features and capabilities. Covid-19 accelerated technology development and there are many more players offering and talking about similar technical capabilities. Today, organisations find technology and product features are (or quickly become) at par across different players. 

Customers of B2B technology companies, in turn, are faced with high expectations from their savvy, demanding end-consumers and markets. As they look for solutions that can help meet their needs, they are confused with numerous and rapidly changing technological options, most sounding the same. They struggle to understand how different technology solutions can address their pressing business needs. Most do not know how to differentiate between solutions and suppliers.

B2B technology providers, therefore, urgently need to relate their technology solutions and capabilities to customer business needs and benefits. This requires marketing, sales, product and account teams to collaborate and develop the most relevant and differentiated positioning and messaging. 

We have engaged with several B2B technology companies across the world to help develop their positioning in an agile and collaborative manner. In view of travel restrictions and need for social distancing, we have developed and delivered a virtual positioning process that ensures all key stakeholders share insights, debate positioning options and align on the way forward. 

We share the broad outline of an agile B2B positioning process. Organisations can implement this process in virtual, offline or hybrid formats.

  1. Form the core team: The first step is to form a core team to drive the positioning and messaging initiative internally. This team should have key representatives from marketing, sales and product teams. It is important that the core team members have decent bargaining power internally. Internal alignment is the most important determinant of successful strategy.
  2. Secondary study: Begin with a deep dive into secondary literature – internal presentations, documents and external reports. This helps prepare for the next step, i.e., conversations with the leadership. 
  3. Internal conversations: Conduct in-depth conversations with key stakeholders from leadership, marketing, sales, product and account teams to understand the current context, aims and challenges for the company as well as the competitive and industry landscape. 
  4. Customer conversations: Have in-depth conversations with customers to develop accurate insights into their needs, aspirations, motivations, fears, barriers and perceptions about your organisation and its competitors. Look for external reports, available sales/quanti data and bring it together with insights from customer conversations to build a complete picture of the customer. It is important that these conversations are conducted by non-sales folks, to gain comprehensive and unbiased insights. If possible, engage third party expert researchers to conduct and independent study of customer needs and perceptions.
  5. Positioning workshop: Use the insights from previous steps to design and conduct a positioning and messaging workshop with key decision makers and implementors. The workshop participants would typically be representatives of sales, product and customer success teams from across regions and product line. The format of the workshop needs to be customised for the audience and your objectives. Appoint a workshop moderator internally or engage an external agency to design and facilitate the workshop. A typical workshop flow would include setting the agenda by someone from the leadership team (this encourages enrolment and active participation in the workshop), sharing insights and brainstorming on positioning and messaging. It is important to have an optimal number of group breakouts during the workshop. Too few and the group becomes disengaged with limited insights forthcoming. Too many, and the quality of insights suffer with limited time for synthesising discussions. Online platforms such as zoom work very well for brainstorming and conducting breakout sessions. If conducting online, test out the different features beforehand. If possible, conduct a dry run with a small team.
  6. Synthesise the workshop insights to prepare a positioning and messaging strategy that can immediately guide necessary marketing and sales collaterals, website design, digital marketing activities and tactics and help plan the marketing roadmap. Usually, the outputs of the workshop are around positioning and messaging, but it could be extended to other aspects as well – product and service strategy for instance.

You will need to disseminate and educate your colleagues on any revised positioning and messaging strategy and related collaterals. Engaging different stakeholders earlier in the process, as described above, helps reduce time and effort in enrolling at this stage. Different stakeholders develop ownership of the positioning as they actively contribute to formulating it.

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