B2B brand messaging: Are you overlooking your ground truth?
B2B companies that are growing and changing need to pause, revisit and rewrite their B2B brand messaging if it doesn’t tell the current truth about who they are, what they do and why — and how they do it differently than any of their competitors.
What’s the best way to do that?
If you are a CEO or a chief marketing officer at a B2B company with competitors nipping at your heels, you might be tempted to assemble a short-term Strategic Messaging Team with a handful of marketing-minded leaders so you can refresh your B2B brand messaging quickly and efficiently.
But that only gets you about halfway there.
Because it overlooks what you always claim is your most important asset:
Your people are the ground truth for your B2B brand messaging. That’s because they are the ones on the ground and in the trenches serving your customers every day.
They observe. They participate. They know stuff. So they come to the table with a lot of solid, objective, defensible data. And you need them to weigh in because they are the ones living out the current truth who you are, what you do and why — and how you do it differently than any of your competitors.
If you leave your people out of your B2B brand messaging conversations, the ground truth will be missing, and your reengineered messaging will likely be less rich. Less real. Less true.
The gift of ground truth became very clear during a B2B brand messaging project we completed recently for a professional services client.
Of the 20 people we interviewed ahead of the actual B2B brand messaging development, only five were top leaders chosen for their marketing mindset. The remaining 15 provided the ground truth.
Here’s how it worked:
- Instead of calling themselves the Strategic Messaging Team, the five marketing-minded leaders were known as the Messaging Leadership Team.
- The Messaging Leadership Team met and thoughtfully chose 15 people — a group diverse in expertise, responsibility and longevity with the company — who could best help us uncover the ground truth about what had grown and changed at the organization.
- We spent 90 minutes interviewing each of these 15 people, plus the five-member Messaging Leadership Team. That meant we had 30 hours of material collected — literally hundreds of pages of notes — for defining the B2B company’s new, current truth in a company messaging platform.
We didn’t get there by asking these people only the typical branding-type questions (think SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
Instead, we got there by asking them about their experiences.
From their experiences came stories.
And from their stories came the truth that inspired the messaging.
A thorough review of the interview notes revealed the top questions that elicited the best stories — the ground truth — needed for messaging the B2B company’s real and true brand:
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and your career journey … how did you land at Company XYZ?
- What were you looking for when you joined Company XYZ?
- Why did you choose Company XYZ over any other company?
- What were your first impressions of Company XYZ? Have they changed over the years?
- When you think of your experiences at other employers, how has your experience at Company XYZ been different?
- What do you like about Company XYZ?
- What memorable experiences have you had at Company XYZ, and why are they memorable?
- What advantages does a customer get by working with Company XYZ?
- What promise does Company XYZ make to customers?
- Is there anything else we haven’t discussed about Company XYZ that you’d like to add?
From the many employee stories came specific words and unique turns of phrase — ground truth — that ultimately wound up in the final company messaging platform.
These words and phrases, used on the website, in collateral, during media interviews and in recruiting tools, are now beginning to differentiate this B2B company in the marketplace.
The CEO and the chief marketing officer could have chosen a simpler route to rework the company’s B2B brand messaging. They could have sat behind closed doors, put on their best marketing hats and told their own story about who they are, what they do and why — and how they do it differently than any of their competitors.
But without ground truth, it would have lacked luster — the true brilliance that comes only when you take the time to talk to your most important asset: