A selection from the new book: Different Rules – the B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation

Relevance: Why it matters in B2B

By Chris Wirthwein

To stand out in a crowded B2B category, you must be different. But that’s not enough. To win customers, what you do, how you “act” and what you say must also be relevant – something your audience cares about. And the more deeply they care about it, the greater your chances for marketing success.

Psychology teaches us people pay attention to things that are different. “…humans are wired to detect irregular things,” says market researcher John Hallward, author of Gimme! The Human Nature of Successful Marketing. Being different virtually guarantees attention. It’s a good start, but…

What’s less known is how quickly people tune things out – even things they believe to be highly unique and different – unless they are relevant to us personally. Old-fashioned advertising, even in B2B, once made a habit of showing products in unusual settings. An actor in a clown suit holding the company’s widget, that’s unusual and will likely get noticed. But experiments tell us that unless the audience sees something personally relevant, they will, within a few seconds, tune it out. In The Advertised Mind, Eric Du Plessis reports on a study of 60 second TV commercials: “the viewer’s attention in the first 4 to 10 seconds…shows with 83 percent accuracy whether he or she will give it attention over the entire 60 seconds.”

How much you care about what you say in your marketing is of no consequence. What matters is how much “they” – your audience – care. Outside of your product’s intersection in the lives of your customers, how well do you know what they care about? Are you sure? Want to be a better marketer? Get a better handle on your audience’s “give a bleep” meter. Do this and you’ll be better able to couple something they care about with what’s unique and different in your product offering. From there you have the beginnings of marketing success. But in B2B marketing there’s so much more involved…

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Chris Wirthwein is Senior Director for 5MetaCom, a marketing agency that develops strategies and campaigns to differentiate B2B technical and scientific products. He has authored three marketing books, including his latest, Different Rules: The B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation. You can reach Chris on LinkedIn or at cwirthwein@5metacom.com.

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