5 Marketing Competencies to Escape the Sea of Sameness with Stacey Danheiser

Episode 66 of Yes, and Marketing

Ever wonder why so much marketing (especially B2B) sounds the same?

Stacey Danheiser breaks it down in this conversation with Steve. As one of the authors of Stand Out Marketing, she’s done extensive research into the “sea of sameness” and has a deep understanding both of the causes and what marketers need to do to get out of it. 

According to Douglas Burdett of The Marketing Book Podcast, Stand Out Marketing is one of the three books every marketer should read, and this interview covers insights from the book as well as from Stacey’s career in marketing across Fortune 500 companies, authoring two books, and running her own consultancy:

  • The six reasons behind the lack of differentiation in marketing today
  • The five competencies marketers need to combat the sea of sameness
  • Why B2B marketing is often worse than B2C
  • 3 questions your company can ask to honestly assess your differentiation in the market
  • Why your hiring practices might be keeping you in the sea of sameness

Guest-at-a-Glance

???? Name: Stacey Danheiser

???? What she does: Co-author of Stand Out Marketing and Value-ology. Founder of Shake Marketing Group.

????️ Find Stacey on the web: Shake Marketing | LinkedIn | Twitter

???? Get smart: “Your job really is to be the bridge between what a customer cares about and what your product and service does.”

Top Takeaways

3 questions to ask of your company ????

Not sure whether your company is standing out, or drowning in the sea of sameness? Stacey gives a few questions to ask for an honest assessment of where you stand in the market.

1. Do you understand your customer’s business problems? 

2. Are you presenting value in a way that resonates with the customer?

3. Does your ‘Why us?’ story involve the customer, or is it all about you?

It all comes down to having a deep understanding of your customer and communicating that understanding in your marketing. “Your job really is to be the bridge between what a customer cares about and what your product and service does,” Stacey explains. “And if you’re only talking about what your product and service does, then you’re not building a bridge and you’re just being lazy because you’re letting them have to figure it out.”

“They’re never gonna buy from you, by the way, if they have to do all that work,” she adds.

5 marketing competencies to focus on ????

Stacey walks through the VALUE framework they came up with for Stand Out Marketing, which explains the 5 marketing competency gaps they’ve seen that contribute to the sea of sameness.

  • V is for Visionary: ”This is about being able to look ahead to see what’s happening in the market and to spend time to develop the strategy.”
  • A is for Activator: “Marketers are typically very good project managers and they’re doing a lot of things in creating the marketing engine. But the other piece to activator is, how do you get everybody rowing in the same direction? And a big component of that is being able to create buy-in internally.”
  • L is for Learner: “The best marketers take time to learn. They spend time learning new things, learning about not only their industry, but their customer’s industry, how the sales team is doing their job, what the CEO and CFO care about.”
  • U is for Usefuleness: “This is the ability to create relevant marketing and sales content and programs, and having the discipline to not create it if you don’t think it’s going to be useful or relevant to your customers.”
  • E is for Evaluator: “Being able to analyze ‘Are our programs working? What’s the ROI?’ How do we make hard decisions and pull those levers?”

Episode Highlights

The story behind Stand Out Marketing

“We started doing some research into the telecom industry because we’d noticed a problem happening, that every company in the same industry was telling the exact same story. They were using the same terminology, the same jargon, the same ‘Why us?’ story. And so we looked first at telecom and said, is this just isolated to telecom or is it in fact happening everywhere else?

And so we looked at three different industries, starting with telecom, then we did data centers and then we did UK universities. And we scraped the top 30 global company websites and Twitter feeds. And we found that, yeah, this problem is very prevalent everywhere. So that led us to the question of, well, why is this happening?

And at first we thought, well, maybe companies are just struggling with the messaging piece, but we got a little bit deeper into it and discovered it’s actually a competency gap.”

Why B2B marketing is harder than B2C
“The biggest difference between consumer marketing and B2B marketing is that marketers have access directly to the customers in consumer marketing. In B2B, you have marketing that goes through the sales team and then they have access to the customer. And that to me is the biggest reason that there’s more examples of differentiation [in B2C] is because marketing is closer to the customer, and they are able to have a pulse on what’s going on.”

6 reasons for the sea of sameness ????

“The first was the comfort blanket of success—you’re having success, why change?

The second is just risk aversion and that’s there because a lot of these, especially larger organizations, may be answering to a board. People don’t wanna rock the boat, ‘Let’s not change anything.’

The third is inexperienced execs. A lot of people are appointed to these positions that just don’t have the marketing or sales training… They don’t know what good looks like or how to get there. 

The fourth is inward looking executive. …It’s shocking if you ask the question, ‘When’s the last time you conducted a real customer research?’ The majority of these companies never do it, so everybody’s just talking internally and sharing stories about what they think the customer wants, but nobody really knows for sure. 

The fifth is being locked in an organization’s mindset, saying ’We’ve always done things this way, let’s just keep doing them.’

And then the last, which is maybe shocking, but this came up in a lot of our interviews when we asked, ‘Why is this happening?’ and the answer was pure laziness. It’s just easier to go copy what my competitors are doing and paste that onto my website, than have to go through the whole entire process of customer interviews and figure out our differentiation, and create a value proposition and then go get the buy-in from the organization. I’ll just tweak what they’ve said and put it out there.”

Keep asking why 

“I used to get in healthy debates with my product marketing folks as to, ‘Okay, we’re not taking this far enough, we’re not telling customers why they would care about something like this.’ 

…It’s kinda like the five whys, you know—asking why, why, why. It’s that same concept where you say, ‘Here’s this feature, it’s a hundred percent cotton.’ Okay, well, what’s the benefit of that? ‘It’s really soft.’ Okay. Well, what’s the benefit of it being soft? ‘It won’t scratch your face.’ Well, what’s the benefit of not scratching your face? ‘You’ll sleep through the night.’ It’s like, oh, okay, well then the end benefit is you’re gonna sleep through the night. And so you start looking at the marketing language, and you see how far you can take it.”

Copycats are confusing

“Another thing to ask is, are you constantly looking at and copying the websites and social media feeds of your top three competitors? For example, is your website structured the same, are the content types the same, are the benefits you lay out the same? Even the color palette, logo, and the way you present information can be incredibly confusing if it looks exactly the same as other people in your industry.”

Don’t believe Field of Dreams

“I see a lot of this from SaaS companies that they’re obsessed with the product and have that mentality of, if we build it, people will come, and that’s just not true. So, if we build it and then we market it properly, then they will come. And so it’s doing the homework of who is our ideal customer profile, do we have a defined value proposition to meet that customer profile, and then how do we structure our communications and our service and our products and everything else to meet those needs and provide value?”

VALUEs are connected
“A lot of these [competencies] are intertwined. So for example, you cannot be a visionary without also being a learner. If you’re making zero time to learn, and if you look at your week and you don’t have time to read an article, you don’t have time to visit a website, you don’t have time to go to a webinar—if you’re not doing any of that, you won’t become a visionary because by definition, in order to be a visionary, you have to have time to focus on these things and learn about what’s happening in your industry, in your customer’s industry, in your competition, and even internally in your own organization.”

Top Quotes

????️ Stacey:

“Marketing self-awareness is the first step.”

 “The job of marketing and sales is to provide value both to the business and to their customers.”

“The best marketers take time to learn.”

“The problem with keeping marketing and salespeople all within a certain industry is they’re just kind of copying and pasting the same framework and the same playbook from one company to the next.”

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