The Challenger Customer: Chapter 3, section 1 (part 3 of 10)

Chapter 3: The Art of Unteaching

If there is one simple truth of every B2B supplier today, it is that they’re all selling the same thing: Change. … But think about what that means. What’s the one thing most organizations would like to avoid at all costs unless they have absolutely no other choice? Change. Why? It’s expensive. It’s risky. It’s disruptive. It’s unknown. … most suppliers’ single biggest competitor today isn’t so much the competition but the customer’s own status quo.

But let’s consider for a moment whycustomers are delaying contact with sales reps for as long as they are [57 percent through the process]. … Because they can. … Left to their own devices, customers will always engage a supplier as late as they possibly can. … In a world of information accessibility, customers can get all of that on the internet. Talking directly to a supplier feels like a waste of time.

That’s exactly where teachingcomes in, convincingly proving to customers – and especially Mobilizers – that they dohave to talk to you. … In this world, suppliers’ teaching must:

  1. Capture the attention of a Mobilizer, in a way that
  2. Motivates them to champion a change in behavior, leading them to
  3. Rally the support of the other 4.4, around a vision that
  4. Leads that customer back to their unique solution.

We call it Commercial Insight. [It] can impact customer buying behavior across all three stages of that buying process irrespectiveof where it’s deployed. … But for Commercial Insight to have that kind of broad influence across the customer purchase, it must follow a precise set of design principles. … Commercial Insight isn’t designed to teachas much as to unteach.

Not Teaching, But Unteaching

“What kind of supplier content can bend the path across the customer’s ‘me’ to ‘we’ mountain? … Things that don’t matter: Being Accessible, Containing Interesting Facts or Anecdotes, Being Easy to Understand, Representing a Smart/Expert Perspective.

So what doeshave a statistically significant impact on changing a customer’s purchase direction? In our analysis we found only two drivers capable of reliably driving that kind of change:

  1. Teaching the customer something new and compelling about theirbusiness, and
  2. Providing customers with a compelling reason to take action

More specifically, information laying out not just the benefits of taking action, but the costs of inaction.

Insight is designed to demonstrate to customers that despite their ownlearning and their ownexpertise, they’ve missed something materially important to the performance of theirbusiness. … Insight, in other words, isn’t designed to just teachcustomers something new that they’ve never thought before, but to unteachthem something they already have.

Insight Is Not Thought Leadership

When it comes to insight, we find the term suffers from a strong “false-positive problem,” as much of what passes under the name of insight today falls into the much broader, and arguably much less valuable, category of “thought leadership”.

If we think of all the different kinds of content a supplier might produce in the name of insight, we find there are a number of different “layers” to that content, each separated by a boundary delineating that layer from the next.

Let’s start with “general information.” From there we look at “accepted information.” Accepted information is credible, it’s relevant, but frankly it’s just not all that interesting. It sounds more or less like everyone else’s information. … Clearly, if we want someone to actdifferently, we have to first get them to thinkdifferently. To do that, we’re going to have to show them something truly newsworthy. And that brings us into the third layer of information: “thought leadership.”

Interestingly, above all other categories of content we’ve laid out so far, thought leadership is the one that can really get a supplier in trouble. Not only because this is the kind of content most suppliers are creating, but because it’s the one most suppliers aspireto create. Virtually every marketer will tell you, their company strives to be a “thought leader” in their industry. … So what is thought leadership? It’s interesting, newsworthy, incremental information that customers themselves likely could not have discovered on their own.

But the real limitation of traditional thought leadership is that it doesn’t necessarily drive action. Readers learnbut they don’t necessarily do. People may be liking or retweeting the content, but it isn’t move them to action. That’s because most thought leadership is largely focused on presenting a newidea, rather than undermining an existing one.

So what else is there? Well, the next filter is “Be frame breaking.” This is the final bar we need to clear for our content to truly be called “insight.” But why that filter, “frame breaking?” What we find is that insight is something else entirely. It’s designed to upend the status quo. As such, insight isn’t’ about onething, it’s about two things. It doesn’t just convey an idea of what the customer couldbe doing (like thought leadership), but also conveys a story around what the customer is currentlydoing, explicitly laying out why that current behavior is costing the customer time or money in ways they never realized.

That’s the key. The contrast. It’s the cost of current behavior juxtaposed to the potential of alternate action. Implicit in any good insight is the simple message: “Hey…you’re doing it wrong!” and done well, it causes your customer to say, “I have to change what I’m doing!” Thus the term “frame breaking.” … Customers’ reaction to well-designed thought leadership is: “Wow, they’re smart.” … Customers’ reaction to well-designed insight is: “Wow, I’m wrong.”

“Show me the page, show me the data point, the bar graph, the bullet point, the momentwhere you look your customer in the eye and tell them that they’re wrong.” If you can’t find that moment in your content – no matter how diplomatically formulated – chances are pretty good, you haven’t created insight at all.