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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2020-03-19

Differentiation has been a staple of marketing theory for decades. It’s the idea that to sustain a competitive advantage, brands must communicate how they are unique and different from the competition. Recently I came across an article on the {grow} blog contending that differentiation as a necessity for business success is “flat earth thinking.” It argues that competitive advantage isn’t dependent on the ability to differentiate, but on the ability to align with the values and needs of the buyer.


It’s an interesting perspective, especially at a time when business buyers have an overflow of marketing messages competing for their attention. Many campaign recipients ignore messages because there is so much “noise” that can be easily tuned out. Most of us can relate -- how many display ads, robocalls, and (gasp) emails do you ignore? Instead of emphasizing your differences compared to other sellers, focus on what you have in common with the buyer and work to understand their perspective to stand out and gain them as a customer. They’ll open the email, click on the ad or download the content if your message means something to them at that point in time.


But how do you identify and connect to the right prospects with a message that's timely and relevant to their needs? Here are five modern ways to make your content stand out:


  1. Show them you understand who they are and where they’re coming from. One of the main differences in this approach is that it’s not about you (the seller), it’s about them (the buyer) -- their needs, their values, their viewpoints. Use personalization and context to demonstrate you know your prospect and understand what they want. Set up processes within Google Analytics, your CRM platform and other systems that allow their digital motions to tell you a story about their journey, and tailor both the content and the timing of your messages accordingly.


  1. Consider account-based marketing (ABM), where B2B marketers view prospect accounts as individual markets – or as “markets of one.” The practice takes close coordination to identify and target high-value accounts and uses data and technology to engage, convert and close those accounts. It can yield strong results, with 89% of organizations surveyed indicating that ABM-targeted accounts achieved a higher ROI compared to those without ABM support.


  1. Get your timing and your prospects right. One way marketers today are finding the right prospects is through intent monitoring. By working with a data provider to secure contacts aligned with company IP addresses that have demonstrated “buyer intent signals,” you can target your campaigns at contacts who are either “ready to buy now” or who hold high promise of becoming customers since they’ve already expressed an interest to purchase.


  1. Another beneficial practice is audience mirroring to identify new prospects who "mirror" your existing customers. By looking at your current customers and finding the similarities between them, you can set parameters for finding new prospects who are likely to have similar needs and pain points. Your experience with similar customers will give you an advantage in marketing to these new prospects effectively.


  1. Acquire quality data from a reputable provider. Most businesses lack a prospect list robust enough to reach the right decision makers and put these tactics into motion. Even those with a large database can have trouble making new conversions if they’ve exhausted their lists from past campaigns. That’s where a third-party data provider comes in. They can offer fresh customer acquisition data to enable you to reach new prospects. Look for a provider that keeps their data as fresh as possible with regular data cleansing to correct common errors, identify invalid email addresses, remove “negative” email addresses associated with spam traps, and more. The right vendor will specialize in acquisition data and can provide a data validity guarantee of 95% or higher for the first 30 days.


It’s always a good idea to examine your paradigm and evaluate how a new approach could impact your outcome. And remember, you can’t be all things to all people. That’s why I’ve spent so much of my career focusing on providing the right business contact data for clients. In my experience, quality beats quantity every time. So consider focusing on prospects whose values and needs align with your business for a targeted approach that will be a better use of your time and money, and yield better results.     




Outward Media’s proven data cleansing services and targeted, accurate email data can enable you to achieve better email marketing ROI and, ultimately, convert more prospects into customers. Take a look at our case studies to find out more.

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