April Dunford shares her four-part product storytelling framework for creating sales pitches that resonate with buyers and get them to complete the purchase.
Marketing a product without a clear positioning and messaging is like building a house on soft sand... during the hurricane season! It’ll eventually all come tumbling down.
And THE book on product positioning is April Dunford’s Obviously Awesome! If you’re a marketer and you haven’t read it yet, stop right now and buy it.
The problem is that people don't know how to craft a compelling product story that sells out of it.
The problem is, after working with a couple of hundred clients, I realized that most don't know how to turn that into a sales pitch. And often in marketing, that's not really our job. But in sales, our job is to answer the question, 'Why pick us over the other guy?' So, we need a story that tells that!
I'm excited to dig into April’s four-part product storytelling framework that sells. In this episode of Marketing Powerups, you’ll learn:
- Why “The Hero’s Journey” story framework isn’t effective at closing deals.
- April’s 4-part product story framework.
- How HelpScout pitches its product using this framework.
- April’s one piece of advice to help marketers accelerate their careers.
Watch or listen to the whole episode now!
⭐️ The product storytelling framework
April Dunford's product storytelling framework has four main parts:
- Market insight: A piece of information or opinion you have about your market that some buyers would deeply care about. It acknowledges that buyers have choices, and some of those alternatives are better for a particular type of customer. It also clarifies to the buyer when and why they should pick your product over others.
- The alternatives: What are the other competitive alternatives, and why are they lacking?
- The gap: What's missing from the competitors that are important for your ideal buyers?
- The value you enable to close the gap: What features and benefits allow you to deliver unique business value?
Here's an example using HelpScout:
- Market insight: Online businesses see support as a growth driver rather than a cost center.
- The alternatives: Traditional help desk software that is designed to drive customers towards Low-touch channels.
- The gap: Customer experience and relationships are an afterthought. Help desk software can drive growth!
- The value you enable to close the gap:
- Customers are not a “ticket”
- Cross-channel experience
- customers chooses channel
- No AI pretending to be a human
🏆 Free powerups cheatsheet
🎉 About April Dunford
April Dunford is an executive consultant, speaker, and author of Obviously Awesome. She is a globally recognized expert in Positioning, having launched 16 products and consulted on dozens more across her 25-year career as VP of Marketing at a series of successful startups.
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🕰️ Timestamps and transcript
- 2:25 - Why is buying as hard or even harder than selling sometimes?
- 7:55 - April’s story of how hard it is to buy toilets
- 18:40 - Why isn’t “The Hero’s Journey” framework effective at selling?
- 22:52 - How do most sales teams pitch their product ineffectively?
- 28:10 - April Dunford’s 4-part product storytelling or sales pitch framework
- 33:35 - April gives an example of how HelpScout applies this framework to their sales pitch.
- 41:42 - A career pop-up that’s helped April accelerate her career
[00:00:00] Ramli John: Marketing a product without clear positioning and messaging is like building a house on soft sand. During the hurricane season. It'll all come tumbling down, and the book on product positioning is April Dunford book "Obviously Awesome." If you're a marketer and you haven't read it yet, stop right now and go buy it.
[00:00:19] April is a sought-after speaker and recognized expert in positioning, having launched and consulted with hundreds of successful startups. But did you know she may be working on a new book, a sequel to obviously
[00:00:31] April Dunford: Awesome. When I wrote the first book, I wanted to focus just in on positioning. And I was a bit like, I think we know how to do a sales pitch.
[00:00:40] Like I don't think I need to teach you how to do a sales pitch. But like I'll tell you, from working with a couple hundred clients now, like, no. The answer is no. Like most companies are just, they're either doing a product walkthrough or they've got some kind of a pitch. You know, they just kind of made it up and they're iterating on it.
[00:00:58] So I've started to think that, yeah, maybe it would be, maybe this deserves a book treatment. So I'm monkeying around with that right now. Stay tuned. People heard it here first. , you heard it here first. Stay tuned. There's maybe sort of, kind of a book coming sometime.
[00:01:16] Ramli John: I'm excited to dig into April's four-part product storytelling framework to help you win more business in this marketing Power UPS episode, you learn.
[00:01:24] First, why the Here's Journey Story framework isn't effective at closing deals. Second, April's four part product story framework that I just mentioned, that she might be working on a new book about. Number three, how helps Scott pitches its product using April's framework. And number four, plus's, one piece of advice to help marketers accelerate their careers.
[00:01:50] For each episode, I create a power ups cheat sheet you can use to download, fill in, and apply the marketing concepts to your business right away. You can go to marketing power ups.com to get those right now. Ready? Let's go
[00:02:03] April Dunford: marketing power ups. Ready? Go. Here's your host. Ramli John.
[00:02:15] Ramli John: It's obvious. Selling is hard.
[00:02:17] If, if it is, then everybody would be salespeople. But you also said buying is hard in a presentation while doing this research. I, I saw you say that. Can you share why, uh, that is, uh, I believe you have a story, uh, around why. Buying is hard and it's, that's obvious. Some people think so.
[00:02:33] April Dunford: So here's the thing, like I think we.
[00:02:36] they accept this idea that selling is very hard. And you know, particularly when we're working in startups, like sales is hard. And how are we going to, you know, how are we gonna get people convince them to buy our stuff? Because otherwise we don't get to stay in business. And I like to kind of turn that around a little bit and look at it from the customer's perspective.
[00:02:55] And, and I think that actually buying is hard. It's way harder than we think Interest. . And you know, and when I say that, usually people are like, what do you mean April? Buying, buying stuff is not hard. Like, it's like shopping. I wish that was my job. I could just go shopping. But when, when we say that, you know, usually we're thinking about things that don't have a lot of stakes, right?
[00:03:20] Like buying shoes. I, I like buying shoes. Buying shoes are fine. I like buying a drink at the bar. I like buying a nice meal at a restaurant. Now these things are fun to buy, like, and it's no big deal if I pick wrong. No biggie. I just don't buy that kind again. Um, but if we think about, um, there are lots of things that we buy that are terrible and really difficult.
[00:03:40] Like, like buying insurance is super difficult. , that's true. And then part of the reason it's difficult is because there's a lot of choices, and I wanna get them wrong. Because if I get them wrong, then bad things will happen. If we think about b2b, most of the things that businesses buy are terribly difficult to buy.
[00:04:01] So like, let's say I, I, I'm trying to buy accounting software, like that's actually really hard thing to buy. The stakes are high. Like, if I pick the wrong thing, bad things might happen. And the person responsible for buying something inside an organization. There's a few things to think about. One, most of the time in b2b, the champion that we are selling to inside the account has never purchased a product like ours before.
[00:04:31] Think about that. Never purchased. Like the person that's trying to figure out what accounting package to buy. They've never bought an accounting package before. So what do they know? Like they don't know anything about the vendors. They don't know what the state of the art of accounting software is. They don't know what features are important or what aren't important.
[00:04:48] They don't know how to make a short list. They don't know how to co like, like they don't know, and they gotta make a recommendation to their boss. Like, Hey, I looked at all my options and this is what we're gonna buy. Like if they get that wrong. Bad things, right? Everybody in the accounting department hates this software and then they hate you, right?
[00:05:04] They like, you're gonna look like a dummy to your boss cuz you picked the wrong thing and like, maybe you failed the audit and, and then you get fired because you were the idiot that brought that terrible software. And that goes, that thing's true. So it it, these are fraught decisions made by people that have never bought a thing like this before.
[00:05:23] So they don't know anything about it and. If you look at a research on this, the research shows that 40 to 60% of B2B purchase processes end in no decision. . Wow. And so why does that happen? Because that person tasked with, Hey, buy us some new accounting software. That person doesn't know how to make a short list, doesn't know how, is really freaking out, doesn't know how to confidently pick the right one.
[00:05:53] And if they don't figure it out and figure it out in a way where they can really confidently go to their boss and say, I looked at all my options. It's obviously this one. We have to pick this one. If they can't do. The easiest thing, the easiest, lowest risk thing for them to do is to go to their boss and say, you know what?
[00:06:09] Now's not a good time. But let's not buy anything. Like why don't we just kick the can down the road? We'll make a decision next year because you, you know, we're, you know, we're in the middle of doing stuff right now. Let's do it next year. 40 to 60% of the time. That's exactly what happens. Like the customer is not saying, oh, I choose to stay with the status quo thing, cuz I love that way better.
[00:06:30] No, they can't confidently make a decision that they're sure isn't gonna come back on them in some bad way. and so they just say, you know what? We're just gonna stick with what we have with it. It kind of sucks. We don't love it, but we're gonna stick there because any decision I make here feels risky. So we don't actually consider that in, in our marketing and sales enough, in my opinion, because what we're typically doing to customers in that situation that are trying to figure out how do I make choices, is we're just in there pitching our stuff.
[00:07:02] Hey, we've got this accounting software, it's great. Let me show you all the feature. Does that help that person figure out what's the right choice to make? It doesn't, the research on this is actually really interesting too. Like the research on this show is like, what does a customer actually want from us?
[00:07:17] In a sales situation, what they want is, first of all, they wanna understand their choices. So what are the other alternatives out there and how should they be thinking? . And the second thing is they want insight into the market, which is kind of the same thing. So what they're expecting from us is to talk about the whole market and how we fit in the market.
[00:07:41] And instead we're like, nah, you figured that out. You figured that out on your own. I'm just talking about my stuff over here. So if you want, I can give you a stupid example. You want me to give you a stupid example? No, I love,
[00:07:52] Ramli John: I love that example. I know you're talking about, uh, because it's personal and it's,
[00:07:56] April Dunford: uh, it's, yeah.
[00:07:57] So I got thinking about this, you know, how hard it is to buy stuff. Like sometimes I'll get pushback from founders on this and they'll say, well, you know, our stuff is actually not that hard to buy. You know, it's not that hard to buy. It's not that complicated, whatever. And I'm like, no, you don't understand, like, things like this are really hard to buy.
[00:08:14] And so I had this experience where, um, My bought a new house, not a new house. Bought an old shitty house, . An old shitty house, has an old shitty bathroom. And uh, and I hire a guy to come renovate the bathroom. And the guy says, guy says, uh, Yeah. Um, you're gonna need to pick a new toilet. You gotta go buy a toilet and then I'm gonna install it, whatever.
[00:08:38] And I said, oh, okay. Toilet never bought a toilet before, but you know, how hard could it be? I'm gonna go buy a toilet, go to the toilet store, walk in the toilet store, and uh, toilet salesman walks up to me and says, Hey, can I help you? And I said, yeah, looking for a toilet. And he says, what kind of toilet do you want?
[00:08:55] And I'm. One that flushes . What do you mean? Like, I'm like, one that works. What do you mean? He goes, oh, we got all kinds of toilets. Toilets are all back there. You know, go back to the thing and look at the toilets. And I'm like, okay. So I go back there and there's, there's like hundreds of toilets, hundreds of toilets, , there's so many toilets, and the worst part is, , they all look the same, but they are not the same
[00:09:17] Like they've all got these little, you know, sheets beside everyone. It says, here's the price. Some of 'em are a hundred bucks, some are a thousand bucks, and but they look the same. And then there's this list of features underneath, and it's. Goy, like, I don't know what any of these things mean. And so they're talking about gravity assisted B four, you know, whether or not there's got a flapper.
[00:09:39] I'm like, I dunno what a flapper is. I dunno what stuff is. So I'm in there looking at all this stuff. I spend like an hour in store, look at this thing, and I, and I come to this inclusion. I'm like, oh shit, I don't, I don't know enough. You should be able to buy a toilet like crap. So I go home. I get on the internet and, and, and there's all this stuff like, there's like, I go to consumer reports and they've got to think about toilets.
[00:10:02] Oh my god, there's 59 things you gotta think about with toilets. There's like single flush, dual flush, seed, height, all this how it flushes, flappers, trap waves, all this stuff. I'm like, oh my God, there's all this stuff. And like, I don't wanna know. About toilets, like I just wanna buy a toilet that does not break.
[00:10:23] Like I don't wanna buy a bad toilet cuz I don't wanna be calling a plumber every week. I just want a toilet that works. And so I get this idea like, so I'm freaking out. I spend like three weeks going back and forth the showroom, looking at toilets and ah, I can't make a decision. And so finally I get this bright idea, like I'm not gonna buy any toilet.
[00:10:40] I'm not gonna buy no toilet. I'm gonna keep the old toilet. Old toilet was working just fine. Flushing just fine. So then I'm like, that's it, right? So I spent three weeks, I went to the showroom two, three times. I spent like infinity on the internet. How many toilet did I buy? Zero. Zero. That's just like what's happening with your buyers, right?
[00:10:57] They're paralyzed, they're looking at all this stuff. They can't figure out, they can't make a choice, and we're basically going to them and going, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Here's all the features. And they're like, I dunno, any of these features matter? I dunno, how do I pick between this one and that one?
[00:11:11] I don't know. And so we're doing exactly that. And so what happened for me, so this is funny. I go to my contractor and I'm like, Hey, I, you know, I've decided I'm not gonna . Like I'm a busy person. I got stuff going on. I got kids, I got a dog. Get around. I'm too busy. And and the guy says, look, lady, like we took the toilet outta here.
[00:11:29] We recycled it, it's gone. Oh no, can't keep the toilet. Not an option. And I'm like, oh, my contractor, he's burned the boats right now, back the toilet. So, So I go back into the toilet store, I go to a different toilet store. Guy comes up and says, can I help you? And I said, yes. I cannot leave here without a toilet.
[00:11:48] Like, oh my God, I gotta buy a toilet today. This has been terrible. And the guy's like, oh yeah, buy a toilet. It's really hard. And I'm like, yes. It's, why are there so many choices? Why are there all these features I don't even want, like I just wanna buy? Guy says, look, I'm gonna teach you how to buy. He says, easy.
[00:12:04] You only need to think about three things, quality, aesthetics, price. That's all we gotta think about. I'm like, okay, teach me toilet OB one . And the guy says, yeah, first thing, quality. See all these ones over here? They're like 200 bucks. All these ones over here, like a thousand bucks. It's a quality thing.
[00:12:20] All those features you're talking about are like flappers and traps and all that stuff. , higher quality toilet lasts a lot more flushes before you, you gotta do maintenance on it. Low quality toilet doesn't last. That many flushes. And I'm like, well, who the hell buys a low quality toilet? He's like, well, actually, like not all toilets get used a lot.
[00:12:36] Like some people have more than one toilet in their house and they, they got one in the basement gets flushed like once a month or something. He said You'd be dumb. to buy the really expensive one, cuz this one's barely ever gonna get flushed. Like you should buy one of these, put it in there like, you know, maybe it's for your cottage or something.
[00:12:50] And I was like, huh, that's interesting. And I said, well look, this is actually my primary toilet, so I don't want one of those little C balls. Well, one of these. He said, okay, fine. Forget about all those. Okay, good. We just narrowed the choices down by half. He goes, okay. Second thing's, aesthetics. Some people got a real look, they're going for it in their bathroom.
[00:13:06] Like they want a toilet to be super modern or they want it to be gold or whatever. And you'll pay way more for that for that. . So if, but if you got an aesthetic thing, you're going forward, then j, just look at, these are the fashion toilets. And I'm like, look, I got no fashion requirements. Forget about that.
[00:13:21] So he said, okay, well don't look at any of those ones in the corner. Forget about those and this is good. We're getting down there. And he says, okay, last thing is space. A lot of people got a really tiny spot for a bathroom and so they got some kind of toilets where the tank goes in the wall and that saves you like six inches or something.
[00:13:37] And so you can put the toilet in a way, smaller spot problem. . If something breaks with the tank, you gotta bust through the drywall to get in there and fix it. So that's the downside. So if you got a little wee space or you wanna save some space, you go with the one on the wall. If you don't, you just have a regular one.
[00:13:51] I'm like, look, I got lots of space. I don't wanna be busting out the wall if this thing breaks. So forget about those. This is fantastic. Now I'm down with three toilets. I'm like, holy crap, this is great toilets. Which one would you. and the guy says, look, lady, I gotta come clean with you. I actually work for Toto.
[00:14:07] Mm-hmm. . So I'm gonna tell you to buy the Toto toilet. But other two toilets are fine too. They're all the same. Total one costs you a little bit more. But I'll tell you the reason I work for the company, I really believe in what they do. They get, you know, really high quality ratings. All the reviews are really high.
[00:14:20] You can go home, research it on the internet. I'm like, no freaking way. I'm not going back to the internet to research toilet stuff. And, and he says, if you just wanna buy a toilet, never think about toilets again. That's the one you'd pick. I'm like, sign me up, bought the toilet. 10 minutes in and out. So think about that.
[00:14:36] Was that guy being a pushy salesperson? No. No. He didn't say, Hey, here's the total one, here's why you should buy it. No, didn't do that at all. Uh, two, was he trying to like overwhelm me with a whole bunch of features like we do in software where we come in and we say, Hey, I'm giving you the demo and I'm gonna show you every single feature talking, no, he didn't.
[00:14:57] What that guy was, who was acting like a. And he's basically painting a picture of all the toilets in all the land and giving me a rubric to say, these ones are like this. These ones are like this, and these ones are like this. And depending on what you're looking for, here's how to narrow down the field.
[00:15:15] So what he's doing is giving me a way to look at the whole market and make a super confident choice myself. Now I think we can do this in software, but we don't. And we don't for a whole bunch of reasons. One is we've been taught to never, ever talk about anybody but us. Right? Don't talk about the competition.
[00:15:37] We don't wanna be bashing the competition. Now look, did my toilet guy bashed the competition? No, he did not. In fact, he would've sold me a cheap, crummy toilet if I had a told him, no, this is just a toilet that never gets used in the basement or whatever. Like the guy would've sold me that toilet. So, , but we've been told, or we can't talk about the, we gotta pretend the competitors don't exist.
[00:15:56] We're just gonna give you a pitch and it's, it's just about us. So that's the first thing. The second thing is we are under this impression that no one wants to hear our opinion. Which is wrong. Which is wrong cuz we've got this idea like, you know, we're biased. Nobody will believe us. And I'm telling you, I, if I'm talking to a sales rep, I do wanna hear their opinion because, you know what?
[00:16:22] I've never bought a thing like this before. I don't know anything about this. And you, and we as the vendors know a lot, we're experts on this. We eat, sleep, and breathe this. We know the market better than anybody else. Why wouldn't we wanna express our opinion about what's good and bad in the. and leave it to the customer to decide whether or not to believe us.
[00:16:45] Right? And if we can do this in a credible way, being as unbiased as we can, this is exactly what customers want from us. And so, so my thinking on this is we do a lot of thinking in marketing about talking about the value that our product can deliver, that no one else. But we do a really, really bad job when that prospect gets over to sales, and sales has to deliver a pitch that says, look, here's, here's your choices.
[00:17:21] And here's why. And when you would pick us, I don't think we are arming the sales team with a story that lets them do what my toilet salesman did, um, to give customers that have never bought a product like yours before, a, a way of thinking about the whole market in a way to confidently say, yeah, this is the one that I want.
[00:17:41] Ramli John: such a great, it's such a great story cause it's so, so memorable and relatable, right? Like, uh, I haven't bought a toilet yet. Good, good thing I, I haven't had to smash my toilet apart.
[00:17:51] April Dunford: But I can imagine, man, like there's a lot of things like if you go to do a renovation, all of a sudden you are thinking about things that you, you didn't think there was gonna be any space in your brain to think about you.
[00:18:02] toilets and sinks and taps and things like, it's the worst.
[00:18:07] Ramli John: What's crazy is most people probably think a toilet is a toilet, but you just, just share this total story that it's not, it's not a, not .
[00:18:14] April Dunford: And of course it's not. Right. Of course it's not. There's toilet vendors and there's toilet technology, and they're all competing to like the same way that I'm sure people said and think like, oh, it's just email, software, you know, , oh, it's just accountant software.
[00:18:29] No, it's not. There's a thousand vendors and a thousand things you gotta think
[00:18:32] Ramli John: about, one of the things you mentioned is around how marketers are not arming the, giving the sales team a, a good enough story. Most marketers have probably heard of the hero's journey, where this, there's this hero who is our customer and they have a problem and.
[00:18:48] You, there's a guide OB one Kenobi or right in this case us. Right. And they, we give them a solution and then they live happily ever after. And you actually say, uh, that, you know, this is good for some things, but it's actually not good for sales
[00:19:02] April Dunford: pitch. Yeah. So, you know, I got some pretty strong opinions about this.
[00:19:06] Like, I, like, here's, here's the first thing. As an organization, a software company has a lot of different stories that they. . We don't just have one story. I, I say this and sometimes marketers will say, yes, we do. We just have this one story. We call it the, you know, the strategy narrative or something like this.
[00:19:27] There's absolute bull crap. This is not true, right? We have the story of why do you wanna be an employee here? . It is very different from the story that we tell to investors, why would you wanna invest in this company? Which is also very different than the story we tell to prospects. Why do you wanna exchange your cold hard cash for this thing that we sell?
[00:19:51] So first of all, we tell lots of different stories. and it would make sense that the storytelling structure that we use for these different types of stories are, is different because the audiences are different. The thing we're trying to compel the audience to do is different. And you know, so the outcome of, you know, what's happening here is different.
[00:20:14] Now if we look at, um, . It's interesting, like in marketing, we're all, we're, we're, we learn the hero's journey and it, or variations on it. Like, it's funny, I got this book sitting here, buildings , and this is, this is the one everybody's read this book building, building this story brand. This is basically, Donald Miller has done this amazing job of taking hero's journey.
[00:20:36] And turning it into this really, you know, streamlined, you know, six, seven step version. This thing called StoryBrand. And this is how, how do we build a story And it's, uh, a character has a problem, meets a guide who gives them a plan ca and calls them to action, which allows them to be successful and avoid failure.
[00:20:54] Great. Makes sense. And I like this a lot. Like, just to be clear, like, and there's a lot of situations where I've used this, where I think it works very, very well. Like for example, in a customer case study, I could, I could, I could map that exactly right? So you know, the character is the customer and they got this problem and then, you know, and then they used our stuff and then they achieved success and they avoided failure.
[00:21:17] It's amazing Maps to this just fine. Here's a problem. I'm in a sales situation. , right? So customer like let, let's use me and my toilet thing as an example. I'm on my hero's journey, , I love it. Purchase, you got a problem, right? So I problem and I go and I to the, and I meet Toilet Obie Wong, who is my guy? Oh, and he is going, you know, he's gonna teach me obk how to buy a toilet.
[00:21:52] Now here's the thing. In this thing, it's, there's a step that says who gives them a plan? What's the plan?
[00:22:04] this is what we need. How do we build the plan? And, and you know, much as I love Donna Miller, um, th this book's, examples of the plans are absolute garbage, right? So, you know, the software example that he uses to plan. He says there's a three step plan. Go to the website, sign up for the free trial. Why enjoy the software?
[00:22:27] Is this a plan? No. So in sales, my salesperson is the guide. . So how do we build the plan? Man, this book ain't telling you how to do that so much as I'd love Hero's Journey, and I think it works well in marketing for certain things, like particularly customer case study or something like that. Um, we can't use it in sales.
[00:22:51] Now here's what, here's what normally is happening in sales. You know what normally happens in sales? There's no storytelling whatsoever. Here's what happens. There's a big button on your website says, give me a demo. Customer clicks on that button. They get sent over to sales. And what do sales do? They give them a demo.
[00:23:09] Mm. Now what's the structure of that demo? There is no structure, man, . There's no structure. Like, well, what I've seen is, there's two, one of two things they do. One they, they basically do a feature walkthrough. Here's how you log in. We got five menus. I'm gonna click on every single menu and show you every single option and every single menu that.
[00:23:28] Does that helping the customer make a decision, does the, it's all on the customer. They gotta figure out which of those features are differentiated or not differentiated from the other competitors. What's the value of any of those features? Why pick you? And when typ, we're putting that all on the customer.
[00:23:46] You figure it out. I'm just gonna show you the stuff. You figure it out. Right. The closest I've seen to a structure on this with typical SaaS company is they'll do what I call the problem. , which is no, it's a little preamble before we get in and say, Hey, you got a problem. You know, you gotta do like accounting bet.
[00:24:06] You gotta do an audit and stuff with your accounting software. Hey, we're accounting software, and we do that and then we go and show them all the features, feature, feature, feature, feature. The problem with that is usually the definition of the problem is so vague. All your competitors solve that problem too.
[00:24:23] There's nothing differentiated about what you. . So if, again, how we, how we build a sales pitch, how do we build a sales pitch? Now some companies I've seen attempt to do what they do with a vc, you know, so, you know, if I'm pitching an investor and investor pitch usually starts with, there's a change in the world.
[00:24:50] there's a change in the world, man. World is. and therefore the status quo, whatever you're doing right now is shit. World's gonna change. Something big is happening and there's gonna be death and destruction and fire and, and after that, the only companies standing will be the companies that use our stuff.
[00:25:13] Now let me show you our stuff that, so that's how they do it Now, in a VC pitch, VC pitch is a particular kind of pitch. Like, first of all, you don't tend to talk too much about direct competitors in a VC pitch. You do it in a very macro way, right? And usually what you're talking about is everything else is the status quo.
[00:25:31] Old shit, and you're the new hotness, and so all you have to do is position against the old stuff, status quo versus new hotness, and that is just too simple for. The markets that we typically play in, because typically we got status quo, which might be like a spreadsheet or a piece of paper or something, or some old legacy system.
[00:25:56] But most B2B software like companies are making a short list, and you're competing against two or three other companies that also think of themselves as the new hotness. So how do you differentiate against them? You're all the new hotness. and a VC pitch, does it And, and starting with this change in the world, like typically it's just like a trend, you know, like, oh, you know, companies are, you know, companies are managing an increasing amount of data.
[00:26:23] Yeah. Like your competitors are talking about that too. Sure. There's nothing differentiating, like if you can spot the trend, they can spot the trend. Like, sure. So usually the problem with these pitches is they end up being sort of like a really simplistic version of problem. , right? No. There's a big trend.
[00:26:40] That's the problem. We're the solution to that, but we're gonna ignore anybody else that looks like us, that we, you know, the only competitor will admit is the old way of doing things. Again, we're, we're not helping. We're not helping the customer. Make a map of the market, figure out who fits where, and then figure out what, how they make the best decision.
[00:27:00] So I don't think the way we're doing this today is doing us any favors.
[00:27:07] Ramli John: Before we continue, I wanna thank the sponsor for this episode 42 agency. When you're in scale up mode, you have to hate your KPIs and the pressure is on to deliver demos and signups. It's a lot to handle demand. Gen, abm, email sequences, revenue ops, and.
[00:27:23] That's where 42 Agency founded by my good friend, Camille Rexton can help you. They're a strategic partner that's helped B2B SaaS companies like ProfitWell, teamwork, sprout Social and Hubdoc build a predictable revenue engine. If you're looking for performance experts in creative to solve your hardest marketing problems at a fraction of the cost of in-house, look no further.
[00:27:47] Go to 42 Agency, that's number 42 agency.com to talk to a strategist to learn how you can build a high efficiency revenue engine. Now find that link in the description or show notes. Well, that's offer. Now let's jump back into this episode. You've laid out this problem now and you've, we've been working on this better way.
[00:28:06] Uh, can you share a better way to create a sales pitch that resonates with the audience? And I, I see sales pitch. I feel like it also could apply to messaging on website or, you know, a lot of different places. So yeah, I'd love to just hear what you're working.
[00:28:21] April Dunford: So this has been, so this has been a, a problem close to my heart for a while because, you know, my whole jam is positioning.
[00:28:29] So in the work I do as a consultant, what I'm working with companies on is how to figure out what that company's differentiated value is. and who's the best fit for that. So what we're trying to figure out is, you know, what's the value that only we can deliver versus all the competitors anywhere? What is the value that only we can deliver?
[00:28:51] And teamed with that, who really cares a lot about that value? So, you know, this is the thing we can do that no one else can. And here are the people that really love that because they need that because of, you know what? Whatever. So, My work has been oriented on that. So we, you know, so I work with the team.
[00:29:11] We get the team together, we work this through. We figure out, okay, this is the value only you can deliver it. These are the people that really care about it. The problem is if we just stop there. Marketing's happy cuz marketing can go do messaging cuz they'll take that differentiated value props and they'll use that to be on the website and everything else.
[00:29:30] The problem is, is when this, this, these leads hit sales and they get to sales and they're sitting across from sales and then sales just says, okay, lemme give you the feature walkthrough . Right? And so what the customer actually wants is why pick you over the other guys? , they want the answer to that. And a lot of times in marketing, that's not really our job.
[00:29:54] You know, we're talking about the value we can deliver that no one else can. But in sales, that is absolutely our job. Our job is to answer the question, why pick us over the other guys? So we need a story that tells that, in my opinion, there's a handful of things we gotta think about. So just like in marketing, where the key to our story is our differentiated value, sales is the same.
[00:30:16] So what we wanna be able to highlight what we want in the middle of the story is this differentiated value, what we can do for your business that no one else can. And so a good sales story actually starts with like, why is that value important? and it is kind of like the answer to the question, like, why did we build it this way?
[00:30:43] Like, why did we build the thing that we built? Like we built it different than everybody else. Like, why is it different? Like, who cares? So a lot of my thinking on this really changed when, um, I, I got a job. Ages ago at I B M and when I landed at I B M, they had a very particular way of building sales pitches there.
[00:31:02] And I'll tell you, there's a lot of stuff in that sales pitch structure that I would not wanna copy. But one of the things I really liked about what they did was they always started a sales pitch with what they called market insight, which was, right here's what we see in the market for customers like, , which I thought was kind of an interesting way, it's almost like reverse engineering your differentiated value.
[00:31:28] But what you're doing is if you say, well, if this is the value only we can deliver. Like why? Why did, why? Like how, why do we get to that? Like, what is it that we know about the market that no one else really understands? And so instead of starting with, You know, some generic trend or starting with here's the, you know, the problem, which my competitors could all define the same way.
[00:31:52] Instead, at IBM m we always started with like, here's what we know that, you know, other people that maybe serve different kinds of customers, whatever, don't know this. So I, I like that starting. So in a good sales pitch, basically tease that up and says, look like, like we see this. And it's kind of like another way of thinking about it is like the problem inside the problem or the root cause of the problem.
[00:32:17] Like, you're here because you wanna do better accounting, but what we've seen is this, right? So, so we start with that and then we paint a picture of the whole. And, and, and split it up according to that. Like, okay, this is what we see. Now let's look at what your choices are. You can pick these guys and they're good for this, but not good for that.
[00:32:38] Or you could pick people that, you know, do it this way and they're good for this or good for that. Or you people that do it this way, good for this, good for that. But really, and while we're having that discussion, we're pointing out, there's a big gap there. And then we're saying, look, like we think for customers like you that really wanna get this thing done.
[00:32:56] you know, perfect solution probably looks like this, right? And then we gotta, we get kind of aligned on that and then we say, okay, now let me show you my stuff. And my pitch is all, all the way oriented around, look, this is the value we can deliver that no one else can. And my demo is, let me show you how we do that.
[00:33:17] So if you want, I can give you an example. Yeah, please. Yeah, I
[00:33:20] Ramli John: think you're,
[00:33:21] April Dunford: it's one thing to talk about it theoretically. It's another thing to talk about examples. So here's my example. Um, So this, this company that I did some work with called Help Scout, maybe you know them. They're in, uh, um, customer service software and they're interesting because, you know, they, they started out working a lot with direct to consumer brands and one of the things that they observed their insight into the market is that direct to consumer brands think about customer service in a different.
[00:33:52] Um, and, and it's because, you know, they don't have stores and they, they generally don't talk to people at all, like on the phone or anywhere at all. And so they actually see customer service as a growth driver. Like, if we can serve people really well, then they'll be more loyal to us. They'll come back and there's a bunch of good research that shows that this is true.
[00:34:12] Now, if you look at, uh, help Scout. Competitors, they kind of have two competitors. Like if you're a really small direct to consumer brand, um, usually you start out doing, doing, uh, customer service with just a shared inbox because it's easy to use and everyone knows how to use it, and it works fine until things get a little more complicated.
[00:34:33] You start to grow and then you wish you could do prioritization or assignments, the things that you. Help desk software. And so if you can't do that with the shared inbox, then you gotta go to like full blown help desk software, which is like Zendesk and then you go. And the problem with that is really hard to use, but it does all the things like it has all the features that you want, prioritization and automation and all the stuff that you want.
[00:34:58] The only thing is that those companies came outta help desk software where they think of customer service. That pain in the ass, basically. And, and what they're trying to do is drive the cost down. So if you come to customer service, they're trying to get the customer to go to a low touch channel. You know, they assign the customer a number.
[00:35:20] You know, you're not a person. You got a case number. You know, they're trying to get you to just use the f a AQ or you know, or you know, speak to this chat bot, which isn't a person at all. This is just some AI thing. So they're all about taking the cost out of it Now. , so I'm help scout. Um, the neat thing about Help Scout, if you look at the way they've designed the software, they've designed it the way you would design it if you were one of these.
[00:35:46] Consumer direct to consumer brands in that they make it really easy to use, just like a shared inbox. It looks just like a shared inbox, easy to use, like a shared inbox, but it does all these advanced help desk things like prioritization and automation and all this other stuff. But it doesn't do it at the expense of the customer experience because they, they look at this different.
[00:36:06] So the customer gets to pick what channel they wanna deal with you in, and they don't get aside the number. They're a person, you know, all this stuff. Okay. So that's the, that's the. , right? So their differentiated value is a handful of things like one, you know, really super easy to use, easy to get your people on board.
[00:36:25] Stuff looks just like an inbox. It's great, but two, you're not gonna outgrow it does all this fancy, advanced stuff that you want. And then three does it in a way that gives customer, great customer experience because you know that's really important because you think about that as a lever for growth.
[00:36:40] That's my differentiated value. Okay. Think about how we pitch this in a sales pitch. So I got this differentiated value all over my website. Customer comes, clicks, that button says, give me a demo, right? , he goes over to sales and get a demo. Does, does sales go in there and say, okay, let me show you all the features.
[00:37:02] Here's a feature, here's a feature. Here's all the dropdown menus, here's all the features, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What's the customer gonna think? They'll be like, I don't know. Looks like an inbox. We're already using an inbox. That, you know, I don't know. And they'd be like, I don't know. Got some stuff.
[00:37:16] Looks like Zendesk does do everything Zendesk does. It's really different than Zendesk. I don't know, right? Mm-hmm. . So if I go in and just give 'em the feature walkthrough, maybe people get it, maybe they don't. Instead here's what the sales rep, the what the help Scout sales rep does. Customer comes in, helps code sales reps.
[00:37:34] Starts with the, starts with the market insight. Hey, direct to consumer brand. We work with a lot of direct to consumer brands. Here's what we see. What we notice is companies like you treat customer success or customer service differently because they actually see customer service as a growth driver rather than a cost.
[00:37:56] Customer goes, yeah, yeah, you're right. You know, and they got some data to bag this up. Yeah, you're right. Yeah, we do. We do see it like that cuz we understand great customer service. Great for our business. Right, right. It is. Yeah. Now look, we realize you got choices. And we work with companies like you all the time.
[00:38:11] So most of the folks we work with, they start with a shared inbox. You start with a shared go. Yeah, yeah. We're using a shared inbox now. Ah, yeah. See, that works really easy to use. Everybody likes it until you start growing. Then you run out of these features that you want, right? Yeah. That's a pain in the ass.
[00:38:24] Well then, then you get, then you're looking at help desk software. Great thing about help desk software. It has all the stuff, right, has all the advanced features. You need two problems. One kind of hard to use and two, sort of treats everybody like a number like it, it, it doesn't care about customer experience.
[00:38:40] It's actually optimizing for something you don't wanna optimize for. So in a perfect world, what we'd have is customer support software. that you know, one easy to use as an inbox. Two has all the advanced features you need so you don't grow out of it. But three treats customer experience like it's a first class citizen.
[00:39:01] Like this is really what we're trying to do right now. This is a moment in your sales pitch. Mm-hmm. . Now, so far I haven't pitched, I haven't actually pitched. Helps. Problem yet problem. Yeah. I'm just drawing you the picture of the market , and I'm saying, look, like for guys like you, these are the things you should be worried about right now if you look at me and you say, well, yeah, that is what I want.
[00:39:26] Now I got you. Like all I gotta do is show that we do that. . So then I go, so, so I say, you know, you want these three things, right? The customer goes, yeah, right. Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, great. Here's us. We're home scout. We're all about, you know, advanced customer service functionality. That's really easy to use.
[00:39:44] Treat your customers great. Here's our value, our value point number one. Super easy to use, right? Oh, let me show you. Look, there's an inbox. Just, just like an inbox. Here's how you do some stuff with that. Super easy to use number. Advanced features so you don't have to grow out of it. Oh, here's how we do prioritization.
[00:40:02] Here's how we do automation. Here's how we do this stuff. Last one delivers a great customer experience. Let's show how we do that. Customer gets to pick their own channel, doesn't assign them a ticket number, blah, blah, blah. So I'm still giving you a demo. It's the demo is totally oriented around my differentiated.
[00:40:21] and I give you this setup at the beginning to help you think about the whole market. Here's why you don't wanna use Zendesk, here's why you don't wanna keep using a shared inbox. So it's a completely different way of thinking about how to do this pitch. It's thinking about it from the customer's perspective.
[00:40:37] What does the customer need in order to make a decision? Right. I'm trying to answer the question, why pick me over the alternatives? Not why pick me . So that's how it works in my
[00:40:51] Ramli John: mind. Love that. That four things there is so clear, you know, the insight, the market insight, the alternatives here, and then the gap in the market, and then finally the value.
[00:40:59] Yeah. That enables, this sounds like, uh, a sequel to your first book, obviously. Awesome. Is. , is that something that you're seeing in the future? Like obviously awesome part too .
[00:41:09] April Dunford: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I, you know, if you see me at a conference, I'm talking about this stuff right now, and so I've been teaching this to my clients.
[00:41:20] For years. So, you know, if, if you work with me and we do positioning work, the, the two things we get out of the workshop is we do the positioning and then we take that positioning and translate it into a sales pitch. And so the immediate thing you can do with that new positioning is get your sales people pitch in that way.
[00:41:39] Um, so I've been doing that for a long time. I would shift gears
[00:41:42] Ramli John: and, and talk about career. Um, specifically your marketers. You've been in the marketing and consulting space for over 25 years. Yeah. What's something that's helped you in your career that's like advance that you, if you can go back in time, you'd give that, that power up or that advice or that special thing that's helped you in your career to your younger?
[00:42:04] April Dunford: Yeah. Like, you know, at the beginning of my career I really thought, you know, and this, this may be specific to me because, you know, at the beginning, like I didn't study marketing. A lot of people in marketing didn't study marketing. Like I come out of systems design engineering. But I went in through product marketing and you know, I thought at the beginning, Like, I was really worried about tactics, right?
[00:42:29] Like how could I get really good at tactics, like how to be really good at seo, or really good at email, or really good at events. Um, but then the more senior I got, The more I realize like tactics are tactics and the tactics change all the time, and the channels change all the time, but there are these bigger questions that are kind of at the heart of what a good marketer needs to figure out.
[00:42:55] And so I think my career really started to accelerate. At the point when, you know, I stopped worrying so much about marketing and, and spent more time thinking about markets, right? Wow. Like market strategy, go to market strategy. What are we trying to do in the market? What are we trying to be in the market?
[00:43:12] And then let's figure out the tactics that mapped to that. And so for me, that was kind of a, a game changer. . The other thing I would say, and you know, I did this, so this isn't advice to me, uh, just more like, congratulations, April, you did a good thing was, um, I moved around a lot and, and at the beginning it wasn't on purpose because I, I kept working for these little companies and then they would get acquired and then you'd be at the big company.
[00:43:37] for as long as you could take it, and then you come out, go to another little company and bounce back and forth. But in the moving around a lot, it, it gave me a lot of perspective on what works and what doesn't. And what I see a lot with junior marketers is they've done one job at one company or two jobs at two companies, and they think they know everything.
[00:44:00] And once you learn by like company number four is you don't know nothing. , yes, every company is different. And so, but where, but what you do start seeing is. , there's this common underpinning on the stuff that you do, and so this is part of the reason why I got so interested in positioning, because you know, the tactics would change.
[00:44:20] The way we go to market would change the, you know, the routes we were using and stuff would change, but there'd be this underlying strategic bunch of stuff that was really important. And if you could figure that out. You know, then everything else we did downstream from that is better. So I think bouncing around a lot, doing a lot of different things early in your career is actually good.
[00:44:40] This was such a
[00:44:41] Ramli John: great framework to help create product stores and sales pitches that Sell. Can find out more about April Dunford and her work by going to her website, april dunford.com, and following her on LinkedIn. Those links are in the show notes and description. If you enjoy this episode, you'd love the marketing Power UPS newsletter that I sent out.
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[00:45:44] Well, that's all. For now. This is your host, Ram John. Until the next episode. Have a powered update. Bye
[00:45:51] April Dunford: marketing Powerups until the next episode.