Most technology companies claim to have innovative products. And they use thought-leadership content at the beginning of the buying cycle to get the word out and build awareness. But often what they claim is thought leadership is simply a reverse engineering of their product capabilities. The product marketer looks at the product features, imagines what problem they’d be good at solving, and writes the content.
A more compelling approach to thought leadership is one that takes advantage of Challenger selling principles. In particular, these vendors use thought-leadership content to bring a unique (often provocative) perspective to the customer—something the customer likely hasn’t thought of before. This perspective often includes opportunities to make or save money that the customer hadn’t known existed.
One company that does a great job of this is Price Intelligently. The company provides pricing services for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. Its home page immediately hits you with the promise—“You’re missing out on 33% more revenue because of your price.” That’s enough to get anyone intrigued.
The company provides extensive thought- leadership content in the form of blog posts that challenge SaaS companies’ existing pricing strategies and promises that they can improve their top line significantly if they price their services correctly, following Price Intelligently advice. The company’s thought-leadership content hits various points in the Challenger selling methodology:
- The Warmer—Assesses the customer’s key challenges using real customer examples
- The Reframe—Introduces a new approach
- Rational Drowning—Provides in-depth proof points
- Emotional Impact—Makes sure customers see themselves in the story the vendor is telling
- A New Way and Your Way—describes the solution both in a generic manner and in a manner that specifically names the vendor’s solution
The Warmer—Building Credibility through Real Customer Examples
The Challenger selling approach starts by building credibility and demonstrating that the vendor knows the customers’ world by describing what the vendor is seeing and hearing as key challenges of similar companies. Most of the blog posts on this site start with descriptions of what the company is seeing as it talks to hundreds of customers.
The Reframe and Rational Drowning—Challenging the Customer’s Current Approach
The Reframe is the central idea for Challenger Selling. Building off the challenges the customer acknowledged in the Warmer section of the pitch, a vendor introduces a new perspective that connects those challenges to either a bigger problem or a bigger opportunity than they realized. The goal is to present the customer with a perspective they never thought of before and why this matters. This, of course, is the very essence of thought leadership. Rational Drowning then provides the detailed argument to back up this new perspective.
The purpose of Price Intelligently’s entire website is to challenge SaaS companies’ thinking on how they price their services. Based on its experiences consulting with hundreds of SaaS Companies, Price Intelligently bloggers talk about how companies typically price their services today and why the right pricing approach is particularly critical for their target audience to stay in business.
One post delivers a particularly strong challenge by pointing out that pricing is a topic that companies think little about (most companies think about it for six hours, not per year, but in the history of their business) and posits that they should be thinking about and adjusting pricing every six months.
It instills urgency by arguing that the right pricing is critical because SaaS vendors invest a lot upfront and must wait many months before they see a return on that investment. At the same time, SaaS customers face few barriers to switching so they can easily churn before the vendor sees a ROI. As a result, SaaS vendors very survival depends on getting pricing right. The post then describes a process that SaaS companies can follow to effectively evaluate their pricing on an ongoing basis—who should be involved, what they need to consider, and how often they need to consider it.
In another Challenging example, this post on SaaS discounting talks about problems that can arise when SaaS companies use the common strategy of discounting to acquire customers. The post challenges SaaS vendors to consider that while discounting provides short-term gain, it leads to long-term failure. Finally, it explains what companies should do instead of providing blanket discounts that will allow them to succeed long -term.
Customers won’t make a change unless they can see themselves in the story you’re telling. And that means making sure they have an emotional connection. The way to do that is by telling stories that paint a picture of how other companies went down a painful path by behaving in a way that the customer is behaving in their own company.
Price Intelligently provides a number of posts that deliver in-depth analysis of exactly what name-brand SaaS vendors are doing right and wrong when it comes to pricing their product.
The implication is that even the big boys are struggling with this issue, so chance are you’re having trouble too.
A New Way and Your Solution
Finally, the Challenger approach describes in detail how to address the problem outlined—and ultimately explains the vendor’s solution. Most of Price Intelligently’s posts provide a fairly detailed generic analysis of how to address the stated problem, which the customer will recognize as Price Intelligently’s solution.
For example, the Apple and Tinder posts do a great job of giving readers advice on how to address these issues—not to mention a feel for what it’s like to work with Price Intelligently. The post about Apple’s music- pricing strategy demonstrates their ability to provide in-depth analysis of the music market by talking about their strategy vis a vis the competition (e.g. Pandora and Spotify) and their knowledge of the industry’s buyer personas (more of them exist than in other industries), buyer preferences (they’re trained not to pay for music), cost structure (high royalties).
The piece goes on to compare and contrast Apple’s pricing strategy to that of a similar company (Netflix) that does a better job. Finally, they provide specific strategies that Apple should consider and the things that Apple is doing right.
Price Intelligently also provides plenty of useful “how to” content to help customers learn more about strategies for improving content. Some of these posts include:
- 6 Common B2B Pricing Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- 3Ways Human Behavior Can Help Your SaaS Pricing Strategy
- Ride the Demand Curve: Skimming and Your Pricing Strategy
These posts provide useful information the customer can apply to their own operations, as well as additional fodder to demonstrate what it’s like to work with Price Intelligently.
Challenger Selling for all Manner of Content
While I’ve discussed how Price Intelligently uses this approach for its blogs, you can also use it for other types of content as well. For example, in a project for one of my clients, we used all elements of this approach in a single, definitive eBook that served as a repository for the story for one of the company’s key product areas.
The Challenger Approach for Content Marketing
The Challenger approach provides a powerful and effective framework not only for sales teams, but for content marketers. Price Intelligently provides a great example of how you can use this approach to encourage customers to think in a new way—which is the whole point of thought leadership.