It’s about the why, not the what

I have been working on a little book on B2B product marketing in the last couple of months. While writing up my experience, I have thought a lot about product positioning and how B2B companies present themselves. More often than not, I have seen the positioning to be a description of what they do and not why they do it. A simple, easy description of what your company does is already hard to come up with, especially if you are in B2B, have truly unique product and are building up an entirely new segment. That said, it is dangerous. It is dangerous because today’s markets, technologies, and clients move so quickly that you might become obsolete, if you are not able to answer the why question first.

There is a good TED talk on the why? question I recommend. A few weeks ago I saw a similar talk by Andrew “Boz” Bosworth at the OMR festival. Being able to answer the “why do we do what we do?” question helps you put everything in perspective: Are you developing the right products to help with the why? How does this new technology impact my “why we do what we do?”? Is this new company competition or not? …

Let me give you an example. I recently came across Flashstock. Here’s what they do according to their website:
Flashstock is the Most Efficient Way for Brands to Create High-Quality Content


Let me explain this a bit: They help fortune 500 brands to create visual content (pictures, videos etc.) for their social media channels and branding material through their network of freelance artists. It’s like upwork/freelancer/elance with custom support and content curation to guide you through the process. So if you want your new smoothie to “travel around the world” and want to have a picture of the smoothie bottle shot in Kuala Lumpur, New York, and Paris, you don’t need to send a photograhper around the world anymore. Using Flashstock and the freelancer photographers on site you can do it faster and at a cheaper price. So their USP is to be deliver “most efficient high-quality content”. But it’s the “what they do” and not the “why they do it”.

In order to answer the why, let’s take a look at their clients. One of their client groups are social media managers who need great content for their posts. They yearn for likes, shares and followers, resulting in the pressure to publish even more without larger budgets reflecting this. They need authentic content speaking to the brand but can’t afford to send people around the globe. And above all they want this content to go viral. Does it have to be efficient? Yes, fast means quicker posts and cheap means less money out of a budget. Does it have to be high-quality? Not necessarily, it has to be authentic to the brand. But it definitely has to have the potential of being engaging with the audience, and ideally going viral.

So let’s take a step back: Why is Flashstock doing what they are doing? They want to help social media managers succeed at their job. Combining technology & freelancers around the world to do this efficiently and at a high quality standard is a great idea compared to the old way of hiring a marketing agency to send people around the world on the plane. But it falls short on the reason why the social media managers do it. They do it because they need authentic content that goes viral. If something is engaging, it is worth a high price (unfortunately it is very difficult to plan for that when creating content so by default the price needs to be cheap) – so being authentic & engaging beats efficiency & high quality. Remember the “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet by Oreo when the lights went out during the Superbowl? Remember the Dollar Shave Club video? Remember the Unicorn Poop?
The content was authentic to the brand, in fact the last two videos defined the brand.

So when you look at your website ask yourself: Do we answer the why? IMHO, for Flashstock it would look like this: Answer the why, then add the what.
Authentic visual content for your brand. We help create [pictures, videos, animated gifs…] for [Facebook, Instagram, websites…].

Once you start asking yourself the why, it also becomes apparent of who your real competition is. In the case of Flashstock, authentic content might just be the first step. Companies such as Stoyo Media do not only offer authentic videos, they also address engagement by feeding the produced videos into the social media ecoystem to help with virality.