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Challenger Marketing Declares War on Your Status Quo

Posted by Michelle Kratzer on Dec 13, 2018 9:30:00 AM
Michelle Kratzer

Here at SurveyMe, we applaud disruptors - those who challenge our current thinking by presenting new information that helps our businesses become more profitable or make our processes more efficient.

6 years ago, co-authors Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon shook the business world with their new sales method The Challenger Sale. The best-seller, citing how traditional sales methods had failed us, encouraged challenging sales prospects to think differently. In his latest work, “The Challenger Customer”, Brent Adamson takes aim at traditional marketing, suggesting that these same “Challenger” principles be applied to your marketing methodology. 

Time for Change

For the last 15 years, B2B marketing has focused on thought leadership content. These thought leaders, respected as the trusted, go-to people in their field of expertise, cranked out impressive amounts of collateral to educate prospects and clients on changes that would be good for business. The clients, in turn, gobbled it up.

Unfortunately, after consuming the content, many clients were no closer to buying the marketer’s product. Some used the information to educate themselves, then made a purchase from a competitor. The message was received but did not drive the desired action.

Why labor to add one more piece of marketing content to the overflowing pile, or worse, provide free consulting for your competitors? Time for a change.


Why labor to add one more piece of content to the overflowing pile?


Gather Commercial Insights

How can you make your content stand out? Declare war on the status quo. Adamson advised differentiating your content by basing it on commercial insights. Commercial Insights are unique perspectives created by combining the client’s information (data, trends, analytics) and the client’s history, challenges and goals. These insights are used to alert the client to the painful consequences of not changing their current business path.

The main difference between Commercial Insights and Thought Leadership is their focus. Commercial insights focus on the pain that will be incurred if nothing is done to correct a problem. Thought Leadership focuses on the benefits of changing your actions.

Imagine you are a building contractor, specializing in parking structures. After researching your prospect ABC Theatre, you discover that they have insufficient parking. This parking problem is costing them customers and revenue. The thought leadership marketing model would present content focusing on the benefits of building a new parking structure. The commercial insights marketing model would use bench-marking tools to measure the revenue the theatre loses because of the parking issue. Both are helpful to the client, but the commercial insight marketing method better positions you for the sale. Here's a comparison of the two methods:


Thought Leadership


Commercial Insight

“Ideas that educate customers and prospects about important business and technology issues and help them solve those issues—without selling.” – ITSMA


Best for:
  1. Educating Customers
  2. Establishing content creator as a thought leader
  3. Conveying benefits of alternative actions

Content challenging customers’ current thinking—this will more reliably reset the customer’s purchase criteria decisively in the supplier’s favor.

-CEB Global


Best for:
  1. Shaking up the current way of thinking
  2. Generating leads
  3. Conveying the cost of current behavior
  4. Ultimately making a sale

 warning red flag GIF

Commercial Insights send a warning of the effects of inaction.


Unteach by challenging

We live in the age of the educated buyer. Thanks to the internet, today’s buyer has access to more product information than one could ever consume. Buyers use this product information to help decide which companies and services to use. According to CEB, buyers don’t even consult a company until they are 57% into the buying process.

This is where unteaching comes into play. Effective Challenger marketing must shatter those early content messages and make a course correction with commercial insights.


Content Audit

The book suggests conducting a content audit to ensure that every piece of collateral leads to a commercial insight. This requires a shift from thought leadership, whose focus is on the benefits of alternate actions, to commercial insights, whose focus is on demonstrating that “pain of same” will be greater than the pain of change.

Although thought leadership helps customers become educated, it fails to generate leads.


4 Characteristics of Commercial Insights
  1. Alert customers to your unique strengths
  2. Challenge customer’s current thinking and persuade change
  3. Promote a call to action
  4. Create content that is scalable across customers


The Best of Both Worlds

Thought Leadership and Commercial Insights can be used together to make an effective campaign. Thought Leadership goes far in lending credibility to your company and to building relationships with the customer. Just remember that Commercial Insights are what ultimately gets the leads and seals the deal.


Remember these 3 Steps to Cut the Noise with Commercial Insights:
  1. Spark Concern - Create content (info-graphics, factoids) that reveals and magnifies a widely unknown business problem.
  2. Scope the Problem - Convey the agitation caused by the problem through testimonials and case studies.
  3. Personalize the Pain - Specify how inaction will result in pain to the customer. Use bench-marking tools to demonstrate how the effect will play out.



Marketing is the Insight Generation Machine.

Sales reps count on Marketing to provide insight. The Challenger Sale book refers to marketing as the “insight generation machine”. It is these insights that take center-stage in the Challenger method.

If you take the time to research your clients and combine your discoveries with their goals and challenges you will come away with powerful unique commercial insights. It is these insights that will set your marketing content apart from the rest of the pile.

Commercial insights are unearthed daily at SurveyMe. Call us if you need help.

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Topics: Business & Marketing, Business Strategy

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