Posted by Alan Nazarelli ● Tue, Jun 28, 2022 @ 09:51 AM

Aspirational Marketing

In our interviews with top-level (CXO, VP, Director) business and technical decision makers, we find that a conversation about their paint points is very often a forced one. What I mean is that it seems we are "spotlighting", i.e. turning their focus to an area that is not typically top-of-mind for them. Not that the pain doesn't exist or is not on the brain for decision makers. But when we ask open-ended questions such as "describe your current infrastructure", interview respondents focus on the positive aspects-what is working, what their team has accomplished so far. A little segue here into some qualitative research rules-responses to open-ended questions generally trump those to closed-ended questions and unaided comments trump aided ones.  

YET SO MANY SALES TRAININGS FOCUS ON UNCOVERING AND ADDRESSING PAIN POINTS! At a sales webinar I attended, the presenter declared-"sell the aspirin, not the vitamin".

So the question arises: When communicating with top level decision makers, either through content marketing (web content, white papers, webinars and events, etc.), or during sales conversations, do you focus more on their pain points or their aspirations? What will most effectively and efficiently get them excited about your solution, move the dialogue to the next level or trigger buying intention? This post attempts to answer these questions. We make the case here for "Aspirational Marketing", triggering positive responses with prospects, making them dream, linking your solution to their highest aspirations as a better communications approach to these audiences than "selling the aspirin".

We base our analysis on hundreds of executive opinion interviews we conduct each year in our qualitative B2B market research practice, where the conversation very often begins with open-ended questions about their current state as part of the warm-up to the discussion about to take place. But don't just take our word for it. Use A/B testing for aspirational versus pain-point oriented messaging. Have your salespeople experiment with these alternative approaches to uncover what resonates best with your organization's specific target audiences. This POV flies in the face of conventional sales thinking today, so I am sure to get push-back, and all dialogue is welcome.

Here are top five questions we use to elicit high level decision makers' true vision and aspirations that can be used as part of your content framework or for sales battle card creation:

  1. The Magic Wand question:
    “If you could wave a magic wand and get three wishes to create your ideal [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake etc.], what would they be?”
  2. The “Future-scape” question:
    “If we were to have a conversation two years from now, and you were able to create your ideal [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake, etc.]?
  3. Do-over question:
    If you had an opportunity to set up your [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake, etc.] all over again today, what would you do differently?”
  4. Look ahead questions-the "reverse" of our future-scape question above:
    “Looking ahead, in what are top two [or three] ways would you like to see your [cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity setup, data lake etc.) evolve over the next two years?
  5. If...then questions:
    These are designed to elicit internal decision rules and can yield powerful insights when your product co-exists with other complementary or substitute offerings. However, these questions get best results when asked by a third-party (consultant, partner or research provider): “What if...then rules, either formal or informal, does your organization have for which use cases call for the use of [product x] versus the use of [product y]? This question is a great conversation opener for a broader discussion around the utility and efficacy of your product in a complex multi-solution environment.

Answers to the above questions provide excellent material to make your outbound content more aspirational. These questions are also suitable for sales conversations. In the Silicon Valley tradition of eating your own dog food, we have trained our account managers to ask these questions in our customer outreach. And of course, we also use them as a best practice in our qualitative research assignments. You may also find a recent blog post I wrote helpful in preparing for C-level customer conversations

In conclusion, we propose "Aspirational Marketing" as an excellent alternative to the current content creation and sales practice of focusing on customer pain points. And if nothing else, doing so will enable your company to stand out from the crowd!

Topics: Market Research Best Practice