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Contrasts are Critical

by Hank Barnes  |  November 14, 2017  |  1 Comment

As followers of this blog know, I spend a lot of time working with tech providers on storytelling (well, they may think we are working on messaging, but I always lead to storytelling).    In those discussions, I see the same pattern repeat itself over and over and over again (and yes, this will be a slightly different spin on past posts on this subject).

The vast majority of providers spend most of their time talking about themselves.  It is their story–if you call that a story.   This approach may address a potential customer’s request if they asked a provider to “tell me about your product or service.”   But, it provides little to no value to the provider OR the customer.  The only time it works is if the prospect has already decided to choose you and just needs others to hear your story.  They’ll do the rest.

And the rest is what matters.  The rest is the context for why they should care.  Do you want to leave it up to your prospect to create that aspect of your story?   I’d suggest that is not the best idea.  And it really only works if you are already the chosen vendor and the customer has already committed to make a change.  In every other situation, it’s a sub-optimal approach.

The alternative- give prospects a reason to care and a way to compare.  Create a story of contrasts.


  • Contrast the business results that are possible with your product/service vs. without.
  • Contrast yourself vs. alternative products or approaches.
  • Contrast your implementation and customer success model vs. others.
  • Contrast a day in the life of the users of your solution vs. a day without it.

Without contrasts, there is no way to compare (or you are leaving it up to the customer to create their own comparisons—which some may do effectively, but with the evidence of the challenge of enterprise technology buying it is likely that many struggle to do this).

  • Without contrast, there is no context for change.
  • Without contrast, there is no differentiation.
  • Without contrast, there is no story.

To all providers, take a look at your content.   Do you create any contrasts or do you assume the buyers “get it” already?   Even for buyers actively looking for a solution in a known category, there still needs to be contrast.

Contrast is critical.  Make it core to your customer stories.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: b2b-marketing  b2b-sales  context  contrast  differentiation  messaging  storytelling  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Contrasts are Critical

  1. Hank, great article. Crank up the contrast and you crank up the value.

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