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The Golden Triangle of Great B2B Context

by Hank Barnes  |  December 17, 2019  |  2 Comments

As the year comes to an end, I figured it was time to revisit old favorite topics.   Even as I approach 7 years at Gartner–7 years of working with clients on issues related to differentiation and storytelling–I still see the same pattern of mistakes being repeated.   The central problem:  an uncontrollable belief that the most important thing they can do is describe what they do.  The thinking: if we describe what we do, customers will be able to figure out why they should care.

The failure to establish context is at the root of most communication issues.   And yet, context is not hard to establish.  In B2B situations, context centers around 3 things:



  • Customer – And not just any customer, but the characteristics of your ideal customer.  From firmographics to psychographics to situational elements–the better you understand your customer and communicate that understanding, the more likely they are to embrace your story.
  • Concern – Closely related to the ideal customer characteristics, the concern is the problem they need to solve or the opportunity they want to capture.Presenting answers without questions is a like watching Jeopardy, but muting the contestant questions (answers).
  • Competitor – Really the alternative.  For your ideal customer that has a specific concern, what is the primary way they would address it without you–the alternative.  In some cases there may be more than one alternative, but focus on the most common to start.

With clarity around your customer, the concern, and the competitor, you can establish context in your communications—to be direct in your stories that put you in a position to tell what you do and what makes you special and different.  Without that clarity, all you end up with is confusion.

This golden triangle is not just for sales and marketing, it is core to strategy.  Without it, and without the story that follows, there is no  strategy.

As 2019 ends, a great 2020 resolution, if you believe in those things, is to put the Golden Triangle of Great B2B Context to work for your business.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: b2b  competition  context  differentiation  ideal-customer-profile  positioning  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 The Golden Triangle of Great B2B Context

  1. Scott Gillum says:

    Great tips Hank! Personally I like leaning into concern especially the opportunity to convey empathy.

  2. Well done, Hank. Love the clarity and simplicity of the triangle!

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