How to stop teaching granny to suck eggs
Telling people stuff they already know goes back a long way.
In 1707, Francisco de Quevedo coined the expression “Teaching your grandmother how to suck eggs”—a colourful reference to the fact that Spanish grannies who’d lost their teeth were adept at sucking eggy goodness through a pinhole in raw eggs.
(And only the bravest of brave souls would even think of correcting those egg-loving aficionados.)
As B2B marketers we’re in the business of selling to world-leading egg-suckers—having never once put an egg in our own mouths.
We’re non-experts (to put it mildly) marketing to experts, and that can make us very nervous indeed.
So nervous that we do something utterly bizarre yet completely understandable.
We treat our audience as if they were our primary school teacher.
And we recite every darn thing we’ve learned.
Let’s get personal here.
Let’s say I’m marketing to supply chain managers and I know nothing about supply chains—apart from the gleanings of a frantic Google session.
The compulsion to prove that I know what I’m talking about (because I don’t) is going to be pretty irresistible.
So irresistible that I might well find myself explaining industry truisms to myself—in public.
And writing sentences like these:
Today’s supply chains are becoming more complex and dynamic.
For (fill in the blanks) industry in particular, the transportation of goods needs to run as smoothly as possible.
Which means that logistics processes and strategies need to be agile enough to respond to this challenging environment.
But hang on a sec, I hear you say. Isn’t there a difference between teaching egg-sucking and careful signposting that lets our audience know they’re in the right place?
Isn’t there a place for a broad approach that reels readers in?
Certainly. And good marketers know just when to use it.
But generally speaking, reeling in readers requires bait. Something to set them quivering with excitement.
Something they don’t already know.
Here then are a few ideas about how to market to champion egg-suckers. Without boring them silly.
1. Take a good look at granny
Ever seen a B2C marketer lecture consumers on what soap is? Not likely. Not ever.
But give our tribe a new bit of software to evangelise…and excruciating introductory sentences (see above), awash in industry truisms, are a definite possibility.
Excruciating, that is, for prospects with pressing problems who may actually need—praise be!—our solutions.
There is a way to catch ourselves when we start ‘splaining to grandma.
A little test that goes beyond “building an ideal picture” of our audience. That requires more of us than “putting ourselves in their shoes”. (Both of which keep our audience conveniently silent.)
It goes like this: crank up LinkedIn and plonk the relevant job title in the search bar. Check out someone who’s been living and breathing the subject for years.
Now say your spiel to that person on the screen.
And listen carefully for responses in your head like:
Why on earth are you telling me this?
What else is new?
You really think I don’t know that!?
If you hear those rumblings, take heart. They’re just a sign that your B2B marketing conscience is alive and well.
2. Acknowledge granny’s circle of expertise
We need to draw a line in the sand between what prospects already know (so we stop talking already) and what they desperately need to know (so we can be truly helpful).
A line that goes something like: This marketing is for X [name your experts] who already know ABC [industry fundamentals].
Drawing that line takes courage and due diligence.
And due diligence can be way more fun than it sounds. See below.
3. Hang out with some real experts
Go to the source—the people in your company who are having the time of their lives. (This isn’t original. I stole it from Stan Woods, MD here at Velocity.)
They’re the people with such a fantastic understanding of the customer that they’re actually enjoying themselves.
The top sales person. The passionate director of customer onboarding. The obsessive product marketer.
All of which means that—drum roll—there’ll be times when we need to subvert the usual channels of communication.
Content writers may need to bypass briefs and go straight to the sales people, product marketers and customer onboarding folk who are having a ball.
Marketing directors and managers may need to listen a lot more to them too—and start having a whale of a time themselves.
And let’s not forget a weird but fabulously useful way to get up-close-and- personal with our audience: hanging out with them online.
Luke Gain, Velocity’s Creative Director, has fond memories of the ethnographic research (spending time online with roughnecks, actually) he did for an oil and gas project. He says the amateur (read: shaky) Day in the Life vlogs he watched on YouTube were a massive help.
4. Give granny stuff that will rock her world
Granny knows a lot. Been there, done that—and back again.
We need to have something new and valuable to tell our audience about how to compete in their market.
Something that will resonate with their hot-button issues. (What are they anyway?)
That will challenge their thinking around a problem. (What do they need to unlearn?)
That will reframe the problem for them and offer a unique perspective on their world. (What do they need to learn?)
It’s up to us to give our prospects something they’ve never heard before—or never seen in quite the same way.
Something that will make their day—or life—so much better.
Something that makes a pain-in-the-ass task easier—or disappear.
Something that turns ‘outcomes’ into concrete, utterly relatable, causes for celebration.
And speaking of concrete, there are some superb examples of cutting straight to the point—in the construction industry.
Stands to reason really.
Construction guys and gals have zero tolerance for marketing fluff. They just want to see how a specific product innovation snaps together, like so: https://www.hyperframe.com
All of this isn’t rocket science.
It’s not-teaching-egg-sucking science. And it boils down to putting our audience’s needs first, last and everywhere else.
So why don’t we make up our minds—once and for all—to stop teaching grandmas how to suck eggs and start telling them the good news about dental implants instead?