8 Dos and Don'ts of Challenger Messaging

8 Dos and Don'ts of Challenger Messaging

How do you take a commercial insight and make it as impactful and disruptive as possible to get the message across to your customers? In this post, our former CEB colleague Neha Ahuja breaks down the 8 rules you need to follow if you want to truly embrace Challenger messages. It starts with the differentiator, and finishes with a reframe; read on for the 8 steps in between. 

A Challenger message with a true, impactful commercial insight needs to meet a high bar and goes well beyond information and traditional thought leadership. It is not just about sharing newsworthy information with your customers because that will only attract initial curiosity without any lasting impact. No wonder then that creating an effective Challenger message that truly disrupts customer’s conventional viewpoint and offers them a new way of thinking that leads to you as a supplier, is no easy task.

While the Challenger message requires careful pathing communicated in an emotionally compelling experience, there are two aspects of your message that are most important to get right—your key Differentiator and the “Reframe” that challenges your customer’s key assumptions.

Identifying Differentiators:

As you work to identify the unique capabilities that live at the core of this new approach that you're teaching your customers, keep in mind the following Dos and Don’ts:

1. Don’t start by exclusively looking for corporate level differentiators that often span multiple lines of business and product sets.
Do start by discovering differentiators within a product set, or service line.

2. Don’t settle for differentiators that highlight common features, focus on ROI, or are vague and over-used descriptions of products.
Do focus on defining how and why your solution or product is able to deliver value to the customer.

3. Don’t assume that differentiators identified through internal brainstorming are accurate and customer-relevant.
Do validate the impact, uniqueness, and value of identified differentiators through customer panels, voice of salesforce, etc.

4. Don’t assume that the differentiator needs to be a break-through concept that your team has about your product or solution offering.
Do recognize that you may already be aware of a unique strength that can be a differentiator.

Identifying Reframe:

In addition to the differentiator, your message also requires teaching customers about either new business problems (or opportunities) or better ways to solve and act on known business problems (or opportunities). As you work to isolate this problem or opportunity, follow the below Dos and Don’ts:

1. Don’t select a problem that the customer is already aware of and solving for.
Do focus on identifying a misunderstood cause, an underappreciated problem, or an unrecognized problem.

2. Don’t focus on addressing problems that will not build urgency for customers to act.
Do scope down the set of problems to ones that are specifically impacted by your solution and have the highest economic impact for your customers.

3. Don’t assume that how your customers are currently approaching their businesses, (i.e., the conventional viewpoint), is correct.
Do determine the validity of the conventional viewpoint and provide an evidence-based explanation of why that might hurt the customer.

4. Don’t brainstorm customer problems with only internal commercial teams and other functions.
Do engage your customers in identifying your “reframe”, specifically leveraging your “lead steer” customers.

Make the Impact

What makes your prospect's business different and how can you move forward with teaching them about potential business problems they may not have even considered yet? These are your differentiator and reframe moments, and following the above 'rules' will allow you to tailor your Challenger messaging to make for the most impactful first meeting with prospective customers.