Beat Your B2B Competition Like Einstein Would: A New Theory of Relativity

Author: 
Ken Rutsky

Albert Einstein thought about big things: space and time; the size, origin and destination of the Universe. Most of us business-to-business marketers are a bit more limited: Customers and competitors; the size and future of our market share. But one thing is pretty clear, it’s all relative.

"Relativity teaches us the connection between the different descriptions of one and the same reality."

– Albert Einstein

Markets are conversations as the saying goes. The talkers are buyers, sellers and interlopers. When buyers and sellers converse, they talk about the exchange of value. Sellers bring a chorus of voices to this value conversation: marketing talks about the possible, sales about the powerful and customer success about the practical.

One critical aspect of any conversation is the setting. How I talk and how I am received is determined in a large part by the setting or context. Metallica, if your taste allows (which mine does), may sound great to you in a large stadium concert. But if they brought the same sound and equipment to a coffeehouse, you might just go deaf, and you’d almost certainly run out of the venue quickly. As Einstein is also quoted as saying, “If you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like a second, if you sit on a stove for a second it seems like an hour, that’s relativity!”

Value conversations are all relative to the buyer, not the seller. The local setting, while part of the space-time continuum of the universe, lives in a problem-solution set of coordinates. What are the problems that matter most to the buyer, and what are the known solutions that exist to solve them. Competition then, is all about being relative in and to that problem-solution continuum.

The key to competitive marketing then, is connecting to and influencing the problem-solution frame of reference of the customer. The first obvious answer is to have intimacy with the customer’s world. Yes. However, the bigger win is by marrying that customer intimacy with your uniqueness, and actually shifting the customer’s frame of reference. Challenger Sales methodology talks about “commercial insight,” while I personally prefer my Viewpoint Storytelling approach, but either way, the goal is the same: shift the playing field away from competition and to you.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that large objects warp the space-time continuum and draw other objects toward them; we call that gravity. My much more humble theory of competitive relativity says that great stories warp the problem/solution continuum and draw buyers to your solution, a kind of competitive gravitational pull. Engage your customer in their context and pull them to your uniqueness and that two-hour sales lunch will feel like a hot second!

Ken Rutsky is an author, blogger, keynote speaker, and B2B marketing consultant with over 30 years of industry experience. A renowned specialist in achieving and growing market leadership, he has advised a range of B2B companies, including Cisco, FireEye, Lee Hecht Harrison and such venture capital funded high-growth startups as Jumio and Skyhigh Networks. His new book is "Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades, and Ignite Movements." Learn more at kenrutsky.com.