Unconventional wisdom in positioning narratives

Help prospects make sense of the world by presenting unique market insights to challenge their preconceptions, drive emotion, and galvanize the conversation.

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If I see the “buyers are x% through their journey before they talk with you” stat one more time…. *shakes fist*.

But yes, the concept stands. The power is in the buyer’s hands. Caveat emptor stands no more.

Buyers request meetings knowing more about your product, your competitors, and the market landscape than ever before.

So how do you stand out, challenge preconceptions, and persuade them that you have the best solution for them?

Your unconventional wisdom

Presenting unconventional wisdom is a core part of many story-driven sales narrative frameworks:

  • Andy Raskin’s ‘world change’ and ‘enemy’

  • Gartner’s ‘sense-making’ framework

  • The Challenger Sale ‘reframe’

Introducing a unique insight that goes against commonly-accepted knowledge has a number of goals:

  1. To position your company and product as an innovator

  2. To differentiate from competitors by reframing the problem and value to be achieved

  3. To create excitement and motivation or fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) with the prospect

But often, these insights don’t perform as expected.

Instead of unique wisdom that shifts the narrative… we get a generic, dull, and obvious rehashing of the world we already know.

‘Competitive’ product capabilities are retold with macro-level sprinkles of ‘customers expect more’ or ‘technology has changed’ thrown in for good measure.

So what makes unconventional wisdom… unconventional?

Unconventional wisdom that wins

I posit there are three elements that make your unconventional wisdom / world change / sense-making strategy / reframe really pop, and get you the results you want.

1. It’s staring them in the face

Sometimes, your customer can’t see the forest for the trees. They’re so close to their immediate, tangible problems to be solved that they are blind to… or choosing to ignore.

Right now, they’re standing at a forked path in the woods; one way leads to heaven, the other to hell. Can you help them zoom out and see the the bigger picture?

Take Drift’s earlier unconventional wisdom: forms suck. Of course! How could we not see that before?!

2. It’s a rational statement that drives an emotional response

Just like the Drift example above, you can feel the exasperation.

Good nuggets of unconventional wisdom will be a purely rational statement, based on fact and truth and natural laws.

But they’ll tug at the heartstrings, make you feel dumb, or galvanize your ambition.

Here’s an example:

This is the story of Nina - a young woman who grew up in a working-class family from a dodgy part of London. She went to school that was in measures for low performance. She received free school meals as a result of a low family income. She worked at a supermarket part-time to put herself through a good university, even after receiving education grants. She received a good grade, and applied for a graduate role in your company.

But so did Thomas, an Eton student from Surrey who interned at Goldman Sachs and received the same grade from the same university.

If you were the recruiter with both resumes on your desk… who would you put forward: Thomas or Nina? Be honest.

On paper, Thomas is the best candidate. In reality, Nina has shown more grit, determination, and ability. But the recruiting screening process isn’t designed to spotlight people’s potential.

Telling a story like this with an emotional edge takes a conventional situation, causes people to look inwards and ask themselves the hard questions.

3. It’s a blocker to their aspirations and ambitions

Telling someone they’re not going to achieve their goal is a surefire way to either get an attentive audience, or get ignored.

When you can back this up with proof, you’ll be able to point out the mistakes and missteps before they’re made. These need to be grounded in reality, and you need to have a solid path to help them overcome these new hidden barriers, and get them to success.

Hubspot’s inbound marketing narrative did this well. Outbound marketing was making lead generation more expensive and less effective - you’re not going to meet your revenue and growth without change.

Strong unconventional wisdom blames the game, not the tools

When you’re bringing in an unconventional wisdom narrative element, make sure it’s not telling them they’re stupid. Instead, help them make sense of the world - it’s not their fault.

There is something happening - to their buyers, to their market, to their organization - that is causing them stress and pain. Not only will you let them in on the secret that nobody else knows… you have the key to fix their challenges too.


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