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The Curse of Knowledge

Domain and subject matter experts (SME) have a problem that is reflected throughout their sales and marketing communications. It is a bias called the curse of knowledge that occurs when someone assumes that others have the same background and knowledge as them. This is very costly…

To the SME, the feature, function, architecture, or design element implies value. They are so immersed in their area that even very subtle changes in an offering suggest great value to the consumer of their intellectual property (IP). This approach works with innovators and early adopters, typically domain experts in their own right. Once the SME enters the maturing market, this approach fails in the majority of cases.

Subtle or Not Obvious?
A question I ask regularly enough is “What is the difference between subtle and not obvious?”.
On the surface they can seem the same, yet there is a difference. A big one.
The answer is “intention”. If its not obvious, it is probably an accident, not the result of any meaningful consideration. If its subtle, it was on purpose.
When it comes to messaging, this matters a lot.

Technology and product improvements usually bring some utility increasing their value to the consumer.
Yet the fact that is
3 milliseconds faster in performance, or now tastes great, or is less filling communicates no business value, economic value, strategic value, or personal value. An engineer might get it if they are not too busy, yet frequently they are heads down on a mission critical project, leading to a ‘miss’. We get bombarded with messages thousands of times daily. If the message is not immediately relevant, it bounces off into never never land. To be relevant to a buyer, it needs expression as business value, not technical value.

A Story to Illuminate
At the
1968 Olympics, Bib Beamon set a new world record in the long jump eclipsing the old record by 55 cm (21 3/4 in.) In the world of sports, new records are being set all the time, so if the new headline had simply said US track athlete sets new world record, it would hardly have been noticed. Yawn - another new world record, big deal. Yet the achievement itself was to endure for another 23 years. It was a massive achievement in another sport that normally sees incremental advances in inches or centimetres. If you did not know that breaking the old mark by 15 or 20 times the normal advance, it'd be a sleeper. The tale of its significance is the real story. The 3 milliseconds faster mentioned earlier is very meaningful in what it signifies to a buyer or a market. Its not the number, its the value it implies, and leads to that counts.

A Point in every direction is Pointless
This problem is reflected in the marketer's choices for customer segmentation and targeting. When it is too broad, too diffuse, it wastes tremendous time, energy, and money on campaigns and communication efforts that miss their real market (although it does generate a lot of interest from non-buyers). As an example, software companies that try to compete by being the low cost, greatest features, full service, highest features tend to run afoul of gravity. And gravity, like karma is a bitch if disrespected.
Figure out what you are truly great at, and focus on the parts of the market that really need it. If you've made an advance, put it in context. Mere existence is not context, its just a fact.

Value can be and should be explicitly developed for the level of buyer in focus, with messaging relevant and credible, ideally wrapped in a story, maybe a before & after, maybe a vision of the future, or some drama about the hero the listener will consider at an emotional level.

Clients and prospects of yours need to hear from you in terms that are relevant, credible, and valuable to them. Narrowing your market is counter intuitive, yet there are many companies that need and would buy your offerings if you let them know you existed, cared, and could add value. Don't invest resources in fuzzy targets.

Define, refine, and align value with buyer relevant messaging to reach your targets.

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