The Three Rooms — What Your Marketing Message Might Be Missing

A simple framework to help you sanity-check your marketing — and the most important type of message you’re probably ignoring today

Aaron Ross’s book Predictable Revenue was my #1 seed in ParkerGale’s 2021 March Madness book bracket. But his newer book, Impossible to Inevitable (co-authored with SaaStr co-founder Jason Lemkin), might be even better.

My favorite part (excerpted in this blog post) focuses on how Zuora divides up their marketing messages into three distinct categories.

I’ve shared the article with several of our marketers and sales leaders in the last year. It always resonates.

From the excerpt:

  • “Zuora’s Founder and CEO Tien Tzuo encourages companies to picture a three-room environment — sort of an art gallery, where you walk from room-to-room seeing different things, but all the rooms share a common theme.
  • In this metaphor, ‘Room 3’ houses your product or service. It shows off all its features and functions. ‘Room 2’ is the home of your customer’s feelings, needs, pains, both business and personal. Usually, CEOs and revenue leaders spend most of their time in Room 3, and the rest in Room 2.
  • ‘Room 1’ is the biggest missed opportunity in marketing and sales. Tien estimates 99% of company leaders and salespeople ignore this room. This room deals with evolving trends in the world, and how businesses need to adapt. CEOs need to connect the Room 1 topics to what’s in Rooms 2 and 3 in a way that makes sense to prospects.”

I’ve discovered something interesting about Room 1 messages and those who build them. Most (maybe all) marketing consultants working on “why us / why now” messages are really building “Room 1” messages: What’s different about the world? What’s changing + what are the trends? What new things are possible? What are leading companies doing differently? And, most importantly, What can you, the customer, do to avoid getting left behind?

There’s a reason these folks stay in business. When constructed properly, a “Room 1” message makes customers anxious to learn more and builds immediate credibility for the marketer/seller. You’re not just listing features and benefits here. You’re talking about trends that apply to companies like theirs and what they need to do to understand them and respond. Room 1 messaging is also hard to fake. Building it requires expertise, customer intimacy, and a tangible, compelling point-of-view on a market, which takes time to unpack and assemble. Since doing this is hard, most companies stick to the typical Room 2 and Room 3 stuff, which often sounds like this:

Here’s our product. Here’s what it does. Want some?”

That’s because Room 1 messaging is not only different. It’s rare.

Other smart people seem to agree. Some of my other favorite sales and marketing thinkers have also (independently) seized upon the power of “Room 1” messaging:

  • April Dunford in Obviously Awesome: “Once you have determined your market context, you can start to think about how you can layer a trend on top of your positioning to help potential customers understand why your offering is important to them right now. This step is optional but potentially really powerful — if you go about it carefully. A trend helps customers see your product as an urgent or strategic (or dare we say it, cool) purchase.”
  • Pete Kazanjy in Founding Sales (Ch. 2 — Baking Your Product Narrative): “What has changed that enables your new solution?: Typically in product innovation, and the associated selling of those products, something has “changed” that enables a new solution. It’s important for you to understand the underpinnings of the change, because your narrative will need to explain it. In fact, that change will be crucial to how you frame the new opportunities that have opened up for your would-be customers. For instance, in sales CRM, the rise of ubiquitous web access and browser technology provided an opportunity for Salesforce to create a SaaS offering that was far less clunky than traditional on-premise CRMs, accessible from any web-enabled client, and always up-to-date with the latest features.”

Yes, customer pain matters. Yes, knowing your product matters. But the benefits of knowing your customer and your product multiply when you wrap it all inside a compelling story.

A story about what’s really going on in the world around you.

How things are changing.

And what’s possible now that wasn’t before.

Start telling that story, and pay attention to how customers respond.

Don’t be surprised if they want to hear more.

I help small technology companies build stronger teams and make the most of their growth opportunities.

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