March 17, 2016

Messaging – Get it Right

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// does your story resonate?

Messaging is a critical component of any successful marketing campaign. It’s the voice of your brand, the narrative of your business, the key to luring new customers over to your side. And, today, more than ever, as we’re bombarded with some of the 27 billion pieces of content shared daily, crafting the right message is crucial to your success. Your story needs to reel your prospects in quickly…but does it?

Consider this:

As buyers contemplate their purchase plans, only 47 percent of the information they review comes from the actual suppliers they’re mulling over, according to the Corporate Executive Board. If you have a handful of competitors, that means those potential customers are spending only 10 to 15 percent of their time actually reviewing your website, ebooks and marketing materials. What’s more: Just 14 percent of B2B buyers see an important distinction between what you and your competitors have to offer. You have a story to tell. But, are you telling the right story to truly capture your prospective customers’ interest? Do you stand out? Are you talking to your customers or at your customers? Are you speaking their language? Do you even know?

It’s time to find out.

Only 47% of information that buyers review comes from the actual supplier

Only 47% of information that buyers review comes from the actual supplier

Only 47% of information that buyers review comes from the actual supplier

Potential customers spend only 10-15% of their time reviewing your marketing material

Only 47% of information that buyers review comes from the actual supplier

Only 14% of B2B buyers see an important distinction between competitors

// symptoms of poor messaging

Messaging can be one of the root causes of the whole sales-marketing alignment drama.

The indicators that your company is not properly communicating with the market span the entire sales & marketing spectrum.  Here are a few illustrative examples that can ultimately impact your ability to drive revenue:

  • 01/   Your messaging was created in a conference room with internal stakeholders only.
  • 02/   Your messages focus too much on your product & features and not enough on what your customer needs.
  • 03/   Few quality prospects engage with your lead generation campaigns.
  • 04/   Sales wants more leads, better leads and better tools to help close them. (Can you say “sales-marketing alignment”?)
  • 05/   Sales makes up their own messages and sales tools when they talk to prospective customers.

Steve Jobs

" Your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about themselves, their dreams, their goals."

~ Steve Jobs

// the pain vs the pill

As you craft an effective message, here’s a hurdle to keep in mind.

Apple’s Steve Jobs once said, “Your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about themselves, their dreams, their goals,” he said. “Now, they will care much more if you help them reach their goals and, to do that, you must understand their goals, as well as their needs and deepest desires.” To put Jobs’ point another way: Your customers care about their pain, not your pill.  They don’t care if your solution is effective, flexible or winning.  They just want to know if it will, for instance, clear all of the spam from their inbox so they can move forward with their own brilliant ideas and plans. Consider this messaging for an anti-spam product that we’ll call SpamClear:
SpamClear example
Customers with bloated inboxes might understand that SpamClear has something to do with spam after reading that first example, which focuses exclusively on the product’s offerings. They’ll know exactly what it does after reading the second, which focuses on potential customers’ problems.

// speak their language

When you communicate using the wrong words, you might as well be shouting at the market in a foreign language. Messaging can be powerful when it’s done right. But wordsmithing alone doesn’t create an effective storyline. The power happens when companies understand the motivations and the language of the people they’re trying to sell to. When companies communicate in the lexicon of their target customers and about issues that actually interest them, good things happen across the entire sales and marketing spectrum – more leads, better leads, healthier sales funnels. But few are attempting that translation. In fact, many B2B companies inadvertently focus on themes and pitches that have very little influence on buyers’ impressions, according to a McKinsey & Company survey of 90 global B2B companies. The survey found that companies tend to focus on messages that are not considered important by their target customers and that the messages were often not well differentiated from those of competing companies.
speak their language

Make sure you address the pains and motivations your customers care about AND make sure you do it using the same words and phrases they would use!

// big words

One more thing about communicating with words that mean something to your target customers: don’t fall into the trap of trying to make your value proposition sound more complex than it needs to be.

Does your product strategically optimize efficiency? Is there a lot of utilizing, facilitating and incentivizing going on? If so, your message might just be guilty of too much marketing jargon. Stop it. In any writing form, small words always have more impact than big ones. Words like agile, strategic and compelling have little meaning in a product description. If you’re throwing out phrases like that, you’re not really hitting the thing your prospective customer really cares about.

” Don’t use big words. They mean so little ” ~ Oscar Wilde

// need vs nice

The pipeline of leads gets bigger and bigger … but nobody makes a purchase decision.

You want your product to be in the customers’ need-to-have category, but the wrong message could send you to the nice-to-have bucket — the kind of purchase that might happen if the budget ever allows. Few buyers will ever champion a product that they think is just nice to have. They might engage in a conversation with your sales team, but they’ll never pull the trigger. When that happens, your sales team is left with leads that never become customers. Prospects download your ebooks or attend your webinars with no intention of ever actually buying what you’re offering. The pipeline of leads gets bigger and bigger — but nobody makes a purchase decision. Sometimes the need-to-have is not what you think. We’ve worked with some clients that have gone for the make money or save money angle in their messaging, only to find out later that the real needs were risk and compliance management.

// ditch the whiteboard

It’s easy to see why so many companies fail at creating impactful messaging. The so-called magic happens in a conference room. There, internal sales, product and marketing teams sit with, perhaps, a consultant and somebody from the C-suite.

Depending on the culture of the company in question, any number of scenarios follow:

  • 01/   Engineers, so ingrained in their work, don’t take marketing seriously and push messaging in a direction of confusing of technical terms or features.
  • 02/   The CEO, so proud of the vision, insists his solution is described as if it solves world hunger, even though it might just clear spam from an inbox … helpful, sure, but, perhaps, a smaller impact on the world.
  • 03/   The entire group pulls together ideas with the help of a white board and Expo markers. By the time everybody’s opinion is considered and that message map is created, the final result is “Messaging Pablum” – a bland mess of marketing mediocrity. The resulting words don’t mean anything to anybody outside of the company or even the room … especially not those future customers.
  • 04/   The marketing team gets this blob of mush with the request to “punch it up” or “make it sound better.”

These situations all represent an inside-out approach to marketing - crafting a message internally with the hopes that it might just capture some buyers on the outside. (Hope is not a strategy).

It’s tainted.

If you’re attempting to build an effective message and your focus has been on current customers and your fellow employees, the wrong people are still talking to the wrong people.

// look beyond your current customers

Don’t look to your current customers, at least exclusively, as you create an effective message. They’re not going to give you the big picture that you need either. They already drank from your punch bowl. And it’s easier for them to say what they think you want them to say than for them to be really truthful … especially if they think they’re bracing themselves against another sales pitch.

Win-loss analyses aren’t enough either. Talking to people who have heard the pitch, but said no, should be part of the picture as you create your message, but not the only one. And, often, you won’t get the real answer from them anyway.

Insight from sales might not be insightful. The sales team may have failed to close that deal for any number of reasons — a C-level leader lives next door to your competitor or the budget was cut or it wasn’t a need-to-have item. But that’s not really valuable information to help you look for new customers.

// okay, so how to do it right

Here are key points to help you get your messaging right.

Do Not
  • »  Craft it only with internal stakeholders and a white board. Your future customers are not inside the walls of your office building.
  • »  Be swayed by internal political forces or power brokers. Too often the loudest voice in the room wins the messaging debate.
  • »  Limit yourself to feedback from only your existing customers – they are going to be predisposed to parroting what they’ve heard and reluctant to break bad news to you.
  • »  Get lulled into a false sense of security with “Features and Benefits.” Just because there are benefits, does not mean you’ve hit on the core buying motivation.
  • »  Include customer thoughts – there is valuable information to be gleaned, but be sure to go further.
  • »  Include win-loss analysis – especially the losses. Find out if your value is nice-to-have or need-to-have.
  • »  Include prospect interviews – ditch your marketing speak and communicate in plain language to get inside their heads.
  • »  Ensure intellectual honesty in your research by using a neutral third party to conduct the interviews. Yes – admittedly, this is self serving for Thirdside as this is one of our core services, but we fully support this approach. In fact, we use third parties when we need research conducted on behalf of our agency.

Ready to get it Right?