Messaging gets a lot - A LOT - of attention from both marketers and sales executives. For good reason too. An effective message is like a large lever (give me a lever long enough and I can move the world). Conversely a poor message will thrust you into a thorny patch of commoditization and irrelevance.
As you’d expect with something as important as a company’s messaging, significant time and money is spent on the effort. But stop for a moment and do the following:
- Look at your website
- Review your sales and marketing collateral
- Think about how sales conversations are started with prospects
Now, ask yourself, “what is the message we’re conveying?” Are you happy with it? Does it stand out and resonate with customers and prospects? Is it a competitive advantage?
I know the answer for most of you is, “no!” I know this because in workshops I conduct across the country when I ask executives, marketers or salespeople to share their message, almost all of them start off stuttering and blathering about themselves. I can also look at the results of marketing and sales efforts and see that the message isn’t working.
Having been directly involved with the assessment and development of hundreds of companies’ messages, I’ve learned five key reasons that good messages fail.
You know the “we-do’s.” Whenever you find yourself or your salespeople telling clients and prospects “we do this, we do that and we do a bunch of other stuff.” It’s the surest route straight to the commoditization trap.
There are three problems with we do’s”:
- Nobody cares what you do
- The focus is on you, not the person you’re speaking with
- They don’t teach anything (more on this below)
Your Solution is Not the Problem
The number of messages that talk about solutions is insane. Everybody has a solution, the problem is that the solution is about you, and solutions have no value if there is not a clear, meaningful problem.
If you want your message to influence buyer behavior, you’ll stay focused on the problems. If you want to create demand, SELL THE PROBLEM! The more you are able to demonstrate that you understand the problems that your prospects have - better than anyone else, including the prospects themselves - the more you’ll stand out as relevant, important and worthy of time and attention.
I wrote about this in 2011. Your message needs to be focused on personas that fit two distinct attributes:
- Those who can, meaning the people who can cause things to happen and purchases to occur.
- Those who care, meaning the people who deal with managing the solution you propose regularly.
Most messages focus on one or the other, with a significant majority focused on those who care. To be effective, your message must bridge the two. At the end of the day, you don’t sell your product, service or experience - you sell a business result and your message needs to be focused on that.
It Doesn’t Teach
An effective message teaches. We actually call the messages we create for clients “commercial teaching points-of-view.” A point-of-view message does five things:
- It's focused on the prospect’s world and it's about their issues, not your solution.
- It challenges the prospect's thinking. You're not looking for an "amen" here. Quite the contrary. If the prospect already agrees with what you're saying, you'll be treated as a commodity.
- It connects, partially or fully with a important or critical issue in your prospect's world. Remember, it's about them, not your solution.
- It plays to your area of advantage. It requires you to understand and focus on what you do differently than others and more importantly, why that matters.
- It leads to an investigative or diagnostic sales process.
Forget the Taglines
I’d estimate roughly half of the clients I’ve worked with on messaging start out in pursuit of the perfect tagline. Now don’t get me wrong, I love good taglines as much as anyone. But taglines are not messaging - they’re the result of good messaging. And good ones form naturally.
The truth is that you’ll be far more successful delivering a strong point-of-view message than trying to create your version of “We Bring Good Things to Light.”
Now, go back to your website, collateral and sales conversations and create a plan to strengthen your message. It will be well worth the effort.