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How To Create Marketing Messages that Sell

I share in this post my methods for creating marketing messages that are relevant, compelling and persuasive, walking through an example from my own life.

In The Principles of Highly Persuasive Messaging it lays out an objective set of criteria for developing marketing messages. As stated by the author, Michael Cannon, “The key is to really understand buyers’ primary buying questions, come up with really good answers to those internally and then validate them in the marketplace.  Sales messaging without validation is really dangerous.” (as an aside my company, C.A. Walker, does copy testing if you need assistance in this area).

1. Focus on one offering. It states, “If you have many products or services that you sell on a stand-alone basis, then you must have sales messaging for each offering.”  My challenge at C.A. Walker is that we fall into that category of many offerings.  I recently created a talking presentation that talks about all our offerings, straddling all industries, but am now developing a message for each industry.

2. Target the Buyer by Audience Type, Buyer Role, and Specific Market Segments (combining 2 and 4 in the article).Before I am able to develop a message for each industry, I have to look at who my audience is.  I have already addressed buyers by type, those who are Researchers and MarketersMy presentation for Researchers is similar to the talking presentation but the talking one provides more detail about our client experience.  The Marketers presentation addresses the unique difficulties that marketing professionals have, and talks about our offerings with a more top-level approach.

What I am working on currently, also suggested in the article, is looking at my audience by segments and sets of business challenges.  To do this, we are reviewing our previous business for the past several years and logging it by category and challenge solved.  I then am going to look at, what are the typical challenges that companies have in these categories?  How may I develop marketing messages that are relevant to companies in each space?  I can then add to this list challenges that I read about in the media.  I also spend time developing relationships with people who can help me to better understand a particular segment’s issues, so that I can better help them and/or their clients (if you are one of those people, thank you!  If you would like to network with me and discuss the issues you/your clients are facing, please connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or Email: rpaul(at)cawalker(dot)com rebekahpaul11(at)gmail(dot)com).

3. Identify and Persuasively Answer the Audience’s Primary Buying Questions. It says,  “The buying questions for each audience are fundamentally different. For example…Why should I buy your solution rather than a competitive alternative?”  I have already addressed this particular question in our presentations.  Our primary reasons are:

  • We’ve been in business for over 30 years, with a deep well of experience to draw from.
  • Our researchers have 20 years average experience and they implement projects beginning to end.
  • Our data processing and programming is done in-house, which is more cost-effective and we have greater quality control.
  • We’re a mid-sized firm, which is more cost-efficient for our clients.  We provide the benefits of a much larger firm with efficiencies of a smaller one.
  • A broader perspective, due to our client and agency side experience, as well as clients across multiple categories.
  • Highly responsive to clients’ changing needs, and extensive experience working within fast-moving industries.
  • We provide actionable insights and recommendations that go “beyond the numbers.”

Other buying questions my prospective clients may have are, why should I buy a service like this, what research methodologies may be used to gain certain information, who have you done this for already, and what do the results look like? (If I missed anything, please comment!)

4.  Enable the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC) and Sales Cycle. This cycle portrays markets as Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.

1. Early Adopters are the most passionate, those who are on lookout for new breakthroughs that offer a competitive advantage.  They can be a good target for testing of new products/services.

2. The Early Majority are those who break out of their comfort zones to find solutions to broken processes.  “The key to success is to provide a complete solution for one segment while identifying closely aligned segments that could benefit from a similar solution.”

3. The Late Majority waits for you “to gain a strong record of accomplishment and enough references from people they trust.”

4. Laggards are those who are “defenders of the status quo and want solutions that have no risk.”

This analysis isn’t as relevant to market research, which has been around for generations.  However, what is applicable is that there are people and businesses who are passionate about gaining a deeper and richer understanding of their target audience.  They understand that you Don’t Confuse Your Personal Experience With Good Strategy They know that although there are tools out now for do-it-yourself Internet surveys, obtaining a representative sample audience large enough to do desired analysis is not easy, writing an unbiased and effective questionnaire is no simple matter, and interpreting the statistics is both art and science.  In addition, while online surveys are often a cost-effective methodology, it may not be best suited for your research needs.  A good researcher can analyze a situation and determine that.

Then there are people out there who don’t use market research but are ready to break out of their comfort zone.   They require more of an educational approach.  We need to explain what closely aligned segments have done already so they can get a feel for what is possible for their business.  We recently did a presentation like this for the Southern California chapter of the American Marketing Association.  We are doing a similar presentation, focused on business-to-business research, on September 23rd for the Southern California chapter of the Business Marketing Association (if you are a B2B company, please register for our lunch-and-learn and meet us in our Glendale, California office, space is very limited!)

5.  Make the Right Comparison. It says, “If you can clearly communicate how your product can help prospective customers solve their problems or reach their objectives better than their current solution and/or better than the competition, then you should win the business.”  One of my goals is to know what market research, if any, has been done within my clients’ organization and who they are using, if outsourced, to be able to speak on our differentiators.  My other main goal is to understand what problems people are having, because I’m a problem solver and I use custom research to do it.

6. Use Strong Comparative Language. The article suggests using words like “faster, easier, more, reduce, increase, etc. in messages to create strong differentiators in someone’s mind.  OK.  How about “C.A. Walker is easier to work with as an extension of your marketing department because we provide faster turn-around on projects, we give you more value for your research investment as a mid-sized firm, we reduce your business risk and increase your marketing ROI.” Good?!

7. Communicate Value in the Customer’s Context. The article says “The best way to communicate the value of your capability advantages is to put it in the context of the business problems you can solve better than the current solution or competition (Customer Benefit), and the business value you can deliver, over and above the current solution or competition (Customer Business Value).”  In my situation, the Customer Benefit depends upon what someone is currently doing to fulfill their research needs:

o If they are doing nothing, then the Benefit would be a better understanding of their target audience(s) to more efficiently use their marketing dollars.
o If they are utilizing secondary research, it would be able to address specific questions relevant to their particular business issues.
o If they are using internal resources, the Benefit would be as support for their team for research needs beyond internal capabilities.
o If they are using external resources, the Benefit to outside agencies and marketing consultants is also as support for their needs, or we can provide a competitive bid to allow the client to review our approach and pricing as comparison.

8. Incorporate Lots of Proof Points. We use case studies and briefs of work completed as proof points, as the article suggests, but other options are “customer testimonials, research that supports your conclusions, standards boards, trade associations, demonstration or proof-of-concept implementation, followed by support data such as an ROI summary, charts, graphs, etc.”

9. Employ Multiple Differentiation Themes. It says to use as many of these themes in your messaging as you can: Time, Money, Risk, Strategic (increased productivity, return on invested capital, faster time to market), and Personal.  In our business, we are conscientious of personal reasons involved in the decision to buy research.  It is important that people feel that they made the smartest decision for their organization.

10. Make the Customer the Hero. It says, “Buyers do not care about your company or products, they care about themselves.”  Basically, we need to be able as marketers to put ourselves in our client’s shoes and write from their perspective.  They need to visualize what life will be like with you/your product or service to be the hero in their company.  This is why it’s a really good idea to use custom research to understand your customers’ needs and pain-points. I already knew and used this technique in my Marketers presentation, but I need to do several more addressing different segments.

11. Align with the Psychographic Profile of the Buyer. This is just another way of saying that research is needed so that “sales messaging [is] tuned to the buyer’s values and needs.”  One way to do this is through the use of segmentation research, which is something we offer.  We profile customers and prospective customers around their perspectives, needs, values, habits, activities, etc. and then evaluate how groups are similar and dissimilar.  The results typically are named fun things like “Facebook Fanatics” or “Mobile Moms.”  It’s a really valuable tool in your marketing arsenal.

12. Avoid the Use of “GOBBLEDYGOOK” Adjectives. Let’s avoid the words that everyone uses and no one really believes and pays attention to.  How can all companies be the “leading” organization in their space?

13.  Pass the Substantiation Test. Bottom line, if it’s not true and accurate don’t use it.  One thing I really enjoy about C.A. Walker is that from the top down, we are a highly ethical company.

14. Pass the Sales and Customer Validation Test. As stated in the beginning of this post, it is very important to test your messages.  Get input from your colleagues but most importantly your current customers.  The questions the article suggests asking are:  Do they agree that the key buying question you are answering is the right or most important question to answer? Do they agree with your answer? What do they like? Dislike? Why?

15. Differentiate You in the Market.  It says “If you took your messaging and replaced your company name with one of your competitor’s names, would the messaging still be true? If yes, then your messaging is not going to be very effective.”  In determining what differentiates C.A. Walker it came down to our long history of excellent customer service, our people (honestly, I’ve never worked with a nicer group of folks!), and our mid-size, which I believe we are in the “sweet spot” in this difficult economy.  We don’t have huge overhead and R&D costs that we are passing onto our clients, as I saw was happening in my previous position with another firm, and we’re not so small that we are outsourcing all our critical services.  We also generally care about building real long-term relationships and sharing in our customers’ success.

16. Use Highly Relevant Visuals That Appeal to the Buyer’s Emotions. It says “people buy on emotion and justify rationally.”  People are emotional creatures first and foremost, so it’s great if you can appeal to them through fascination as well as make things clear with pictures, graphs and charts that align with the message.  I really try to do this in my presentations and emails.

17. Summarize in Three Key Points. There is definitely something about the number three that people are drawn to.  Perhaps it’s because we are ourselves a trinity of mind, body and spirit, so it feels right.  Whatever the reason, try to summarize your message in three or no more than five key points.

18. Fit on One Page. People have low tolerance for sales messages, so if you can try to fit it on one page.  What I’ve been doing lately is handing out one-sheets where I use the front for what we do for business-to-consumer companies and the other side for business-to-business companies.  Often companies have research needs in both areas.

I hope you learned something from this approach for your own marketing challenges. I’m working hard on these steps myself right now and would enjoy your thoughts.

Happy ROI hunting!

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  1. July 26th, 2010 at 07:54 | #1

    These are great tips. Thank you. Tip 10 should be #1 and in BOLD. So many times companies talk about making the customer the hero then all they talk about is themselves in their marketing messages. “We can help you by…” is not making the customer the hero!

  2. Jim Matorin
    August 2nd, 2010 at 04:51 | #2

    I finally finished reading and digesting your blog post Rebekah. A lot of good content equivalent to reading a solid white paper. I agree with Chad re: tip 10. Besides making the customer look like a hero, it is also wise to over deliver value and anticipate needs, thus be proactive in your approach. Last of all, your point about summarizing in three is something I am now going to be on the look out for and practice.

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