When was the last time one of your salespeople said to you, “Wow, this content is GREAT! I can use it with customers right away!” Probably not! What you are more likely to hear is “I would never say this to a customer.” When collaborating with teams to develop new value propositions and messaging, I often see language that is much more brochure-like or uses esoteric or complicated terminology. Most often the marketing and sales messaging is “inside-out” – focused on the offer and company, rather than the buyer. When I question it, the response I get is: “Our customers get it! This is how they talk about it.” In 30 years of marketing and selling, I have yet to meet a customer who speaks “brochure.” But the fact is that writing compelling messaging is just plain hard. What is going to spark true interest? Over the last two years, so many of us had to pivot our message to deal with what was going on around us. Now it’s time to pivot to transformational messaging that connects more directly and deeply with our buyers.
1) Get crystal clear on your target audiences
For years, my mantra has been that one-size-fits-all messaging fits no one. Define the specific sectors, industries, and segments to focus on. Then narrow down to the titles/roles for decision makers, and the influencers (both significant and medium-low). Aiming at the decision makers as a single group often misses the mark. And ignoring messaging tuned for influencers is a huge oversight. Sort out the different points-of-view that you will need to address. Research as much as you can about these targets because you are talking to PEOPLE, not organizations. Yup – the organization does not make the decision, their employees do. Who are they, what do they care about, what are their priorities, how do they talk about it, what language do they use? In other words: plug into your targeted HUMANS.
2) Figure out what moves your buyers
Accept this very important truth: your marketing and sale messaging needs to be about the target buyer, not your products or services. Seems obvious – but it’s not an easy thing to do. Making that shift is the first piece of moving to more transformational communication with your audience. In doing that, you need to answer some key questions:
- How does my target buyer(s) FEEL about their current state?
- How do they WANT to feel?
- What do I want them to BELIEVE or UNDERSTAND about my offer?
- What is the SHIFT in their thinking I am trying to accomplish?
Thinking about these questions will lay the groundwork for what you want your messaging to accomplish. This moves both you and your audience from a transactional mindset to more of a transformational one.
3) Do your homework on competitor messaging
Preparing a scan of the marketing messaging your competitors use to describe like or alternative offerings is a key foundation for building your message. You’ll be surprised at how few of them stand-out. I was speaking with a technology CMO recently, and she said there was a “sea of sameness” across the messaging landscape in her industry. So, this piece of work helps you not only learn what competitors are saying, but also guides you on what not to say, as well as where there are strong opportunities to differentiate.
4) Translate marketing & sales messaging for humans
First, you need to get the pitchy, esoteric, complicated, technical, organizational language out of your system. Real people don’t speak that way – no matter what your engineers or product/service development people tell you. There is always a simpler, clearer way to say things, even if it takes more effort. So, what are the major concepts, terminology, descriptors that you need to translate? Figure that out up front and work on new language. Resist the urge to believe that all your competitors use these terms, so you have too. You are not marketing and selling to them! Get a little above your offering, and instead of language to pitch the offer, think about how you might pitch your buyer’s state-of-mind.
5) Develop messaging themes that connect
Marketing and sales messaging is kind of like a puzzle, which may surprise you! What I mean is that every piece of it should fit together in a way that makes sense with the overall brand position or message you have established for your company. When you get to the offer level, random messages can dilute the overall understanding of what your organization does for its customers. Consider building a hierarchy of value propositions – starting with the brand level. Then based on your well-defined targeted segments and audiences, develop key themes that will guide your messaging, so it fits together. With different stakeholders in your audience make-up, the themes can make it easier to present a cohesive narrative to the entire audience within each organization you are trying to attract.
6) Tell stories that matter
Every buyer wants to know two things: 1. What have you done for other companies like ours? 2. How did it impact them? You could immediately pull out the PowerPoint deck and run through all the bullets. Or you could pull out your templated case studies and run through the high points. But again, I’ll remind you that your audience is made up of humans. Humans love stories. We can relate to them; we can understand things better with real context. We CONNECT. Think about how you can translate the themes you have developed into engaging stories. You want them to be real, authentic, and even emotional. Here is a great example from Phillips, titled “The Longest Night” that shows how you can add those 3 elements into a B2B message Here is another about Zingerman’s Community from Google that really focuses on the human aspects of a B2B offering. The format is not as important as the story that embodies the message – so mix it up with different formats. The key is that the story is relevant to your audience, resonates with their experience, and shifts them to thinking about things in a new or better way.
Creating memorable marketing and sales messaging
Transformational messaging goes beyond communicating the features and benefits of your products and services. It seeks to connect with your buyers on a deeper level – to resonate with their experience or need or goals. It should enlighten them or engage them with a level of emotional impact. Research shows that buyer decisions are made based on emotion, followed by facts and rational thinking to validate the feelings-based decisions they have already made. Finally, you want to inspire them to take action. You can’t make them; you can’t force them – but you can influence and inspire. Transformational messaging is the pathway there.