By Michael Cannon
It’s no secret that companies proficient in the creation and deployment of great messaging do achieve a substantial competitive advantage. According to a recent CSO Insights study:
Companies that describe themselves as world-class in terms of consistent customer messaging [that they’ve] provided effectively to Sales, and with collateral driven by market segments and customer needs:
- Outpaced other firms in quota achievement by 25%
- Had win rates that were 20% higher
- Were three times more successful in proposal closing
- Were five times better at eliminating excessive discounting
To obtain results like these, your organization must have the process and skills to develop and to deploy great messaging. The additional rewards are more-effective demand generation and accelerated pipeline growth, all of which lead to increased market share, revenues, and profits.
In prior articles, the focus has been primarily on what you need to know to develop persuasive messaging. Here the focus is on the implementation side: reviewing common deployment blunders and what you must do to avoid these drains on your resources and results.
Blunder #1: Giving the Feature/Benefit “Forest Tour”
These tours are often given in demos, presentations, proposals, and in collateral. It’s the classic tour of all the trees in the forest, i.e., “let me show you or tell you all about my product or service”. The features and benefits presented in this manner are typically not in the context of the customer’s primary buying questions, such as “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?” and “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?”
You know you’re giving a feature/benefit tour when you review or provide a list of the key features of your product or service. The impact on the audience or readers is that they become overwhelmed. It’s too many data points to digest and correlate to their challenges, so they tune out or, worse, move on.
What to Do Instead:
An alternative to the feature/benefit tour is to organize and present your messaging into:
- The top three customer business objectives that are a) important to the customer, b) a good answer to the customer’s buying question, and c) solved by your offering
- For each customer business objective, the 2-3 key underlying problems that must be improved in order to achieve the business objective (benefit of features)
- For each underlying problem, the capabilities or capability advantages of your offering that improve the underlying problem (feature)
- Proof that your offering includes those capabilities, improves the underlying problems, and achieves the customer’s business objectives
For example, the first two sections might look like this:
Customer business objectives: “Bring your applications to market 2-3x faster.”
Underlying problems solved (benefits of features):
- Fewer tools to buy, learn, and integrate
- Developers have only one language to learn for all tools — Java
- Less time spent developing and testing applications to ensure scalability, performance, and reliability
Organize your messaging into buying-question answers.
This change leverages a proven fact — people absorb and remember best things that are presented in groups of three and certainly no more than five. Since studies have proven that the human brain works in this way, optimize your messaging for maximum results by organizing your messaging and communication into three to five key value statements…or “buying-question answers”!
Blunder #2: Offering Data Dumps
The best examples of a data dump are the 5- to 50-page white paper, application note, and 50- to 100-slide PowerPoint presentation. These are long-winded versions of “let me tell you all about my baby” — what it does, how it does it, why it does it this way, etc., with the benefits and value of the offering sprinkled throughout the document and usually buried at the end of each paragraph or section. The reality is that most buyers have neither the time, the inclination, nor the attention span to read a marketing document that is longer than one or two pages. And, when they do, it’s usually quite late in the buying process when they have pretty much already decided to select your company’s offering.
What to Do Instead:
The solution, however, is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The most effective way to deliver your messaging is to summarize it on one page and reference or provide a link to the white paper for the details. Alternatively, you can create an executive summary as the first page of your tome.
Make your offer no longer than it needs to be to keep the buying process moving forward.
One page is an excellent rule of thumb for most B2B marketing documents. This length greatly increases readership, comprehension, and retention by presenting information that is easy to digest quickly. When preparing a message, ask yourself: What is the least that can be said about the offering and still get the prospect to the next step in the buying process? That’s the fine art of deploying great messaging.
Blunder #3: Serving Up Mostly Potatoes and Little Meat
Do you believe the following?: Buyers don’t immediately believe your marketing claims or sales messaging. While most marketing and sales professionals would agree with this statement, it seems most don’t really incorporate it into their thinking. How else does one explain the dearth of testimonials, case studies, and third-party endorsements in most marketing collateral, which contains instead mostly claims (potatoes) and little proof (meat) that their claims are true?
What to Do Instead:
Buyers are inherently skeptical. To overcome this challenge and to gain more credibility that your claims are true, you must provide lots of evidence or proof points to support your claims. The more proof you provide, the more your buyers will believe your claims. The most effective proof points are customer testimonials and case studies. The principle here is that if you say it’s true, then it’s a claim; if a customer says it’s true, then it must be true. The second-most-effective proof points are from independent third-party organizations such as market research firms like Gartner Group or JD Power and Associates. The third-most-effective proof points are product demonstrations and proof-of-concept.
Use proof points and use them effectively.
Your proof must support your messaging. For example, if a messaging statement focuses on having the highest product reliability and the testimonial touts on-time and on-budget delivery, a costly mistake has been made. And be sure your proof points are compelling statements that include measurable results. Here’s a good example of a strong proof point from Oracle: “Nine out of ten of the world’s largest financial institutions run Oracle applications.” That’s a powerful way to answer “why select Oracle?”
Resources to Implement the Most Influential Customer Communications
Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned marketing and sales effectiveness expert, best-selling author, speaker and an authority on enabling B2B companies to engage customers with the most influential communications. For more information visit www.silverbulletgroup.com.