The Importance of a Clear Marketing Message

What do you do?

Many small business owners that have worked with our digital marketing agency over the years do not always have a clear answer to the question: ‘What do you do?’ When you talk about their business, they generally speak about their products, their great quality service, and the fact that they have been in business for over 35 years.

Don’t get me wrong, providing an excellent service or product, and the fact that you have successfully been in business for many years is important. However, your customers are really just looking for what's in it for them.

In reality, your customer has three questions:

  1. Do you understand the problem (need) that I have?
  2. Do you have a solution to solve my problem?
  3. What will my life look like after I use your product or service?

By keeping these three things in mind when you communicate with your (prospective) clients through your advertising, your website and social media, you will have a much better chance to stand out from the crowd.

Information overload

With the number of messages that the average person receives a day (roughly over 3,000 commercial messages each day) it can be difficult for our messages to make it through. We really only have a few seconds to pique consumers’ attention enough for our message to resonate and to stick with them. With so many messages coming through it is only natural for the brain to block most of them out to protect itself from an overload. In those few seconds, you have to communicate simply and clearly what you do.

The curse of knowledge

One of the reasons that most small businesses have such a hard time with explaining what they do is what we call the ‘curse of knowledge'. Because most business owners are experts in their field and have deep (and oftentimes very technical) knowledge, they incorrectly assume that their customers also know the in’s and out’s of their industry and products.

Believe me, I have been guilty of using technical terms and jargon that makes sense to me, but means nothing to my clients.

A confused customer says no

There is a saying in marketing that ‘a confused customer says no’. Let’s face it, most of our buying decisions are made through our emotions. One of the reasons for this is that we never have enough information to make a truly rational decision. If we would try to weigh all the benefits and drawbacks of everything we purchase, we probably would never make up our mind about anything.

Yet many business owners think that a confused customer will seek clarification or contact them for more information. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you confuse them, you will lose them. You know that your product or service is superior to that of your competitor, but your customers ‘just don’t get it’ and continue to buy from your competitor. The difference is often that this competitor is better at explaining what they do (marketing) and they communicate it in a way that resonates with the customer.

Going inside your customer’s brains

What goes through your customer's brains when they receive your message? There are two instincts that come into play: will it help me survive and how will it benefit me?

As we discussed earlier the brain is being overloaded with messages and information and has to filter out everything but the important things - what is going to help them survive and even possibly thrive. Whether it is through saving money, becoming successful or being associated with an elite group people are looking for ways to get ahead in life.

Based on these facts, we must clearly and simply communicate how we help our customers survive and succeed. How can we help solve their problem?

The solution

Rather than talking about ourselves and how great we are, we need to start focusing on the problem that our customer has. How can we help them survive and succeed? An excellent framework that we can use is called StoryBrand, developed by Donald Miller. He was one of the first ones to use storytelling to develop a clear brand message that will resonate with your audience.

There are 7 steps to this framework:

The process

1. The customer is the hero, not your brand...

Sometimes it takes a real shift for people to be able to change how they think about their business. They might not know it but one of the biggest mistakes that small businesses are making in their marketing is talking about themselves. In reality they should be focusing their messaging on the problem they are helping their customers to solve. So instead of telling our story, we want to invite customers into a story about their journey.

Your customer is the main character in the story of your brand’s messaging. Just like the characters in any great movie, they’re looking to transform their life and become a better version of themselves. Before you as a business can guide them to a successful future with your product or service, you need to clearly define who your customer is and what they want.

2. Identify the problem you are solving...

A story really gets interesting when a conflict is defined, which is why you pique your customer’s interest when you identify their problem in your messaging. Describing their problem (or need) in such a way that when they land on your website or see your social media post, they will say ‘Hey, that is for me. Tell me more!’

The reason why customers come to you is because they have a problem and need you to solve it. In fact, most people are trying to solve three problems simultaneously when engaging with your brand. Your messaging must address their external, internal and philosophical problems to really make a connection with your customer and it must be remedied in one shot.

The external problem is the obvious, physical problem. They are lacking something and they come to you to fill the void. This is the most often the easiest problem to identify but we have to dig a little deeper into who and what your customer wants.

The internal problem is the emotions your customer is feeling because of the external problem. This is probably the most problem to focus on in your messaging as people most often make decisions based on their emotions. If you can create an emotional connection with your customer they will be more likely to make a purchase from you.

The philosophical problem ties into the greater good and bad in the world. Why is their problem just wrong? Most often the philosophical problem is great for not-for-profits to focus on as they can better tie into that greater good and bad.

3. Customers aren’t looking for another hero...

They’re looking for a guide.

Once you have identified the problem that your product or service solves for your customer, the next step is to position yourself (and your company) as the expert guide that can help solve their problem. Most customers are looking for a guide that they like and trust to help them to the process. No matter how technologically advanced we become, people are still buying from people. Establish yourself as an emphatic expert that understands their problem and their frustrations.

This is where the traditional sales model has dramatically changed. People hate being sold to and instead want to work with businesses and people that understand their problem and are able to provide them with valuable information before and after the sale is made.

So remember you are not the main character in this story, but a supporting character that helps your customer find success.

Even though your company isn’t the star of the show you are still very important - without a Guide, our customer (the hero) would be lost. Guides have certain qualities that cause heroes to seek them out. The guide must be empathic to their problems and show why you are qualified to assist your customers. You want to establish these qualities so you can set yourself as someone who can be trusted by your audience.

4. Customers trust a guide who has a plan...

Now as the guide you have a job to do for your customers. You have to provide them with a plan on how to take action and make a purchase. A great plan removes confusion and provides clear steps for people to follow. By removing these excuses it makes it easier for your customer to make the decision to do business with you. It will give them confidence and clarity when they engage with your business.

By giving the customer a plan, you give them baby steps and essentially say “It’s easy to work with us. Just take these steps.” The plan you lay out should be short and simple, and ends in success. The best plans usually only involve three to five steps. Giving a customer a plan dramatically increases their engagement.

5. Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to...

Characters in stories don’t take action on their own. They have to be challenged to act. It’s the same with our customers.

Inertia is probably the biggest challenge in getting people to buy your product or service. Even after they have found out about you, and you have piqued their interest, they still need to act on that interest. This is where many small businesses go wrong, they don’t give a clear Call to Action or next step that a prospective customer needs to take. For example, what do we want our customers to do once they land on our website?

There are two types of calls to action: direct and transitional. A direct Call to Action is basically those ‘Call Now’, ‘Buy Now’, ‘Schedule a Meeting’, buttons you see on websites. Be very clear what it is you want your prospective customers to do and set the expectations once they take action and click that button. A transitional call to action is for customers that are interested in what you have to offer, but they are not ready to buy today.

In a previous blog post, I explain the difference between being a marketing hunter vs. being a marketing farmer. Not every customer is ready to buy today. The transitional call to action is used to capture the contact information of your prospective customer (by downloading a free ebook or signing up for a e-newsletter) in order for you to stay in touch and build a relationship with them until they are ready to become paying customers.

6. Helping customers to avoid failure...

We need to provide another bit of motivation for your customers to ultimately take action and that is avoiding potential failure. By pointing out this failure, or what life looks like for them without your product or service, you are enticing them to think, “Do I really want to live like this without this product?” By focusing on what is at stake for your customers you appeal to one of our strongest emotions: fear.

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions and marketers have exploited (mostly in a good way) this part of human nature. Everyone knows what fear of missing out (FOMO) feels like.

People are either motivated to avoid failure or experience success. In our communication, we must define what is at stake for our customers if they do or don’t take action. Could they lose money? Could their health be at risk? Are they going to remain unhappy?

7. What does success look like for your customer?

Failure is a great motivator but in the end your customer is going to gain success by doing business with your company. Never assume your customers know how your brand can change their lives, for the better. We need to tell them.

The intent of your messaging is to do the brain work for your customers. We have to write the end of their story that ends with them coming out on top with your product in hand.

People move toward a vision of success and if we do not create that picture of their future for them, they will not know what direction to move towards. We must clearly define what a customer’s life will look like if they do business with you.

The foundation for your content marketing

By going through these steps and digging deep into the problem you are solving for your customers and what internal frustrations you help alleviate, you will create a strong brand message that will become the foundation for all your (marketing) communication.

By filtering everything through this communications framework, your messages will resonate with your clients and when people at the next networking event asked, ‘What do you do?’, you will have a clear answer that will pique their interest instead of leaving them with more questions.

PS. We would love to hear your experience with clarifying your message for your business or organization.

Posted: December 4, 2020