Content Marketing: Are you delivering the right story?

photo of a man reading on his phone
Apr 15, 2015
Content Marketing

Are you telling your customers what they want to hear? Or are you telling them what you want to say? Too often marketers take an inward focus and forget about marketing’s purpose: finding and keeping customers. It’s hard to find customers if you’re delivering a message to an audience that doesn’t want to hear it.

Why your messaging is failing

Bernadette Jiwa is succinct on this point in a blog post titled Why Most Marketing Fails,

Most marketing fails because the marketer doesn’t understand the story his customer wants to believe, before he tells the story.”

In her new book, Buyer Personas, Adele Revella provides valuable guidance to marketers trying to nail their messaging. According to Revella, your messaging must include your buyer’s perspective.

Effective messaging emerges at the intersection of what your buyers want to hear and what you want to say.”

It’s widely understood your content should focus on benefits, but even that is not enough. What if your benefits are not widely understood? What if your target audience understands one or more of your benefits but doesn’t value them?

Mini case study

Here’s a personal example. Until about two years ago I was a PC user. I didn’t own an Apple product. For years, colleagues, friends and the popular media hammered me about Apple’s design in an effort to convince me to make the switch.

And that’s where they came unglued.

I understood Apple’s design philosophy. I could appreciate why it would influence someone purchasing new technology. Design had absolutely no bearing on my decision-making when buying a new laptop. Everyone who tried to convince me to make the switch to Apple because of terrific design failed. I’m a happy Apple customer but, even now, beautiful design still ranks in the ‘nice to have’ category for me when it comes to technology.

So how do you create brand messaging your target audience wants to hear?

Finding your voice

As a first step, get the key members of your team to list the top 10 capabilities of your product or service. They should do this in isolation to ensure they’re not influenced by someone else’s opinion. It’s a good idea to have someone from product development, marketing, sales, and your executive team participating in this exercise. Keep the group relatively small; more than six people make for an unwieldy session.

Ask each person to present their points and consolidate it into one master list.

It’s not about you

Next, apply the ‘So What?’ test to each capability. It’s extremely useful to have someone in the room representing your target audience. Let them play devil’s advocate and get your group to defend each capability as it relates to a potential buyer. Be prepared for a lot of debate as people invested in a solution sometimes find it hard to let go of a feature or benefit they perceive as valuable.

Where do you rank against competitors?

Once you have a list of capabilities important to your target audience, rank each capability against your competitors’.

What do your prospects value most?

Now rank each capability according to the value to your buyer. Which are they willing to pay for and which are ‘nice to haves’?

photo of an old VW Beetle parked on a streetOne of my jobs when I managed salespeople was to bring a reality check to every potential sale. Just because someone loved our product, didn’t mean they were going to buy it. It’s easy to get people excited about driving a Mercedes, but they’ll never buy one if all they have is VW budget. Even if they can afford a Mercedes, will they  spend that much money for a car? Make sure you’re brutally honest; does your buyer like the feature enough to pay for it?

At this point you can begin to tackle your messaging with confidence. You’ll have a far greater understanding of what capabilities to feature in your marketing. You’ll know what your customers care about and whether you have any competitive advantage. Select the top three to five capabilities on these lists and begin to craft your messaging around them.

Getting started

Telling your story isn’t just about your company and your product or service offering. It’s essential to consider what your buyers want and what they’re willing to purchase. Only then can you successfully determine the messaging needed to tell your story in a way that will resonate with your audience.

If you’d like help getting your messaging right, contact us about a Find Your Voice workshop. We can help you find the most effective messaging and build a framework for brand storytelling.

How do you find the right stories for your brand?

-by Sarah Mitchell