We live in a world of information overload. Attention is at a premium.
Social media, emails, online solicitations and the fragmentation of traditional media channels means that people are becoming harder and harder to reach. We are bombarded daily by waves of information and communications all seeking our attention.
Marketers are all too aware of this situation. But what to do about it is another story. If we don’t step back and take a careful look at what’s happening, it becomes too easy to become reactive and put marketing and branding efforts in the wrong places – or miss opportunities to put time, energy and budgets where we should.
Organizations with varied business portfolios that cover multiple segments have diverse audiences with different needs and priorities. In these circumstances, messaging is rapidly becoming an essential communication tool to reach and engage multiple stakeholders with diverse needs.
The key is balance. While a message or set of messages needs to be relevant to a particular audience segment it, in turn, has to connect with and stem from the larger, overarching corporate narrative to reinforce key strategic themes.
It has become the life blood of a brand, carrying the essential nutrients to every part of the corporate body and the customer universe to keep the brand healthy with more nuanced and targeted content.
What is messaging?
Messaging is a general, broad term. But what does it really mean and what does it encompass? Here, we define what messaging is in the context of building a strong brand and the many forms that it takes.
Messaging consists of key words and phrases that enrich the brand in verbal communications. Messaging provides the words that help your audiences understand your organization’s value (why it’s useful) and values (what it believes in). It articulates the brand’s promise and stimulates desires for an organization’s services.
How is it used?
Messaging takes many forms. It begins with the corporate narrative, which articulates the strategic vision and strengths of an organization to advance the growth of the industries they serve. The corporate narrative is a succinct 1-2 paragraphs that serves at a high-level and embraces the entire organization. Because it’s written for the enterprise to unite the organization under one umbrella, the corporate narrative does not get into specifics to address business unit-level value propositions or various audience segment needs.
The creation of targeted audience segment messages helps to bridge this gap between the broader corporate narrative and how the organization’s brand promise benefits a particular audience segment. Building a strong brand requires that messages be consistent in supporting your corporate narrative and core attributes, while also articulating relevant and compelling benefits to each of your audiences. The language you use reinforces your corporate narrative while making it relevant to individual audiences. It conveys how your organization or solution will deliver a unique benefit to the target audience.
You have many audiences – customers, employees, investors, strategic partners – each of which have different experiences and expectations of your brand. As certain messages are more effective to individual audiences, messaging needs to be tailored accordingly.
In this article, we elaborate on how to create engaging content for a priority audience, your customer. Customers are the lifeblood of a financially healthy company. That’s why you need to message to customers effectively. Here, we illustrate best practices for how to craft customer-centric messaging that captures customers’ interest and attention.
What is customer-centric messaging and why does it matter?
A big, new need in corporate communications is crafting audience segment messaging to be used by an organization’s salesforce. There’s a lot of precision needed to understand your customers, develop the appropriate messaging, and how it’s used.
Customer engagement is not simply creating a bunch of messaging and publishing it online. Compelling and engaging messaging is about creating content that is relevant to your customers.
B2B buyers are in the driver’s seat and in control of their own journey. In today’s digital age, the demand for transparency and the overwhelming amount of information that can be found online contribute to an educated and empowered buyer.
In many cases, interacting with a salesperson is no longer the primary place where B2B buyers begin their inquiry or research. Now, it starts with an online search. A recent Forrester survey found 75% of buyers will search the internet before engaging in person, and 53% of buyers find going online superior to interacting with a salesperson.
Another trend among B2B buyers is that the demographics of who’s buying is changing. There’s a changing of the guards with baby boomers retiring and being replaced by Gen Xers and millennials. Companies should consciously cater to these digitally savvy decision-makers who expect to find the content they seek readily available online. With the proliferation of information found online (including what your competitors publish), engaging and relevant messaging is no longer an elective and should be integral to your brand’s strategy.
Here are some additional stats to ponder – 65% of buyers think vendors give them too much material, 59% think the materials given are useless, and 70% think the content is more focused on style than on substance. Quality matters more than quantity. What this tells us is that customers should be at the center of your messaging. This seems obvious, but many companies miss the mark as evidenced by the aforementioned statistics. Your messaging approach should be customer-centric. The communications you create should be based on a deep understanding of who your customers are, what benefits they seek, and what you offer to not only alleviate their pain points but to help propel their growth.
Best practices when crafting customer-centric messaging
Customer-centric messaging is relevant
A lot of companies produce content that is about themselves…who we are, what we do, our product features, etc. Often, it’s “we, we, we.” When, really, great content should be about your customer. Your customer isn’t just buying a product. They’re buying into your process for solving a business challenge or issue. How do you produce content that is relevant to this buying mentality? Your customer doesn’t want to hear a pitch or a laundry list of product features. Your customer wants to hear that you know their pain.
And that understanding starts with customer research. What are your customers’ fears and motivations? What measurable outcomes are they responsible for delivering for their company? What are their aspirations in terms of professional growth and success? Once you have a clear picture of your customers’ motivations and key drivers, you can leverage these customer insights. Articulate how your process and capabilities will help solve their challenge or issue and the benefits and value you can deliver. The essential task here is to translate your deep understanding of customer issues and desired benefits into your messaging.
Customer-centric messaging is emotional
Because B2B buyers are making key purchasing decisions for their organization, such as integrating a new piece of software or expanding capabilities, there’s a lot at stake. Make the right decision, you’re a hero. Make the wrong decision, your job is at risk.
Unlike B2C purchases, which are transactional in nature, B2B purchases are multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts. While B2B decisions are motivated by rational thinking and need to be backed up by facts and figures, your messaging needs to also convey an empathetic connection with your customers. Does your homepage speak to customer issues? Does it target different audiences or roles or where they are in the buying process? Is it emotional? Is it relevant? Can you demonstrate that you understand their pain and have successfully worked with other customers who have walked in their shoes?
Customer-centric messaging is humanistic
At BrandingBusiness we often do a scan of what our clients’ competitors are saying by doing a competitive review of websites, marketing materials and other collateral. Through these audits, we find that a lot of messaging encompasses typical industry or marketing jargon, are too product-focused, or the language is too technical. This results in everyone sounding the same!
Adopt a more human voice to better connect with your audience. Use stories to make content more relatable and compelling. Videos and customer success stories that demonstrate results add an engaging and humanizing element in B2B content.
Customer-centric messaging is personalized
B2B purchasing decisions are complex and highly considered. They are made even more complex with the rise of consensus decision-making when multiple decision-makers need to weigh in. This is why you need to personalize messaging to different audience segments. Developing segment-specific messaging stems from a deep understanding of what matters most to each audience, and the ability to articulate a clear value proposition that addresses their specific needs.
Beyond existing and prospective customers, there are additional segments that B2B organizations may need to include in their messaging.
- current and prospective employees
- end users (and in some cases consumers)
- industry influencers
- the media
Personalizing messaging to your audiences doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking. When developing messaging, a good strategy is to follow the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of what you need to communicate about your organization and the benefits you offer are universal to all your key audiences. Twenty percent needs to be messaging that’s personalized to specific audience segments to increase relevance and connect with them on a personal level.
By putting your customer at the center of your messaging and demonstrating that you understand your buyers’ business challenges, you can engage with your intended audiences, start an authentic conversation, and advance your relationship from vendor to partner.