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We See Things
OCTOBER 26, 2018 //     

The Ultimate Messaging Question

Credit: Notion Capital

By: Harry Ronaldson

Watching a re-run of the popular television series “Dragon’s Den” the other day, I was struck by just how many of the contestants seemed incapable of articulating their idea in a way that enticed the assorted investors.

Aside from the odd bout of nerves, entrepreneurs that failed to convince the Dragons left empty-handed, not because they could not explain what their company did, but rather why it does it.

In the fast-paced world of technology, it’s easy to get caught up on features and benefits. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into bringing a product to market, not to mention sleepless nights. It’s only natural that you want to tell the world how clever it is. No doubt those in the know will be suitably impressed. But focusing entirely on product features fails to address the most important question that every customer or prospect will ask: “Why should I give a sh*t?”

A lot of messaging used by B2B companies isn’t aligned with what the customers they are trying to reach really value. Instead of addressing these points, they pack sentences with adjectives designed to prove how much better they are than the competition.

Many technology companies proudly claim to be a “disruptor.” But in order to be truly disruptive, companies need to change perception of what is possible. That means articulating why potential customers should believe in your product and how it will make their lives better.

So how do you get to that point? Below are a few tips to get you started.

Do your research

Invest time to understand what your customers really care about, and the type of language they’re using when they talk about those issues. Look at the newspapers and magazines your customers are likely to read. What are the issues they’re focusing on? Imagine you were being interviewed on one of those issues – what would you say?

Look at blogs and social media. Who are the influencers driving conversation and how are they framing different issues? Analyse how your competitors are positioning themselves. What are they saying, and more importantly, what are they not saying? Finally, don’t forget to involve your customers in the process. More often than not it will be their words that make it into the final cut of a great messaging document.

Get creative

Getting the messaging right is hard, but there are ways to make the process a little bit more fun and a little less intense. One exercise we run involves giving everyone in the room a stack of magazines. They then have 30 minutes to pull together an RFI for a client by cutting out clippings from the magazines and placing them on a board. This type of exercise won’t be for everyone (a stack of post-it notes will often suffice), but the important thing is to find a way that stops you staring blankly at a whiteboard for half a day.

Be ruthless

When you fill a room with senior people, you inevitably get a range of strong opinions all wanting to be heard. It can be tempting to try to please everyone by cramming everything into one all-encompassing “super-message.” This kind of messaging by committee might prevent a few bruised egos, but it will leave your customers baffled.

Great messages are short – ideally no more than a few carefully chosen words. They use simple, straightforward language that anyone can understand. And they actively avoid the use of buzzwords. You might genuinely believe you are creating a “paradigm shift” for your industry. But the reality is that this type of language just forms a barrier between you and the individuals you are trying to reach. I know journalists who have finely tuned their spam filters to junk any email with the words “best-of-breed” and “solution-provider” in the headline. You’ve been warned

 Seek an impartial perspective

Bringing an outsider in to help facilitate your messaging session can be an effective way to keep you focused and on track. Having an unbiased perspective in the room can also help you avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned above.

Once you’re happy with the way your messaging looks, seek an outside perspective again. Continue testing, refining and shortening until you’re convinced that absolutely every word needs to be there. Make sure every statement you make is tied to a specific proof point.

Then, test with customers and prospects, and remember to keep coming back to your messaging over time. Your business might evolve quickly, so it’s crucial that your messaging keeps pace with that journey.

If you’re keen to hear more, get in touch with Harry Ronaldson at Allison+Partners at:

Harry Ronaldson is a VP in Allison+Partners London office. 

This blog was originally posted by Notion Capital.

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