Does Your Messaging Have An Expiration Date?
A new study reveals that marketers don’t update their messaging as often as they think they should.
Anyone who owns a refrigerator or cares about his own well-being is familiar with the concept of shelf life or the amount of time an item of food can stay in your pantry or fridge before spoiling. Ignore these important expiration dates, and you could be in for a queasy couple of days—or worse.
Clearly, when you don’t replenish your foodstuffs, you suffer.
Likewise, when you don’t refresh your messages to the market, your impact may suffer.
A recent survey, conducted by my company, discovered a major contradiction between how often marketers feel they should be updating messages and what they are actually doing. Of the 350 B2B marketers and sales professionals responding, 48% (the largest percentage) said they refresh their messages annually or every two or three years, but 65% believe they should be updating them quarterly or at least twice a year to stay differentiated.
The same study also showed in which areas companies are updating their messages most often:
- Product/service/portfolio messaging: 30%
- Topical issue/insight messaging: 25%
- Enterprise solutions messaging: 18%
Respondents also indicated which factors most often motivate changes to their market messages:
- Shifts in customer needs and need response: 37%
- Major changes in market trends and new issues arising: 21%
- New product launches or product modifications: 19%
What do these results mean for marketers like you—particularly if you’re among the 65% of respondents who want to see your message update process become even more responsive?
It calls for a consistent, repeatable approach to building and maintaining your marketing and sales messaging. Here are three areas where a “messaging methodology” can help make that happen, no matter how often you update your key messages:
•Becoming customer-centric, not company-centric: There’s a time and a place for enumerating the ways in which your solutions are different and better than your competition. But it’s often not in the early stages of the buying cycle. To be truly customer-centric in your message, you need to acknowledge that your prospects, more often than not, aren’t comparing you against your competitive matrix. Rather, they’re mulling whether the perceived pain of making a change is more painful than the pain they’re feeling today in their status quo. That’s why both your demand generation and sales-directed content need to tell a compelling “why change” story–one that helps you show why the pain of doing nothing will be far more costly than the prospect of changing to something new and better able to help them achieve their business goals.
•Becoming solutions-focused, not products-focused: Marketing and sales messages tend to fall into three different tiers of communication:
- “Is” (What is your product?)
- “Mean” (What does this mean in terms of value to your customer and their world?)
- “Does” (What does your customer do differently and better because of your product?)
At the “is” level, your message stays mired in a product-centered conversation, focusing on features and benefits. At the “means” level, your message is more intriguing but still too high level for prospects to see as actionable. It’s at the “does” level where your best story lives because that’s where you can provide a distinct point of view, showing where your prospect has a problem, challenge, or missed opportunity they didn’t even know they had and how you are uniquely qualified to solve it.
•Turning marketing messages and content into sales-ready messages and content: One of the most shocking findings in recent years has been Forrester Research’s stat that 89% of first sales calls are failures. In all likelihood, that number is having a devastating impact on pipeline creation at many organizations. The good news is that you can reduce that conversion problem by making sure you package your key messages in your sales-facing content, helping you close the “conversion gap” between the marketing and sales lead handoff. That will equip your salespeople to engage prospects with a “why change” story that picks up where demand gen left off, instead of having salespeople jump into their typical product and company presentations—which in all likelihood aren’t the stories that got prospects excited in the first place.
Messaging updates are a reality of B2B organizations, and the findings from this latest survey suggest the pace of change is about to pick up. For many organizations, that’s a lot of complexity to manage if you want to make sure your messaging changes make the desired impact throughout your customer conversations. A messaging methodology—based on your customer’s world and what your solutions can do for them—will give you a consistent approach to building differentiated messaging and content, no matter what shifts you need to respond to in your market.