Don’t Stop Believin’ in Message Testing
Arguably the most famous song from the 1980s was introduced in 1981 by the band Journey. To this day “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a hit song for people of all ages that’s heard at sporting events, weddings, and other social events. Now, you might be asking yourself, “How has this song stood the test of time?”
Greatest hits are rarely born overnight. For example, the initial inspiration for the core lyric in the song “Don’t Stop Believin,” occurred five years before Journey sat down to record the track. After inspiration, comes the hard work of developing lyrics and music that work in harmony.
Musicians, songwriters, and producers write and rewrite a song, refining the lyrics, melody, and title until they create an irresistible song. Oftentimes, there are multiple collaborators working behind the scenes testing musical ideas. Even “Don’t Stop Believin’” has three songwriters and two producers to its credit.
The same creative and intellectual rigor can be applied when developing great B2B messaging. Just as a great song benefits from multiple collaborators testing ideas, great messaging benefits from external perspectives – specifically, those of your potential buyers.
To develop B2B messaging that resonates, marketers first need to test it. Without message testing, your messaging may fall flat with your audience, alienating buyers, or worse, driving them to your competitors. However, conducting message testing allows you to understand where your messaging falls short, where it resonates, and what you can do to craft messaging that rocks your audiences’ socks off.
What Makes A Greatest Hit?
Just as a hit song consists of a catchy title and lyrics, a memorable melody, and a great hook, great B2B messaging can be broken down into the same key elements:
- Instant attention-grabbers
- Clear persona targeting
- Banished buzzwords
- Clear calls to action (CTA)
According to Pew Research Center’s 2021 Digital Experience Benchmark report, the B2B industry spends an average of 1.37 minutes on a company webpage. As a marketer, that’s all the time you have to grab your audiences’ attention.
Your message needs to instantly capture a potential buyer’s attention to want to learn more. Once you’ve commanded a buyer’s interest, more descriptive and informative messaging can follow.
You Can’t Write to Everyone, You Have to Write to Someone
If you’re still trying to write a universal message that resonates with all your audiences, think again. Sharp messaging should be built to target each of the personas’ interests and concerns.
The context: We worked with a company who wanted to understand how people responded to the word “risk.” We found that respondents generally don’t like the word “risk” because it implies you might lose something.
For example, if you’re talking to a line-of-business person in financial services, they wouldn’t want to hear the word risk. Instead, they’d prefer a phrase like “improving security.” Conversely, a chief security officer may want to hear how you plan to mitigate risk.
The takeaway: When you understand how your audiences will perceive different phrases, it allows you to write stronger content. Rather than writing generalized blanket statements, you need to tailor your messages to the right persona.
Say Bye-Bye to Buzzwords
Certain terms gain instant popularity in B2B messaging, but can fizzle out just as fast. These buzzwords suffer from frequent overuse, resulting in loss of meaning. Unfortunately, many B2B marketers still continue to use them.
The context: We once worked with a client who was interested in message testing across their website. Our experiential analysis revealed that consumers and IT roles did not respond well to the flashy marketing buzzwords they repeatedly used. Some of the language was so overused that it lost its meaning to our client’s tech audience.
The takeaway: IT buyers want to hear specifically what your solution does and why it is unique. They will lose confidence in your solution if it includes the same generic buzzwords they’ve used to describe other solutions.
Does your messaging encourage your audience to take the next step? Effective CTAs not only bring in potential new leads, they also clearly indicate what your audience should do next.
Some examples of focused CTAs include:
- Download our ebook
- Subscribe to our weekly newsletter
- Download this whitepaper
- Sign up for free
These examples have a few things in common. First, they evoke curiosity and entice the audience to want whatever it is you’re offering. Second, they require the audience to take an actionable step. Words like “download” or “subscribe” tell your audience to take action, so there’s no confusion.
Great Message Testing Leads to Great Messaging
Although successful business messaging can sometimes come from a flash of creative inspiration, most of the time great messaging is achieved through the process of testing and refining ideas.
Here are a few examples of how B2B message testing research has helped out clients.
Test Messaging That Sticks With Your Audience
Generic, buzzwordy messaging feels easy, but B2B buyers are looking for impactful messaging. To reach your buyers, test specific messages with each of your target personas.
The context: We worked with a client who wanted to improve the benefits of one of its offerings. So, they came to us to conduct message testing to understand their target audience and how their messaging was perceived.
Our research revealed that IT directors, system admins and developers each wanted different things from our client’s content. System admins and developers despised the use of marketing fluff and preferred language that was directly related to technology.
However, IT directors were more interested in seeing the ROI impact and placed a strong emphasis on security. When it came time to place value on the benefits of our client’s offering, each persona felt differently because they didn’t feel like it met their exact needs.
When it came time to place a value on the benefits of our client’s offering, every persona responded poorly because they couldn’t see how the solution met their exact needs. The messaging wasn’t specific enough.
The takeaway: We recommended that this client adjust their messaging to educate and increase awareness of their offerings. Message testing helped our client understand that different audiences value the relevancy of a message.
Rather than trying to put all your eggs in one basket, we suggested that our client develop specific messaging targeted at each persona. Why? Because it not only shows that you understand your audience, but also demonstrates that you’re aware of the environment they’re working in and what matters most to them.
No One Wants to Hear “Free Bird”
Long paragraphs and stale language bore your readers. Understand what your target audience wants and strategically deliver that message.
The context: We worked with a company to conduct message testing based on previous knowledge of their target audience. However, the messaging they used included run-on sentences and complicated phrases. They completely missed the mark on delivering effective messaging because they assumed that their target audience wanted more detailed, thorough information.
Message testing revealed that the needs and interests of their audience had shifted. Their audience preferred short, direct messages not lengthy paragraphs of detailed text. This research gave our client the opportunity to reevaluate their messaging to keep their target audience engaged.
The takeaway: A lengthier message isn’t always an effective way to reach your audience. Messaging testing helps reveal these misconceptions, allowing you to sharpen your messaging.
R.E.S.P.E.C.T the Research
Sometimes you need to set aside persona opinions to produce great messaging.
The context: We recently worked with a company to conduct message testing on a few phrases for a product offering. After conducting focus groups, it was apparent that respondents preferred a particular phrase over the other options presented.
During the final readout, one of the stakeholders explained that they did not agree with the choice of words the respondents preferred. In fact, the stakeholder went on to say that they would not change their messaging, even though the data suggested otherwise.
The takeaway: While our job is not to tell you what to do, we try to give you the information to make savvy business decisions. It’s important to keep an open mind when hearing the results of a message testing project.
Feel the Beat
Great messaging should help your clients and prospects feel the beat. A beat that speaks to their interests, their jobs to be done, and their organization’s goals.
Yet, great beats take time to find and create. And they must be tested, with real world audiences. Finally, the danger in skipping this testing step is that you might find out you are standing out in all the wrong ways in the marketplace with your messaging.
If you want your messaging to be the next greatest hit with your buyers, give us a call. We can help you find the beat and create messaging that resonates.
This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that provides market research & marketing services exclusively to organizations with B2B tech sector initiatives. Want to learn more about the message testing we deliver? Our B2B Messaging Services can help.
Special thanks to Sean Campbell, Co-Founder & CEO, Laurie Pocher, Senior Consultant, and Brian Surguine, Creative Services Manager, for advising on this piece.