Marketers often find themselves stuck when trying to create the right messaging frameworks for their organizations. Maybe it’s because they are nervous about suggesting a new messaging framework without the data to back it up. Or perhaps they weren’t hired to solve that type of problem; they were hired to drive existing marketing campaigns. So, they’re not confident in their ability to create new messaging. Or maybe it’s because they’ve been sitting at their end of the table for so long that they no longer even know what their buyers’ needs are.
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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.
Asking the right people to participate in your research study is just as important as designing and asking the right questions. You simply can’t have a successful market research project with a rushed recruiting effort at the start.
Sometimes, this means using a research vendor to assist with fielding the right participants. Vendors such as panel providers and expert networks are frequently tapped to identify respondents for research studies. But if you are using a research vendor and still throwing out a large number of respondents or are having trouble making sense of the data, it’s time to dig into the problem. And that may mean it’s time to switch to a new sample provider.
The power of a strong B2B buyer persona is undeniable. In the past, creating them brought a competitive advantage for companies that used them. Today, it’s more than just a benefit; it’s a necessity. However, if your personas are so generic that you can’t effectively reach your target audiences, you might want to think about basing those personas on a firmer foundation of truth.
COVID-19 threw organizations into a blender, with significant repercussions for the B2B buyer’s journey.
Proposal writing is somewhat counter-intuitive. Many sellers seek to impress with doctorate thesis style proposals. But, the truth is, the best proposals are shorter rather than longer. Smart B2B sales enablement strategies and tactics focus on the customer instead of the firm. Proposals also need to answer buyers’ unasked questions.
Unfortunately, the vast bulk of proposals I’ve seen over my life fail to meet any of these criteria. Here are some of the frequent errors I’ve seen with B2B tech sector sales enablement strategies and tactics and how to correct them.
It’s tempting to develop a messaging strategy that overemphasizes the inspirational, uplifting, and idealistic aspects of your brand. Unfortunately, many marketers take it too far, forgetting that inauthentic messaging turns many buyers off. B2B tech sector buyers are particularly skeptical of boasts with no evidence to back them up.
Do your marketing boasts sound overblown? Here are some tips for gauging whether your messaging sounds authentic.
Rebranding a company sounds like an exciting project to most marketers. A rebrand promises a fresh new look, maybe a new logo, perhaps even a new company name. But, rebrands are also expensive, and risk alienating or confusing current customers. In short, when they go wrong, rebrands can be career-enders.
So when to rebrand or not to rebrand? And if you decide to pull the trigger, what do you need to watch out for? Read on…
A new study on coronavirus business disruption shows that while every industry has been gravely impacted, some, like tech, are faring better than others.
Cascade Insights’ survey reveals how the crisis is affecting business operations across company sizes, sectors, and job roles. (Hint: no business type, size, or function is immune.)
Podcast marketing advice tends to be overly simplistic and unhelpful. For example: “Once they’ve followed you on Twitter, send them to Apple Podcasts and get them to subscribe to your show.” Such flippant recommendations get tossed around a lot. However, the complexities of the podcast conversion funnel are far greater than they initially appear.
What follows serves as a guide to understanding the podcast conversion funnel, how it differs from a standard content marketing funnel, and how it ultimately converts listeners into qualified leads. Understanding it is one of the most fundamental pieces to understand if you want your podcast to succeed.
The Podcast Conversion Funnel
For most B2B marketers, optimizing a conversion funnel requires:
- Data analysis, which enables marketers to make decisions based on quantitative data.
- Customer research, which enables marketers to make decisions based on qualitative feedback.
Unfortunately for most companies, the world of podcasting doesn’t fully offer either of these. Data is available, but it’s almost entirely anonymized. Qualitative feedback is available, but it relies on listeners reaching out to you. That makes the podcast conversion funnel difficult to optimize, since you can’t entirely rely on great data or knowing who is listening at any particular stage.
How Does The Funnel Work?
It starts when people become aware of your podcast. That can be the result of seeing a post of yours on LinkedIn, by one customer sharing it with another potential customer, or in any one of a hundred other ways. The podcast conversion funnel is further obscured by not knowing who is listening to your podcast, since most podcast players don’t provide data on subscribers or on listening behaviors.
Then there is the big leap from initial discovery to deciding to open a podcast app. It involves going from Desktop to Mobile, browsing to engaging, and passive to active participation. If that big leap happens, they’ll ideally subscribe to your show.
Finally, as a business, you want to translate those engagements into known contacts.To do that, listeners will have to leave the podcast application and get in touch with you. Optimizing for their preferred method of contact is also a challenge. Do they prefer email? A phone call? A form fill?
It’s the complexity of this funnel that makes most podcasting advice seem out of touch. Saying something like, “once they discover your show, get them to subscribe to your show” is as useful as saying, “when you get to Europe, say ‘hi’ to my friend Jacques” with no additional guidance on who Jacques is.
Good luck with that.
Understanding the Funnel Is Half the Battle
With podcasting, luck isn’t enough. Instead, our advice is to prioritize the parts that you can measure and have the greatest value.
Here’s a handy breakdown of each stage of the funnel:
|Awareness||No||Low||You can’t measure who becomes aware of your podcast in the same way you know how many people viewed a blog post. Podcast awareness happens in thousands of locations, most of which aren’t instrumented for tracking on a per-listener level. In addition, the value of this stage isn’t particularly high, since awareness doesn’t necessarily lead to becoming a client.|
|First Listen||No||Medium||The first time someone listens to your podcast might be on social media, YouTube, your website, or a podcast player. Each provides different levels of analytics. For example, you could see the number of viewers who saw your tweet, while a podcast app will tell you how many downloads you receive but not how many people viewed your podcast.While you may not know who is listening, there is some value in improving conversion at this stage of the funnel. After all, the adage of “first impressions matter” is especially true in podcasting.|
|In the App||Yes||High||You can measure if people are visiting a podcast app for your podcast in two ways. First, you can track clicks from links you have on your website. Second, you can look at the weekly download numbers per user agent, which is provided by most podcast hosts. Similarly, the expected value here is quite high, since they’re clearly interested enough to open a third-party app to listen to your show.|
|Subscription||Partially||High||There are ways to measure the number of subscribers you have in Apple Podcasts, Overcast, and a handful of other podcasting apps. However, you’ll never get a complete number of subscribers or any information on who those subscribers are. While the subscriber data is mostly incomplete, the value of a subscriber is incredibly high. That’s because they’re not only interested in your show, but they’re also automatically downloading future episodes onto their personal devices.|
|First Contact||Yes||High||Being contacted by someone listening to your show is both very measurable (you have a new lead) and has a very high expected value (they’re talking to you). However, to fully take advantage of this value, you need to make sure your marketing and sales teams are aligned on tracking these touch points.|
The big takeaway is that the two highest priority stages of the podcast conversion funnel are App Open and First Contact. From the perspective of getting the best bang for your buck, these two stages typically have the most to offer. (That’s not to say that the other stages aren’t important.)
A caveat: this will change as more podcast apps share information about who is subscribing to your show. But we’re not quite there yet. In the past month, we had more than 60 apps play our podcast, with only a handful of apps reporting subscriber data.
As with all conversion optimization and lead generation, some of the most valuable work you can undertake is to reduce friction from one stage of the funnel to another.
In the App Stage
By the time someone has listened to your podcast, much of your work is done. But, you still need to get them to open a podcast app and subscribe to your show. Logistically speaking, that means that wherever they’re listening to your show (social media, your website, etc.), you need to have a link pointing them to the relevant podcast apps.
For something as mundane as linking to a podcast, there are two opposing schools of thought: glass half-full and glass half-empty.
The Half-Full school optimistically believes that most people will have a preferred podcast app on their phones and that they’ll want to view your show on that app. So, they provide a grid of links pointing to all of the major podcasting apps. Which is no small number, as there are dozens of active podcast apps.
The Half-Empty school looks at the data saying most people have never listened to a podcast and believes that they should only rely on pre-installed podcast apps. So, they provide a link to Google Podcasts for Android users and Apple Podcasts for iOS users.
Personally speaking, they both have some merit. Deciding on one avenue vs. another relies on understanding the target audience for your podcast. Are they technologically savvy? They likely have a preferred app. Are they less tech savvy? The default apps will likely work fine.
Either way, one tool we use for our show, the B2B Revealed Podcast, is Branch. It has many applications, but the relevant one here is that you can create a link that will redirect based on the type of device the user is using. As an example, if you click this link to our interview with Dr. Bhaskar Chakravorti it will open Apple Podcasts on an iOS device, Google Podcasts on an Android device, and our website on any desktop device. Simple tweaks like that can create a great experience for your listeners.
The First Contact Stage
Seeing your monthly download numbers go up and to the right can be a wonderful feeling. Yet, if none of those people are converting to customers, what’s the point? That’s why it’s so crucial to pay attention to the First Contact stage.
There are three common ways that brands grease this stage of the funnel: gating, advertising, and participation.
Closing the Gate
Some brands use their podcast as a teaser for content that’s locked behind a content gate. For example, if you have a podcast where you’re interviewing experts in your industry, you could post the first 10 minutes of the interview in your public feed and then explain that the full hour-long interview is available on your website in exchange for an email address.
The upside here is that you’ll gather contact information from those who want to listen to the entire podcast. The downside is that you’re effectively producing two different podcast feeds. That may not be worth the effort, as many of the leads will be unqualified and unready for any serious discussion about using your products or services. They are leads, yes, but the value is a bit lower.
Another way that companies increase the conversion is by advertising their company as the sponsor and creator of the podcast. Since it’s rare for people to want to listen to a company talk about themselves all day long, most successful branded podcasts focus on larger themes than a self-centered pitch.
Still, many listeners will be unaware what your company is or what you provide. By inserting a 30-second advertisement for your own company in the middle or end of every episode, you’ll increase awareness and conversion. For example, on our podcast, we put in an audio clip that sounds like this:
Finally, getting your audience to participate in the creation of an episode is a great way to transform podcasting from a one-way broadcast channel into a two-way conversation.
For example, we’ve recently begun soliciting questions for our guest experts on B2B Revealed. This gives clients and listeners the benefit of asking experts questions about marketing and marketing research. It also allows us to engage with clients in a more meaningful way and gives listeners new perspectives on topics we cover.
Funnel Tunnel Vision
Without understanding your conversion funnel, your podcast will meander along without clear direction.
But, if you spend some time understanding and optimizing your conversion funnel, you’ll end up with a clear idea of what needs to be done to get your podcast in the ears of the right people.
Need help launching or optimizing a business podcast? Check out our B2B podcast production services.
With custom market research and marketing services, Cascade Insights helps companies seize opportunities in the B2B technology sector. We work with everyone from enterprise tech stalwarts to up-and-comers in fields such as FinTech, MarTech, Health Tech, and more.
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