Tag Archive for: Message Testing
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.
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.
A product or solution’s messaging can make or break its success in the marketplace.
Great messaging will instantly capture a potential buyer’s attention and inspire them to learn more. It highlights the relevant pain points that the solution can solve, embodies the voice of the customer, and includes a clear call to action.
Conversely, poorly constructed messaging can alienate a potential buyer. Bad messaging may be filled with buzzwords, vague descriptions, and terminology that doesn’t resonate. These mistakes can instantly repel a prospective client.
Poor messaging is an especially acute problem in B2B technology companies. Inside these organizations, a typical messaging framework is filled with buzzwords, look-alike phrases that mirror competitor’s language, and hyperbolic statements about capabilities.
To set your messaging on a firm foundation, it is vital to test it. Message testing research helps companies develop content that resonates with potential buyers and inspires them to take action. Without it, companies risk losing out on potential sales by delivering messaging that fails to connect with buyers.
Business to Business (B2B) messaging is more intellectually stimulating and harder to create than Business to Consumer (B2C) messaging. B2B messaging is harder to test as well, which is why the use of solid research methods is critical.
These challenges exist for one simple reason: B2B sales are more complex. Consequently, this complexity leaves B2B marketers with a heavy burden, one that can only be lightened with solid customer insights.
B2B tech messaging tends to be big, broad, and vague. Which is the opposite of what savvy B2B buyers are looking for.
So often, B2B marketers leave customers in the dark in terms of:
- The intended audience.
- Relevancy to buyers’ “jobs to be done.”
- How the product or service uniquely solves their business problems.
- Whether the messaging is to be believed at all.
After conducting scores of B2B message testing studies, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the truly horrifying.
Here are some common messaging mistakes to avoid before you launch your next landing page, product marketing initiative, or content calendar.
Horror Story 1: It’s Unclear Who It’s For… And Who It’s NOT For.
Tech companies, powerful visionaries that they are, have a tendency to go really broad with their messaging. For example: “Your vision. Your Cloud.” Or: “Cloud for all.” But is it really for everyone?
B2B products and services are rarely intended for the use of any and all. Unfortunately, it’s rare for tech companies to make it immediately clear who their intended audience is.
Buyers shouldn’t have to work to figure out whether a product or service is relevant to them. B2B messaging should make it really obvious. Whose life will be made easier by this B2B solution? Use visuals, smart layouts, and clever formatting to make sure the eye is easily drawn to copy that identifies and speaks directly to key buyers.
Horror Story 2: It’s Not Written In The Voice of The Buyer(s).
Is your target buyer technical? Do you have someone technical on your marketing team? You should. At least make sure you get someone technical to vet your messaging.
Technical buyers will lose confidence in your solution if the messaging gets the jargon wrong or strings random concepts together in a way that doesn’t make sense. Or if it skirts specifics and stays vague. (Also, technical buyers will be turned off by anything they consider “fluff.” They don’t like marketing buzzwords.)
Context matters. Don’t message in a vacuum. Do what you need to do to author, edit, and verify that you’re writing messaging that resonates with your key buyer personas.
Here’s a place where understanding your target buyers’ “jobs to be done” really comes in handy. You’ll score lots of brownie points if you can speak to the specific issues your solution solves for the intended buyer.
And remember, B2B buying decisions usually happen by committee. In other words, you need to convince a group of stakeholders, not just an individual.
Your B2B tech messaging should speak to all the key buyer personas involved in making the purchase decision- not just the end-user.
Horror Story 3: The Messaging Is Stranded From The Brand Strategy.
The goal isn’t just for the customer to remember the product. You also want them to remember the brand.
If your product is part of a larger suite of solutions, your messaging shouldn’t make it sound like an isolated offering.
Graphics are often an effective method of demonstrating that a particular solution or tool is part of a holistic suite of offerings.
Your B2B messaging strategy needs to connect the product or service back to the company.
Horror Story 4: It’s Poorly Written.
Bad grammar creates an unnecessary obstacle for communicating the relevance of your solution. Especially if your target buyers are non-native English speakers.
In our B2B message testing studies, we’ve watched scores of buyers use the bulk of their energy trying to parse out the intention behind our client’s initial attempt at messaging. This prevents customers from moving down the purchase funnel.
Make things as easy as possible on the buyer. Communicate clearly. Don’t make them work to figure out why it’s smart to buy your product or service.
So. Use complete sentences. Simplify your wording. Amplify your main message so that it’s the most noticeable thing on the page, the paragraph, etc. Only attempt to convey one idea per sentence. Make sure you can get through a sentence without having to take a breath when reading out loud. Shorten the sentence if you can’t. Edit. Edit a lot. (More on this here.)
Horror Story 5: There’s No Hierarchy of Emphasis.
Tech companies love listing the attributes of their product or service. Unfortunately, they often neglect to explain how these features solve problems for their target buyers.
Also, lists are just plain hard to read. Reading a list gets monotonous and boring. Which of the many adjectives is the reader supposed to remember? What’s the main point of the product? What makes it special?
Say you’ve got five key selling points. Please do not pack all five key points into one sentence or even one paragraph. That will mute the impact.
Instead, give each key point its own space and separate emphasis. Add in supporting points as needed. Make sure the supporting points strengthen the main idea, rather than sounding like isolated factors.
Strategic messaging requires a hierarchy of emphasis. Your marketing team needs to be clear on the main selling points of the solution and the supporting, secondary factors.
Readers are more likely to remember what is given the greatest emphasis. If everything has the same level of emphasis, readers may struggle to remember anything at all.
What do you want the main takeaways to be? Emphasize accordingly.
Horror Story 6: Unsubstantiated Boasts, Vague Terms, & Marketing Buzzwords.
During our market research studies, we’ve watched many B2B buyers grow suspicious over broad messaging claims.
Unless you have substantial, authoritative backup for making such a claim, shy away from declaring yourself “the best” or “the leading solution.” When such lofty claims are made, we’ve noticed that B2B buyers often take it as a challenge to think of a brand with a better solution.
Further, to be blunt, messaging that reads like marketing wrote it puts many B2B buyers off.
B2B customers often take vague terminology as a red flag, as it may indicate that the solution is being pushed by a company who doesn’t understand how it will actually be used.
Further, marketing buzzwords tend to scare off technical buyers. These customers will only be convinced by brands that get what their day-to-day entails.
So, be as specific as possible. What does your solution actually do? How does it do it? How will it fit into the work of the buyer? Specifically, what value does it bring to your key customers?
Also, marketers, make sure to run your messaging by someone who is well-versed in the business and technical context of your target buyers.
To summarize: don’t make your buyers work to figure out your solution’s relevancy and value-add.
Make sure your B2B messaging:
- Identifies the intended audience. It should be very obvious who the solution was built for.
- Is written in the voice of the buyer. Messaging needs to get the B2B buyers’ business and technical context right.
- Connects back to the brand strategy. Give the reader an easy pathway to related solutions and information.
- Is easy to read. Pay attention to good grammar and avoid run-on sentences.
- Has a hierarchy of emphasis. Be clear internally on the top 2-5 selling points you want the reader to take away. The main value-add should have the most space, visual draw, ink, etc.
- Is specific. Avoid vague terms, unsubstantiated boasts, and marketing buzzwords. Explain how your solution accomplishes the benefits you’re boosting. Back up your claims.
Need some help with messaging strategy? We offer B2B messaging upgrades.
Special thanks to Senior Consultant Colleen Clancy, Senior Research Analyst Hercules Randolph IV, and Research Analyst Courtney Bae for advising on this piece.
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.
Somewhere between intent and interpretation, a lot can get lost in translation.
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