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.
When Do I Need to Conduct Message Testing?
Here are a few of the questions that message testing can help your company answer:
- Do we have the right messaging framework for our new product or service launch?
- Is our messaging outdated, irrelevant, or just not resonating with buyers?
- Do our messages simply mirror that of our competitors with limited or no differentiation?
- Has our messaging become so stale that it no longer reflects our focus, capabilities, or aspirations?
- Does our messaging fail to activate current and future buyers?
Instead of answering these questions with research, you might be tempted to just go with your gut. However, we would advise against that: the cost of message testing research is minor compared to the cost of failed messaging. With solid messaging testing research in hand, you can ensure that every interaction you have with a prospect or customer is set up for success.
What Can Go Wrong Without Message Testing
Unfortunately, B2B technology companies are repeat offenders when it comes to poorly constructed messaging. Here are just a few ways that B2B tech gets it wrong and why it’s important to do your homework first.
Alienating Buyers With Wrong Terminology
In B2B tech, a single term or phrase can elicit two completely different reactions from two different technical audiences.
One example is the recent proliferation of no-code or low-code software platforms. While these solutions can enable a wide range of users to build applications and solve business problems, it can be tricky to message these platforms correctly.
For example, IT and LoB professionals react to the phrase “no-code” in completely different ways. IT personas are typically very comfortable using this term in their everyday interactions. Because it’s standard terminology for them, including “no-code” in messaging geared toward IT personas is generally a safe approach.
For LoB professionals, however, the phrase “no-code” can elicit confusion. This is not a term that they would typically use in day-to-day interactions. Therefore, including “no-code” in marketing materials geared toward this audience would not be an effective strategy.
Do you know how each of your target personas responds to a key phrase in your messaging? You might inadvertently be alienating an entire group of buyers. Message testing research can help you understand if you’re speaking clearly from the start.
Steer Clear of Clichés
To mitigate the risk of turning away potential customers, stay away from clichés whenever possible. Although some readers may react neutrally or even positively to them, many others do not.
As an example, one of our clients, somewhat sadly, wanted to use the phrase “well-oiled machine” in their messaging. While some personas thought it was great because they were familiar with the term and knew what it meant, many others described it as “cheesy” and a “turnoff.”
Positive Words > Negative Words
Negative words often elicit an adverse response from customers. For example, one of our clients wanted to use the phrase “reducing risk” in their messaging. Even though our client was attempting to convey a positive attribute, many potential buyers became alerted as it implied risks were involved if this vendor were chosen. This caused them to have a negative reaction to the message.
To counteract this perception, we encourage our clients to use a positive word rather than negate a negative word. In the above example, using the term “trustworthy” led to a much better outcome.
Differentiators That Aren’t Different
A strong B2B messaging framework requires differentiators that set your product or solution apart from the competition. To establish differentiators that are actually powerful, be very specific about what makes your product or solution unique, and why potential customers need something new. Otherwise, people will wonder what’s wrong with their current product or solution.
Clearly stating what your solution does and how it solves a problem differently than any other solution on the market is a critical step in establishing a successful messaging framework.
Buzzwords Are Not A Differentiator
Be careful of certain terms and phrases that catch on like wildfire and then linger on for years. Buzzwords like “digital transformation” or “robust ecosystem” have been used so frequently by so many different companies in recent years that they no longer mean much of anything anymore.
IT buyers want to hear specifically what your solution does and why it is unique. Unfortunately, they lose confidence in your solution if it includes the same generic buzzwords they’ve heard used to describe five other similar solutions.
At the same time, buyers don’t want you to invent your own terms that no one has heard of before, especially if it’s not intuitive enough to immediately make sense. With limited time to capture their attention, buyers need to know exactly what a phrase means.
Leaving Potential Buyers With No Clear CTA
One of the simplest yet most detrimental mistakes that a marketer can make is leaving out an explicit call to action in their messaging. No matter how compelling the rest of the message is, having no clear CTA is a surefire way to guarantee that a potential buyer will not reach out.
For example, when we’ve tested messaging for clients that didn’t include a clear CTA, we received responses such as “I don’t know what you want me to do with this.” Or, that the message seemed “truthful but neutral, because there’s no call to action.”
Fortunately, this is a quick and easy fix. Even adding a simple CTA such as “Contact Us” or “Learn More” shows readers exactly what their next step should be after reading the message.
Undermining Your Credibility With Overstatements
All-or-nothing language like “everyone,” “nothing,” or “all the time” will raise red flags for a lot of buyers. Instead of using vague terminology that can appear as an exaggeration, try to be as specific as possible. What percentage of people use it? How many hours per week? What percentage of the time?
Similarly, using hyperbolic statements that position your solution or product as “the best ever” isn’t going to work. Companies should rarely claim that their solution is the only one capable of solving a problem. Most of the time, there will be some other solution or product on the market that does something similar. Instead, companies should simply show their buyers the way that their solution solves the specific problems it was designed to solve.
Saying Too Many Things To Too Many People
It is incredibly difficult to address all your target personas’ needs in one set of messages. Instead, build out different messages for each persona you target.
For example, many messages in B2B tech need to be addressed to both IT and LoB leaders. However, these two personas typically want to know different things. IT leaders want to know what pain points you are solving and how it will work for them. Business buyers want to know what your solution looks like at a more conceptual level as well as the ROI of the solution. Instead of speaking to all of these concerns in a single set of messages, marketers should create two distinct messages for each persona.
Messaging That is Too Long
Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write you a shorter letter, so I wrote you a long one.” This exact problem plagues tech companies all the time. In an effort to deal with every possible question, they stuff their messaging with answers, capabilities, and pronouncements. Unfortunately, this bloat dilutes your messaging, causing buyers to lose sight of what it is your solution actually does, or worse, lose interest altogether.
We regularly advise our clients to make messages short and crisp. Doing so might lead to questions, but that’s what you are there to answer. In the end, intriguing buyers to learn more is the first step toward selling your product or solution.
Clarity Clears the Way
The number of messages an average buyer sees today is overwhelming. In addition to the roughly 4,000 – 10,000 ads that a typical person sees a day, B2B buyers also need to wade through countless other forms of communication: emails, webinars, Google search results, proposals, thought leadership pieces, and more.
With this constant barrage of noise surrounding them, it can be nearly impossible for B2B marketers to cut through the clutter and deliver a message that actually resonates with a buyer. To have a chance at being successful, marketers need to speak the buyer’s language and deliver a clear, concise, and focused message that speaks to the root of their concerns.
Unfortunately, B2B technology companies often fail at breaking through the noise. Instead, they have the tendency to fall into many of the common pitfalls we’ve described above.
To ensure your messaging resonates, take a good look through your current and future planned messaging assets. Ask yourself: Do any of the scenarios above appear in our messaging? If so, it’s time for message testing research.
With 15 years of experience in B2B tech market research, Cascade Insights can help you deliver messaging that cuts through the clutter. Learn more about our Message Testing Research here.
Special thanks to Laurie Pocher, Senior Research Analyst, and Scott Swigart, President & CTO, for advising on this piece.