Customers Care Only When Your Message Is Relevant, Resonant
No one can win customers by spouting messages people don’t care about. Only a relevant, resonant message can break through to customers. As adman David Ogilvy said, “You cannot bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them in buying your product.”
Imagine that you’re in the business of selling cars. One competitor’s message is: they’ve been selling cars in your town for 20 years. Another competitor points at a new car and tells a customer, “See that car? It was delivered here by train.”
Customers respond to such messages with indifference: So what? Who cares? It’s not a relevant, resonant message.
Irrelevant messages get ignored and forgotten
They don’t merit attention since they don’t answer customers’ questions or solve real problems.
If your competitors are broadcasting irrelevant messages, that spells an opportunity for you. Create a relevant, resonant Message Map that puts customers first, shows empathy for them, addresses their pain points and problems and guides them to relief and success.
Irrelevant messages happen when brands don’t know their audiences, what people care about or what language they speak. The more intimately you know your audience, the more relevant your strategic message will be.
As Daniel Burstein said, “It’s not enough to deliver a remarkable product; one must deliver a remarkable message.”
Embark on a journey to discover your customers fully
- Get to know people in your audience face to face. Spend more time listening than talking. Meet them at their home or workplace so you see each as a whole person in their day-to-day life.
- Show empathy. Find out how it feels to be in their shoes. Let people see that you genuinely care about them.
- Help customers unselfishly. Guide them to ideas, remedies, and solutions that help them – whether they come from your brand or not.
- Identify people’s problems, pain points, and challenges – as expressed in their own words. Take the time to learn your customers’ language.
When you go to France, it helps to speak French. To add relevance to your message, listen to customers and learn to speak their unique language. People appreciate you learning their language, which helps you see the world the way they do.
The more time you spend face to face with customers, the better you’ll understand their plight and their feelings about problems you can help them solve.
How a B2B brand made its message more relevant
Here’s a business-to-business (B2B) example of how spending time with your customers and learning their unique language pays off.
The research and development team at Selee invented a new product, a filter for the molten iron and steel. It was the world’s first filter tough enough to withstand the thermal shock of molten iron without breaking, at temperatures of 2500oF to 2800oF. The inventors were rightfully proud of their technological triumph.
When the time came to launch the new product to customers, R&D and marketing worked together to frame a message. The first-draft message took a rational approach, explaining how the filter removes virtually all the dirt and gunk from metal, so only clean metal goes into the castings.
Marketing tested the message by going to foundries, meeting customers, showing them ad concepts, and listening for their reactions. Customers were enthusiastic about the new filter, but not for the reasons its inventors imagined.
Customers saw the filters as a way to avoid unnecessary work – specifically, the need to rework flawed castings. When molten metal poured into a casting includes dirt, a welder has to rework the casting, cut out all the flaws and fix them one by one. Rework delays the schedule, wrecks the workflow, upsets customers, leads to employees working overtime, and cuts into profits.
That’s why foundries hate to rework. It’s surprising how emotional they get about castings that require rework. It’s clearly the bane of any foundry.
After learning this lesson from customers, marketers changed the ad headline to: “Stop reworking for a living.” The new ad reflected an understanding of the customers’ plight, spoke their language, and addressed their pain points in their own words. As a result, the new filter launched successfully.
How to add relevance to your message
To make your message more relevant to customers, teach them something they don’t already know. Identify real needs your customers have but are not yet aware of – their unconsidered needs. Tell customers today about a problem they didn’t know they had, and tonight they’ll stay up worrying about it. Tomorrow they’ll act on it.
By addressing unconsidered needs, you add urgency and uniqueness that make your message stand out in customers’ eyes. A message that focuses on unconsidered needs increases its uniqueness by 50%, a B2B Decision Labs study found.
For example, a contractor came to work on my garage. While up a ladder, he noticed that the flashing around the chimney on my house was coming loose. He asked, “Did you see the problem with your chimney? Is your roof leaking yet?” He pointed to a clearly visible problem, but it was one I hadn’t noticed. Naturally, I hired him immediately to fix it. I appreciated his finding and solving the problem before the roof leaked.
Messages about unconsidered needs are powerful because they overcome people’s natural inertia to provoke immediate action. Once people discover a new problem, they want to solve it quickly.
Experts Embrace Message With New Information
A Nielsen Norman Group study found that experts embrace messages that offer new information they had not considered or heard before. Unlike most other people, experts seek contradictory information, that challenges their existing knowledge or beliefs, as long as it offers substance and credibility.
Experts engage with simple messages, the same study found. Even though they can comprehend hard-to-read text, highly educated online readers crave succinct information that‘s easy to scan, concise and digestible. Simplifying your message increases its relevance, saves experts time, and enlarges your audience of laypersons who can comprehend your message.
Unexpected information and unconsidered needs help overcome people’s inertia, the enemy of making decisions. People put off tasks they feel they can delay – such as starting an exercise program, replacing a roof, or buying a car.
In fact, your brand’s #1 competitor may not be another brand. It may be inertia, customers’ attachment to the status quo, and the way things are.
Inertia affects many business-to-business customers, especially those that appoint a buying committee. Sellers must overcome committees’ natural inertia to get them to render a buying decision. The average-sized B2B buying committee reaches a decision to buy less than half the time. Usually, the status quo prevails because it feels safe.
To move a buying committee off the dime, help them see that they need to make a change now. Show them that:
- The status quo is untenable.
- They will have to pay hidden costs and penalties if they ignore the problem.
- The problem will grow bigger over time.
- Breakdowns can happen if the problem gets ignored.
Address the Customer’s Problem Now
Show customers how you can help them save money and the grief of a breakdown by addressing their problem now. While you need to state a rationale, people will make their decisions emotionally most of the time, so make sure you appeal to their emotions with your change message.
It’s extremely difficult to persuade people to change their minds. As the economist, John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
It’s easier when your job is to tell customers to stick with what they’re already doing now. When your brand is an incumbent that needs to defend your turf against a new challenger, your message must do the job of defending the status quo. To do so, magnify the risks customers will face if they switch brands.
Retain customers by reminding them of the rigorous decision process they went through. Reassure them that they have reached a good decision. Remind them of the benefits they’re getting already. Ask: why would the buyer or buying committee want to go through all the work of vendor selection again, given the uncertainties it creates?
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