December 14, 2022 / Marjoram
Why speaking the same way to everybody ends up speaking to nobody.
Everything you do in marketing comes down to the messages you send. How you communicate those can be a make-or-break scenario for your marketing and sales efforts. However, because you likely sell into multiple verticals or segments, a one-size-fits-all messaging strategy is not going to work.
Using a B2C example, Volvo has established safety as core to who they are. When people think of Volvo, they think safety. But as they speak to different consumer profiles, they also highlight other characteristics important to that segment. They may want to target consumer groups interested in performance or fuel efficiency or environmental impact. For these audiences, safety might be PART of the story, but it’s not THE story.
In the B2B space, we’re not just talking to different audience profiles, but sometimes entirely different market verticals (and often about entirely different products, too). So how do you target them all in a more effective way while also staying true to who you are as a brand?
In my experience, ineffective communications to multiple verticals can be traced back to three problem areas:
- Complexity – the curse of knowledge
- Vagueness – generic (or worse, jargon-y) language
- Understanding – knowing the difference
1. The Curse of Knowledge for Complex B2B Brands
The “curse of knowledge” is the erroneous idea that just because we know and understand something, everyone else must understand it, too. B2B industrial and ingredient brands are notorious for this. They tend to talk only about themselves and the things they make, in bombastic, complicated ways.
In this egotistical marketing approach, the prospect is forced into a conversation they’re not ready for. They’re spending all their effort just trying to understand what you do, when all they really want to know is that you understand their problem and you know how to help them.
Simplicity is key here. Keep everything short and sweet and allow the prospect to dig for more information at their own pace. When the alternative is incomprehensible jargon, plain speaking stands out.
2. Broad, Vague, Meaningless Language
Sometimes, it’s not a technical complexity issue, it’s more of a platitude issue. Too many nonsense statements that mean absolutely nothing. Best-in-class, global leader, innovative solutions, and so on: all great examples of blank, useless language. These self-congratulatory platitudes are the marketing equivalent of the generic motivational posters that used to hang in the office break room.
Superficial, overused banality won’t help your prospects understand and certainly won’t help you stand out. Simplify. Address their need. That’s it.
Confine the lofty, aspirational language to brand messaging. For product and market vertical messaging, be all about the specific problems you’re solving and how you’re (actually, helpfully) different from the competition.
3. Understanding the Difference
Every market vertical is different. The challenges faced by the aerospace market, for example, are completely different to those of industrial concrete. If you sell to both markets, you need to understand the specific pain points of each, and how your product is uniquely suited to help.
Getting to the heart of the single core messaging idea that will resonate with a particular vertical takes time and effort. Just talking about what you do is not enough: you must ask the right questions of the right people—and keep asking them. Many potential customer issues have multiple levels of complexity. It’s important to keep digging to uncover the right insights.
A Path Towards Clarity
So, how do you take something dauntingly complex and distill it down to multiple verticals? How do you make it easier to convey, easier to understand, and easier to organize for multiple audiences?
We use a waterfall framework, and it begins at the very top (brand level) then works its way down toward the tactical level and specific touchpoints.
First Stop: The Brand Message Level
The foundational element for all your marketing communications is the Brand Message. If this top-level message is solid and understandable, it can be articulated down to different markets, products, or services through a messaging framework. If the top-level message is ineffective, complex, or worse, non-existent, then you can be sure the same will hold true as you travel down to the tactical campaigns.
Next Stop: The Product or Service Level
Once you’ve mapped the brand variables, it’s time to move to the product or service level. What are the key benefits your product offers to these verticals? At this stage, it’s easy to swap benefits for features in your communications—but you must try to resist.
Features are important information, to be sure, but not initially when benefits will map to the prospects’ needs or concerns far more effectively. Breaking through the din of competitive noise is much easier when your simplified messaging leads with benefits over features.
In other words, don’t bog down your potential prospects with technical details (features) too early. Complexity is not an effective differentiator over the long term, and it fails to build the emotional bridge you’re hoping for. Understanding is more attainable using messages that resonate with your customers on an emotional, as well as logical, level. That’s success.
Moving On Down to the Market Level
Understanding the variables that keep your prospects awake at night is crucial. What are they searching for that only you can provide? What does success look like for them? Can you paint a picture in their minds of what success looks like? What does their competitive landscape look like? What messages are their competitors pushing? What can they claim that’s different? What’s different from vertical to vertical? What’s the same?
Last Stop: Frame the Problem, Not the Solution
Once you’re crystal clear on who you’re speaking to, the last step is to focus on the issues or challenges that each segment wants to resolve. Your messaging should address whatever has these folks taking deep breaths every two seconds. Is it meeting sales goals? Answering tough questions from end users? The company’s reputation? Figure out this mix and your tactical hooks will build themselves.
Targeted messages don’t need to be dry and mechanical. They also don’t need to be so lofty or aspirational that they fly over everyone’s head, either. The right articulation of your brand downstream will create harmony not only between your brand and the product, but between you and your brand teams, too.
What does your product or service make possible?
We champion that. We build on that. We visualize that.
At Marjoram, we empower you to build and share narratives that help you stand out without standing apart. What do you make possible for your customers?
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