MESSAGING WITHOUT PURPOSE IS JUST NOT WORTH IT!
- Does your Marketing Communications Department attend your Strategy meetings?
- Does your Marketing Communications Group meet with your Sales Team and Management on a regular basis?
- Does your Marketing Communications Group understand your products and services conceptually and technically, to fully differentiate them in your target markets?
If you did not state a resounding YES to each of these questions, then there is a strong chance you are not maximizing the impact of your advertising dollars. Many of us as a child played a game where we told a person a story and had them repeat it to another person and that person did the same until the original story was told 5 times. Then the fifth person was asked to recite the story they had heard. We were all amazed by the difference in the original tale. When you heard the story back from the 5th person, did you even recognize it? That’s sort of what happens when you leave your Communications Group on the sidelines and then tell them what should be conveyed to the market. Why would you risk your most valuable opportunity to speak with customers and potential clients to secondhand hearsay?
According to Gartner Inc., Manufacturers in 2013 spent 10.6% of their revenue on Marketing. They were only second to the Media Industry at 12.7% and tied with the Financial Sector. This number climbed to 12% for Manufacturers in 2016. That means a company grossing $1 billion annually, would spend $120 million on Marketing, with a large portion going to advertising. By most standards, that is a hefty investment. Statista further asserts, that all US B2B Marketing & Advertising reached $161 billion in 2016.
It is probably safe to say, that advertising dollars will vary by industry, company size and a company’s stage in its life cycle. However, any way you dice it, it seems advertising is an expensive endeavor. It is also evident through Industry’s advertising investments, that they deem these activities worthwhile. So, the real question is, how best to bring forth the sought-after market outcomes? To do this, we must first understand the constant necessity to promote Who We Are, and our products and services to the marketplace.
In a nutshell, it is imperative to get market messaging right and consistently so because:
- Customers are constantly being marketed to and are hearing competitive messages
- Customers are facing information overload. Your message to them fades over time
- Customers are drawn to the most clear and consistent value proposition at the time
- Customers are willing to pay more for products & services when they understand the value they offer
- Markets are constantly changing and your messaging must keep pace
- The right messaging helps to create the urgency to act, NOW!
Let’s examine two areas where messaging is often misunderstood. First, there is often equivalency drawn between message acknowledgement and message internalization. They are not the same. You may readily note the humor found in Geico commercials and yet have no intention of purchasing. On the other hand, have you noticed that when you’re shopping for a computer, you suddenly pay deeper attention to advertisements showcasing electronics and particularly computers? The reason for this is because you are now part of the target audience. The messaging has relevance. It is no longer background noise or of lukewarm interest. It is being internalized and evaluated.
Like your own experience, companies seeking to strengthen branding, market position and stimulate sales through customer promotion, must first identify, relate and address the needs of their target audience. For Industry, this is an absolute must. It is imperative that a solid and continuously refined market strategy for customer acquisition and retention be in put place and known by all parties required for its execution, and that certainly includes the Marketing Communications organization.
A second area of messaging misconception is that increases in market awareness through promotional efforts translates into successful market messaging. This is not necessarily true. Greater market visibility is most valuable when it reaches the target audience and conveys the value proposition in the language and with content that connects with that audience. Let’s look at a case of out-of-synch messaging.
Keeping this in mind, we should explore the connection between Market Strategy and Communications. Market Strategy is best formulated by researching and evaluating high-potential markets (referred to as Market Analysis) to determine opportunity, organizational fit and key competitive differentiation. This information is then processed to paint a market picture and used to develop tactics to reach aggressive business goals. A powerful and critical aspect of your tactics must be market messaging. To communicate effectively, Market Analysis must be the foundation of market messaging for the following reasons:
- Market Analysis through Segmentation determines the best target markets for the message
- Market Analysis indicates the Customer Buying-Behavior which, in turn, determines the communications message medium and placement that gets results
- Market Analysis provides SWOT analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threat) and the Competitive landscape to assist with a differentiated message that aids in market visibility and solidifying branding
Marketing Communications role is undoubtedly vital in customer pursuit. It is arguably the heartbeat of market positioning and it secures your strategy into the minds of your customer. Communications dictates the medium used, controls promotional timing, develops message content that amplifies the company vision, gauges customer reaction to your messaging and refines it accordingly. As a result, Market Communications is typically a significant part of the Marketing budget.
Hence, it is key to your organization’s success that you to fully utilize your Marketing Communications Team to achieve measurable growth and sustainable prosperity. To begin this process, it is highly recommended that you do the following:
- To enhance market penetration, Marketing Analysis and Marketing Communication Teams should work closely together as a unified and seamless force in the marketplace, using market evaluation as the foundation of messaging.
- There should be regular meetings with Marketing Communications and Management on Market Strategy and any significant directional change with the company.
- A collaborative environment for Communications and Sales must be created, where Sales acts as a source of VOC (voice of customer) information and a as critical part of messaging feedback.
- Ensure Communications personnel are trained (probably at a much higher level than engineers) on your products and services. You cannot effectively communicate what you do not know. And those who know (namely customers), know when the person doing the messaging doesn’t really know.
- Ensure that Communications are aware of their technical resources for complex technology or detailed competitive comparisons, to fine-tune market differentiation.
- Embed Communications persons into all teams that manage markets, products and company strategy. That means Communications is at the meetings and on the information distribution list.
- Finally, solicit Communications feedback on what you’re trying to convey to the market, especially for technical information. Yes, if it’s hard for them to understand the product technical differentiation then it may be for others outside of the organization. Often the final decision-makers on your products have been removed from core technology some time ago or may even come from the Financial or Supply Chain side of the business.
I recently wrote an article on “Building an Awesome Customer Value Proposition.” I hope you had the opportunity to read it. Now is the time to put that targeted, well-developed value proposition you created to use, devising a market message that results in increased visibility, customer internationalization and fruitful market action. In summary, the ultimate goal is to create messaging that is pertinent to today’s market dynamics and which stays abreast of market trends, competitive activity and changing customer preferences while continuing to foster vibrant connections with your most ardent customers. Happy hunting!
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