Getting on Message in Marketing and Sales

We’ve all seen the ad that lists features and boasts great value. Are we sold? Not really. On the other hand, great ads get my attention and keep me thinking about them until I’m persuaded to do something.

One of the biggest failings in marketing and sales is the inability of marketing and sales people to first create a sellable message and second to stay on that message. I’m going to focus on the first part and save the second part for later. The art of finding that selling message is at the heart of copywriting and selling. At the end of the day, its the right words heard or read at the right time that motivate customers to buy. Getting to the right message isn’t a matter of just being creative – it’s a matter of knowing your customers well enough to understand what interests them, what motivates them, and in short, why they buy things. Knowing your customers that well goes back to that age-old secret of success, my proven wealth-building strategy – work.

You say they won’t talk to you? Why should they unless you offer something interesting to talk about? You have to do the work first, then you get to move to the next step of talking to customers.

If knowing your customers is the path to the right message, and believe me it is, the first thing you have to do is spend time learning about your customers. You need to be aware of all the peripheries of their business. You need to have enough knowledge about them that you can ask them questions that matter to them. Start with the web. Work at building a complete profile of your customer. Dig until you find out the very most important thing about them. The most important thing about them is not how much revenue they make, how profitable they are, how many employees they have, what city they are in, who their customers are, whether they are public or private, how they count their fiscal year… shall I go on. The most important thing about them probably isn’t in that pack of puffery they call a mission statement. The most important thing about them is more important than all of that. In fact, it’s the only thing that matters to you, because it’s the only thing that will result in a sale.

Before I get to that, let me digress into a side area. Way back in the last century, when I was writing proposals for video games and subsequently, designs for video games, I was looking around for some direction. I looked to a near neighbor in the entertainment industry, the movie industry. More specifically, I looked at screen play writing. Come on, I’m not the only writer who fantasizes about writing a script that turns into a block buster movie. What I found out was that it didn’t really matter what a character looked like, where he was from, what he wore, how he talked, and a myriad of other things hack writers worry about. All those things are just mechanisms to support the most important aspect of the character. That, of course is what the character wants – “what’s my motivation.” The wants and desires of the characters are what really drive a good movie, play, or novel. Notice, it’s not what the character needs – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid needed to lay low and quit robbing people – it’s what the character wants – they wanted to get rich and enjoy the good life without working 30 years to get it. Sometimes needs and wants align; that’s moral drama. Sometimes they don’t; that’s still drama.

Customers are no different. The most important thing about them, the only thing that will lead to a sale, is what they want and desire. In fact, it’s the only thing that will interest them enough to talk to you. In all your digging and searching, that is the thing you have to find.

Have you found it yet?

Let me give you a hint. If they are in business, what they want most is the same thing that motivated you to reach out to them. They want to make more money. That means two things: profit and productivity. But don’t stop there because you still have to understand how they make money. You need to understand their business enough to understand how you can help them make more money or be more productive.

So is that your message? How you can help them make more money or be more productive. Almost.

Lets take it one step further. Now that you know all about your customer, you need to get to know your customer. Talk to them. Don’t talk to them as a salesman, not yet. Talk to them as a marketer who wants to understand their needs in very specific terms. Yes, I used the word needs. You have to start off talking about needs, because expressing ones wants and desires comes off as self-centered. If you talk about needs first, you can follow-up with off-the-record questions about wants. You will be surprised at how much people open up to you when you are a marketer instead of a salesman. Marketers find out what people want and provide it. Salespeople sell stuff. People hate to be sold. I know I do. So don’t sell them while wearing your marketer hat. Thank them. Take what you’ve learned and use it to create a first-rate selling message.

Before you click back to Google because I said salespeople sell stuff, know that I am a salesman. Have been for years. I sell stuff. Typical salespeople try to sell the same stuff to everybody. I find out what people want and sell them that. There is a huge difference. And my selling message is part of that difference.

One quick note on a first-rate selling message: It can only be sustained if you have a first-rate, valued product. Be honest. If your product is crap, find customers who really value crap or get a better product. (If you find someone who wants to buy crap, actual crap, I have four horses who do nothing but make crap).

Ad firms talk a lot about engaging the customer, grabbing attention, etc. I think of beer commercials during the Super Bowl. They entertain, but they really just reinforce a preference someone already has. I’m entertained, but I still don’t drink beer. My dad’s entertained, but he doesn’t change brands. Most companies don’t have the budget to build ads that entertain current customers. They need ads, brochures, websites, and other outreach that presents a message that sells. A message that sells is engaging and attention grabbing because it talks about what matters most to the customer.

Let’s sum up your selling message:

  • It deals with your customer what your customer wants.
  • For a business, it deals with your customer making more money through profit or productivity.
  • It shows that you understand their business because it recognizes how they get what they want, or how they increase profits.
  • It shows your product’s superior ability to fill their want or increase profits.
  • It is engaging because it talks about them.

I’ve kind of skipped over adapting the message to different media, but the first thing, the important thing, is to get the selling message that works.