You don’t have to be a “trekkie” to know that the continuing mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise was to “boldly go where no one has gone before.” In the same vein, one could say that marketing leaders – much like Captain Kirk or Captain Picard – are navigating a similar path.
While marketers don’t face asteroids, droids, or alien encounters, the stakes of their mission are just as high — if not higher. After all, marketing leadership turnover is at an all-time high. When it comes to the business world, success or failure often falls squarely on the shoulders of the head of marketing. And without the right gas in the proverbial marketing engine, the path will be bumpy…and short.
The fuel for the marketer’s journey? Core messaging – that tightly-woven, memorable grouping of nouns and verbs designed to trigger in consumers an action that rings the cash register.
I recently sat down with Traci Philips, known as “The Innate Coach,” a leadership and performance strategist who supports a wide array of business executives. We chatted about the core messaging paradigm – how to create it, what it should do to the recipient of the message, how success is measured, and so forth.
For marketing leaders of a certain age (to which neither Traci nor I will confirm or deny), branding used to be very much a hand-to-hand type of fight. That discipline of old school marketing was pretty simple: Find the pain point, push the pain point to convince the consumer they need you, and they would come flocking through the doors.
Today, with so many channels, methods, and pathways to send and deliver messages, “convincing” no longer works. Consumers know how to categorize their pain, and they drive the dialogue to overcome it. The goal as we upgrade our messaging today? Invite prospects into a space that they want to be invited to.
Getting it right is part art and part science – and a subject discussed in Traci’s book, “Looking In” – specifically – how can we create both security and surety in the unknown with our message? How can we help prospects emerge from a world of chaos into the relative safety of our offering?
Traci and I agreed that we can focus this process on a critical path, made up of the following steps:
Map the Journey First: The mistake many business owners make is that they simply swing away, using tactical tools like words and pictures, derived from a combination of imagination and a gut feeling. But not much else. What’s missing is a critical core messaging exercise containing insightful understanding of the prospective buyers’ journey – how they will travel from point A to point B in the marketplace. Think of it this way – the tactical approach is to slap on a Band-Aid and hope the boo-boo goes away; the buyer mapping process is more like a precise surgical procedure that fixes the underlying issue. Because the issue is well understood.
Know Where They’re Looking: Today’s buyer is loaded down with digital tools, and long before they cast a glance in your direction, they are checking you out. The digital revolution has simply altered the paradigm for good. So you’ll want to make sure that finding information on your product or service is easy – and that it’s current and dynamic.
Here’s an example – let’s consider a hiker who is in the market for a larger backpack — someone who liked the smaller version that they’ve toted for ages. They start the exploration by searching for the larger item – likely getting reviews, feedback, and product ratings from buyers and social media influencers, and the like. By the time they come to buy, they are a well-educated buyer who is highly enlightened. The point here? You need to understand their journey – what they’re looking for in their research – and how to influence that journey at every point along the way.
A Well-Crafted Message: Ultimately, bad marketing is really noisy – the equivalent of shouting in an already crowded space. How the heck would you EVER hear such a message? Remember, your consumer doesn’t want a Band-Aid – they want healing. They want something better. It’s your job to deliver the message with charm and grace – an artfully-constructed, fully aware block of content that stands out from all the noise.
Engage with Authority: I was recently in the market for hiking pants and wanted not just to understand what the manufacturer said, but what actual wearers thought. The company’s website featured opinions from third-party influencers – including one, who, like me, is a serious hiker. He went on to say how he would pay more than the stated price for the pants, because of their performance, handling in bad weather, etc. I quickly shelled out more than I usually would for the premium-priced pants, and sure enough, they were the “bomb” on my last hiking trip – comfortable, able to keep me dry in the rain – just wonderful.
I was thankful that the company had provided objective authoritative experts. As Traci pointed out in our discussion, good core messaging – similar to what this particular company provided – doesn’t just get the basics across, it communicates the EXPERIENCE that the buyer is going to have.
Prospects are done with the obnoxious, the ineffective, and the unclear. It’s a fact of life – you’re not going to put people into a trance and mind-meld them into looking in your direction. Today’s buyer is simply too evolved, and your message has to evolve with them – boldly going where they are headed or getting stuck at the launch platform.
In my next blog, I’ll focus on categories of buyers – separating the “one and done” from the VIPs.
About Traci Phillips:
As an Executive Leadership and Performance Coach, Traci Philips is a trusted adviser to top-performing corporate and entrepreneurial visionaries. She supports her clients to understand and honor their unique genius, needs, methods and principals and to practice better communication, resolution strategies, decision-making and leading during times of change and when the stakes are high.