I hate to say this, but your carefully crafted marketing message isn’t enough.
I know you spent hours working on it, and even more hours thinking about how you want your target audience to perceive your company. I know you’ve asked your customers what they like best about you and built your key messages around those elements. I know the messages look and sound exactly how you want them to. You’ve even created the perfect tagline—one that everyone, including your CEO, likes.
But if you really want to resonate with your audience, that’s still not good enough.
It’s a hard truth to swallow. When you work so hard on developing a message that you believe will resonate with your target audience, you feel invested in every word, every turn of phrase. I’ve been there—years ago, I spent weeks on new messaging for the company I was working for. I took into consideration what we wanted to sell, who our target audience was, what the sales team and support team had heard about us from customers, and how I wanted to project our brand. The new messaging was to live on our website, transition into our sales collateral, and to be used in the field. It was the pivot point for how we sold ourselves.
Imagine my heartbreak when our marketing consultant pulled out a spreadsheet comparing our new messaging to the messaging our competitors were using. It’s all the same, she said. You’re all saying the same thing.
The Problem with Messaging
Unless you’re in the unique position of being the only company in the market doing what you’re doing, you have competitors. Your competitors are your competitors because they are solving the same problems that you are. This isn’t industry specific or unique to B2B or B2C marketers—this is all of us. Someone else is doing what you’re doing, and they probably thought about messaging that solution just like you have:
- What do our customers/prospects say about us?
- What do we want people to feel about us?
- What are the benefits of what we sell?
- Who is our ideal audience?
Here’s the downside—if you’re solving the same problem, the likelihood that you and your competitors will have the same answers to the above questions is realistically quite high. That means you’re all telling the market the same thing. Thus, consumers will buy from you or they will buy from your competitors, but the decision to do so is more likely to be based on something you don’t want, like price or existing relationships, rather than something you do want, which is your value proposition.
How to Find Your Own Voice
If you want to be different, you have to know your points of difference. Ideally, you want to collect between five and seven statements that clearly define how what you’re offering is different from what your competitors are offering. You’ll need an overarching tagline as well, which should encompass what you really want to be for your customers.
Collecting feedback from your existing customers and prospects is a great place to start, as is determining who you want to be in the marketplace you sell in. If you’ve already created messaging, then you probably have some of this information on hand.
To be truly different, however, you have to know how what you want to say compares to what your competitors are already saying.
Where to Start
Fortunately, websites have made research into competitor messaging super easy. Start the process by building a spreadsheet with the following headers:
- Company Name
- Services and/or Products
First things first: put yourself at the top. From there, add in as many competitors as you can.
Company Name—Put in your top five competitors, but don’t stop there. A good list should try to hit 10 potential competitors, even if you’re only peripherally competing (your customers may not know that).
Tagline—What’s the biggest message on their website? Or what’s the message in the logo?
Benefits—What messages are being pushed the most? This section will probably need bullets, some of which will be sentences and some that may be general ideas. The best places to look for these key messages (their points of difference) will be on the About Us page or on the home page.
Services/Products—It’s always helpful to list out what your competitors are selling so that you know where you fit. Maybe you’re selling the same things with a different name, or maybe you’re offering services/products they aren’t offering.
Target—Some companies will describe their target audience on their website and some won’t. The ones who do make this task much easier. The ones who don’t require a little more consideration. Try to imagine who you think they’ve created content for, whether that’s a specific demographic, an industry, or something else altogether.
Once you’ve collected this information, crunch the numbers and try to find themes. What are the common through lines? Are there trends you can identify (for example, in marketing, you’ll see quite a few agencies refer to “data-driven” or “results-driven”).
Pivot, Pivot, Pivot!
Now you know what you want to say and how it compares to what your competitors are saying. This is where the challenge begins: how can you simultaneously say what you think is important to sell what you want to sell without saying it in the same way your competitors are saying it?
Admittedly, it’s not an easy task, but it’s a necessary one. If you want your message to truly resonate with your target audience, being different takes work, but the payoff is big: if you can find that special thing that makes your business different from all the rest, that’s a launch point for your sales and your marketing. Buyers want to know how you’re different from your competitors, and you’ll have an answer that’s based on value, not price or relationships.
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