Product messaging to B2B audiences is challenging. Marketers need to convey complex messages in simple but compelling terms. Here are five recommendations that will help you in the initial stages of message development, when decisions about message content, benefits and value propositions are made.
- Understand your audience
- Focus your message
- Make it credible
- Use ROI messages with care
- Consider your brand’s position in the market
1. Understand your audience: This simple piece of advice yields powerful results. Doing the homework upfront to understand the target audience translates into messages that resonate and feel relevant to your audience. To determine how well your message connects with your audience ask: Does your target audience conclude from your message that you understand:
The business processes challenges they face relative to your offering?
- How they conceptualize their pains, i.e., lost revenue, risk avoidance, etc?
- Where their current solutions and approaches fall short and where their needs are being met?
- What they see as direct or substitute alternatives?
We are not suggesting that one message must convey all of these themes – they are simply examples of ways to demonstrate an understanding of your audience.
2. Focus your message: The most effective product messages focus on a single audience or type of decision maker. B2B decisions typically involve multiple decision makers, and although they work for the same organizations these audiences experience different priorities and pains and become involved at different points in the decision process. Spreading one message across multiple audiences dilutes its effectiveness and it resonates with none of them. Messages focused on a single audience or decision maker on the other hand enables the message to speak to the themes that resonate most with that audience.
3. Make it credible: All B2B marketers know that credibility is essential to effective product messaging. Being credible is difficult though: Business buyers are dubious of claims regarding ease of use, cost savings and revenues gained. It’s not that they don’t value these attributes; they do and are willing to pay for them. Unfortunately in their experience they have found a gap between what the message claims and what the offer delivers.
The key to developing credible messages is communicating proof points around how your offering delivers the benefits. What does it do differently, what problems does it eliminate, how does it make a business more efficient, etc.? Proof points used in messaging needn’t be highly detailed; they should provide a short, simple answer to the “how” question and invite the target audience to learn more.
Doing your homework at step one to make sure you understand your audience and focusing on them as recommended in step two provides a baseline of credibility to your message: The audience is more likely to believe your claim if you demonstrate that you understand them.
4. Use ROI messages with care: All products and decisions eventually have an impact on the bottom line and ROI messages can be powerful. They can also be overused and ineffective. Here’s why. Although decision makers must cost justify their purchases to get budget ROI doesn’t necessarily drive their initial consideration of a product. They’re typically more interested in general performance improvement. In addition many products and associated business processes are so far removed from the bottom line that they lack a practical connection in terms of cost justification.
If you do use an ROI claim in your messaging, providing concrete examples of how ROI is delivered, e.g., the product enables you to process X-times more orders per hour or it reduces the cost of a specific task by Y% adds credibility to the claim. And, in keeping with recommendations one and three above, make sure the ROI claim demonstrates that you understand the target audience and is credible.
5. Consider your brand’s position in the market: Your brand awareness and reputation shape the extent to which product messaging needs to prove that you understand the target audience or provide proof points. Category leaders can rely, at least to some extent, on their reputation as a surrogate for these things. If your reputation is not as strong, your product messaging needs to communicate that you understand the market as well as the benefits and proof points for the product.
The underlying theme across all of these recommendations is to see the world from your market’s perspective. If you can demonstrate this type of understanding you are more likely to gain credibility in the market’s eyes and more likely to gain consideration. Use these ideas as a check list to evaluate how well current product level messaging resonates with your audience.
This exercise may raise some questions which you may be able to answer with existing internal knowledge. If questions remain, primary research can be a useful tool for developing a better understanding of your messaging and your audience.