In this interview, Howard Sewell, President of Spear Marketing, talks with Michael Cannon, CEO of the Silver Bullet Group and an expert on messaging effectiveness and enabling B2B companies to engage customers with the most influential communications.
Howard Sewell (HS): What defines great marketing content? Now that most marketing departments are tasked with also being content publishers, is it too much to ask that marketing content enable the customer’s buying process?
To answer these questions, I sat down recently with messaging expert Michael Cannon (MC) to get his insight on how companies can improve results from programs like inbound marketing, demand generation, and lead nurturing by creating more influential marketing content.
HS: In the agency business, we see first-hand the struggles that clients face to create a steady stream of compelling content. However, as much as a lack of content can bring programs like demand generation and lead nurturing to a halt, worse yet is content that simply isn’t relevant to the target audience. Besides the issue of sheer volume of content, what do you think is the main reason for the lack of relevant content?
MC: The primary reason content is not relevant is because highly persuasive messaging is not created first, and then integrated into the content via the copywriting/creative process. What this means is that messaging and content must be seen as two separate deliverables. Very few people make this distinction and create persuasive messaging first.
HS: How is messaging different from content?
MC: Messaging is a summary answer to the prospective customer’s primary and secondary buying questions – the key points that must be communicated to convince a person to engage and buy. Messaging is integrated into content via copywriting and the creative process and integrated into sales conversations by way of the communicator. Content includes collateral, demand generation, sales tools, and sales/channel support training. It is delivered in the form of documents, audio, and video. When you define messaging and content in this way, it enables the creation of much more effective content.
HS: How should a company’s marketing message and their sales message be different, if at all?
MC: In my view, the notion that marketing and sales use different messaging is indicative of why many companies have a customer communication problem. If both teams are talking to customers, then it’s logical that they should both use the same messaging — customer messaging. With this approach, what you discover is that customer communication, be that messaging, content, and/or sales conversations, is easily grouped into distinct categories, styles, and types.
Take a look at this customer communications model. The model makes it easy to understand what the communication problems are and how to fix them. As you see, most content created by Marketing is in the categories of company, solution, and product. They typically do not create market-segment content, which is where the Customer and Sales spend most of their time. And, the predominant communication style is descriptive. The content is mostly about “what” and “how”.
For example, most product communication describes what the product does, how it works, and includes a listing of undifferentiated features and benefits. Persuasive communication, on the other hand, contains the “why” content. It provides clear, relevant, differentiated, and provable answers to the buyer’s primary buying questions, such as:
- “Why should I meet with you?”
- “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?”
- “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?”
These “why” questions are at the heart of every customer communication.
What the model tells us is that Marketing must create both descriptive and persuasive messaging first — then deploy these messaging styles into the content. This enables Marketing and Sales to engage customers with content and conversations that are highly integrated and influential. This is how they work together to create and win more opportunities.
HS: What are the biggest mistakes B2B marketers make when developing their messaging?
MC: I’d say the big ones are:
1) Not defining the categories, styles, and types of customer messaging needed to align with and enable the customer’s buying process
2) Not segmenting and tuning the messaging for the most important audiences, market segments, and buyer types
3) Not communicating in clear, relevant, differentiated, and provable business language why the company/product is the best solution to the customer’s business challenges (See link to examples below)
The reason I think these mistakes are made is because the marketing profession has not yet adopted a formal methodology for how to define, create, and deploy highly persuasive messaging nor a set of objective criteria to determine if the messaging is good, prior to market testing and launch. That’s where firms like ours can help.
Resources to Implement the Most Influential Customer Communications
Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned marketing and sales effectiveness expert, best-selling author, speaker and an authority on enabling B2B companies to engage customers with the most influential communications. For more information, visit silverbulletgroup.com.