Post written by
Robert Neely is the Director of Marketing at Lima One Capital in Greenville, SC.
Do you want to know the secret of creating marketing messages that strike a chord with your customers?
Do you want your brand communications to incite back-and-forth conversations that lead people down the funnel toward purchases and long-term relationships?
Of course you do. These things are vital to the ultimate success of a business. But far too often, businesses find it incredibly hard to strike the balance between what customers want to hear and what they need to hear — and the result is marketing messages that fall flat.
It’s communication that’s full of sound and fury but signifies nothing.
Companies should not settle for this. Instead, they must actually speak their customers’ language while communicating a mutually beneficial message.
My experience is that businesses struggle to do this for one (or more) of these three reasons.
A business doesn’t know its customers well enough to speak their language (especially when it comes to segmentations and distinct personas).
If you don’t know who your customers are or what makes them unique, then you’ll find it nearly impossible to connect with them. This may be a generational gap, such as a bunch of nearly retired baby boomers trying to create messages designed for millennials.
More likely, the challenge is creating messages in the specific vernacular of a customer segment. This is what our company runs into more frequently. The way a first-time real estate investor thinks and speaks is different than how a veteran speaks, and it’s different still from how a commercial mortgage broker speaks. For our message to be heard, we must understand and speak the language of each type of customer, and make sure to get the right message to each of them.
A business doesn’t communicate a message that really benefits the customer.
This seems like an obvious statement, but throughout my career, I’ve seen too many businesses get so consumed with their growth strategies that they lose sight of what makes their products or services valuable to customers. For example, a company can get so obsessed with selling a subscription service for revenue purposes that it forgets to consider whether customers actually want to buy their products in that manner. No matter how well the business describes the monthly subscription, the message simply won’t resonate.
One sure sign that a business is struggling with this kind of disconnect with the customer can be found on their website. Are the main sections determined by company divisions? Or are they designed in a way that matches how customers think about the products?
A communications leader needs to be relentless about helping corporate leaders look past the strategic plan and connect initiatives to real customer needs. Otherwise, the company is going to pollute the market with ineffective messages and dilute its overall brand perception.
A business focuses so much on a customer-focused message that it undercuts business strategy.
Some businesses swing so far the other direction in telling customers what they want to hear that it leads to unsustainable business models. Think of MoviePass, which burst onto the scene with an offer for customers to see as many movies as they wanted for a low monthly fee. The offer was too good: The business model failed, and the company shut down just two years later.
Business leaders must realize that they can’t just tell customers what they want to hear because that message isn’t mutually beneficial. Sometimes, the customer isn’t right, and a business has to enforce its terms of service or decline an application.
The job of a communications or marketing professional is to lead a company in striking the balance between telling customers what they want to hear and what they need to hear. It’s not always easy to bridge this gap, but it’s vital.
Here are four tips that our company uses to speak our customers’ language and communicate a mutually beneficial message.
Tip 1: Get to know your customers — all of them.
It’s shocking how many corporate leaders create business strategies that aren’t based on what actual customers want. It happens because companies don’t know their customers, or the knowledge of the customer never gets beyond the sales force or the call center. Companies need to have a clear picture of who their customers are.
Don’t just fall for demographic breakdowns giving an average customer age or education or income level. Make sure you know who your different kinds of customers are. Do you have three major types of customers? Five? Nine? Know the answer, and know about each type.
Tip 2: Don’t try everything at once.
If you don’t have good communications for each of your customer segments, pick a specific segment as a place to start. Get good at content marketing for that particular segment. It’s better to take an incremental approach than it is to do everything at once. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck with surface-level communication that doesn’t solve the problem.
Tip 3: Choose mutual benefit over personal brand.
Personal branding is all the rage, but it’s only effective communication if it benefits your customer. If your personal brand is about celebrating relationships or sharing valuable insight, great. But if it’s not mutually beneficial, then it’s probably not worth your investment.
Tip 4: Measure success objectively.
How will you know if your communication is successful? Pick a set of numbers that gives you insight, and use it to evaluate what you’re doing. Use the data to make things better.
One bonus tip here: Don’t just look at engagement numbers, such as likes or comments on social media or website traffic. Pick numbers that actually demonstrate a true connection to customers — whether that is sales, a specific type of inquiry or appointment, etc. Engagement numbers can be really noisy without actually impacting the bottom line, so move further down the marketing funnel, and pick metrics that measure what matters to your business.