Do you remember the scene in Good Will Hunting in which Sean (the psychiatrist played by Robin Williams) repeatedly says to Will (Matt Damon), “It’s not your fault”? Will keeps replying, “I know,” yet Sean continually repeats “It’s not your fault” until things get more tense, a bit awkward and then finally it all sinks in and a strong connection is made.
Experienced B2B marketers have been playing the part of Sean for years by repeatedly insisting “our messaging is not about us,” yet many senior managers have been playing the part of Will by replying “I know”—but do they really know? Take a look around, so many companies have missed the mark by not aligning the messaging for their products and services with the actual needs of their target customers and prospects.
So where is the disconnect? Why do so many companies continue to approach messaging like a bad blind date, in which one person brags the entire time and the other person cannot wait to leave? For some companies, it’s not having a person with true marketing expertise in leadership, or worse yet, having leaders from all different departments thinking that they are marketing experts. In other cases, the marketing department is under pressure to tell the company’s full story at every single point of contact with a prospect. At the core, however, the problem is simple: the message should not be for the company, it’s for the company’s audience. It’s not about what the product or services can do, but rather, what the product or services can do to fulfill the audiences’ needs or wants. This is difficult to do if your messaging is a description of what you offer.
Does anyone disagree with Michael LeBoeuf when he wrote “Every company's greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company?” Probably not, yet, repeatedly we see companies revert back to talking about themselves and not their customers.
A few might be thinking “Chris, wait a sec, you don’t understand. We have to tell people that we are a ’quality innovative solutions provider.’” Sure, but that can be done by focusing on the audience’s challenges and how quality, innovative solutions solve those challenges.
“But enough about me, let's talk about you... what do YOU think of me?“
- CC Bloom (Beaches 1988)
Seeing the Difference
Take a look at how this customer-focused messaging worked for FedEx back when it was Federal Express. Which one of these messages connects better with the audience?
Notice that they both say the same thing, except one is forgettable and focuses on what the company does while the other is focused on what the audience needs and feels. Thirty years later and people still remember this impactful nine-word slogan.
The Real Challenge – Creating Interest
Howard Gossage, a well-known 20th century marketer, once wrote “People don’t read ads—they read what interests them, and sometimes it is an ad.” In other words, just because your company writes or says something does not mean that your audience will read or listen to it. If you want your audience to notice you, then talk about what is of interest to your audience.
For stronger and more impactful messaging that you and you management will love, keep these timeless principles of marketing in mind.
Remember, if you keep your messaging focused on your audience you’ll create a stronger connection with your target audience, and who knows, maybe you’ll get that second date.