Have you ever been around someone who has trouble articulating their thoughts and feelings? Perhaps they get a little tongue-tied or simply can’t find the right words?
Often times brands find themselves in this situation. Bubbling with great ideas and catchy phrases, but unable to spread that message to their fans and followers. Sometimes this warrants a few head-scratches; why aren’t we being heard? While the answer may be quite simple (i.e. you are speaking utter jibberish), many brands struggle to find their downfalls in messaging.
Here are the top five mistakes that brands make all over the globe while marketing according to Leyl Master Black of American Express OPEN Forum. Browse the list and perhaps your company might be making one of these mistakes:
1. Not speaking directly to your customers’ values
Undoubtedly, you could list off 5,305,323 reasons why your product should be the top dog in its industry. You could ramble on about your favorite features and how it could change your life and so on and so forth.
Unfortunately, all of that doesn’t matter. Well, it does. But not totally.
All to often, brands make marketing strategies around what they believe are the top qualities of their product without actually consulting their customers’ opinions. For example, if you sold mini-vans, you might initially market the speed of the engine and the air conditioner and the gas mileage, because, in your opinion, those are features that your customers should value. On the other hand, you might find that what your customers truly value is the low cost and whether or not it is safe for their families. A-ha!
Figure out what matters to your customers and run to it. Black suggests surveying your customers either in person, over the phone, over email, or electronically at checkout (online) and find out what truly matters to them. Don’t be afraid of revamping your messaging entirely for your customers.
2. Relying too heavily on buzz words
As a disclaimer, yes. Buzzwords are important. In fact, they can have your company going viral. But! Companies are beginning to lean a little too hard on them. Their pages are starting to sound robotic and words like ‘mompreneur’ and ‘big data’ and ‘slow food’ are beginning to be background noise for customers.
Think of buzz words like salt on your vegetables. A little salt can go a long way but as soon as you start over-salting, you might as well throw the whole dish out. Yuck. Unless you have a severe sodium deficiency…in which case, over-salt! Please! But that’s beside the point.
3. Failing to make your messages portable
There are a handful of books and movies that are impossible to explain. Too many plot twists and character changes and the women are both robots and bi-products of a microchip malfunction? (Get that Stepford Wives reference? Anyone? Anyone?)
Black gives the advice to make your messages portable and develop a ‘logline’ — a summary of your business in 50 words or less. She gives examples of short movie summaries that Hollywood uses: “A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love abroad an ill-fated voyage at sea.” Bam. Short. Sweet. Concise.
What is the log-line for your business? Some examples of portable messaging are…
- “an accounting firm that deals exclusively with small business-audits”
- “a small-town bakery that specializes in Vegan pastries”
- “an online boutique PR agency notorious for launching hot emerging tech companies”
…you following? You don’t want your log-line to be a mouth full.
After you’ve got your logline, go back through your marketing copy and business plan and make sure these simple messages come through loud and clear. Use your logline itself on your website, social media properties, in conversations, and in your marketing materials.
4. Forgetting to excite
Much of our life is, unfortunately enough, spent in auto-pilot. Unexciting breakfast followed by an uneventful drive to work followed by a lunch that was anything but memorable followed by…well, you get the point.
As marketers, you need to grab your customers by the shoulders and shake them (metaphorically, of course). Make your marketing messaging exciting and infuse it with action verbs that make your fans want to get up and do something. Forget the passive voice, jump into the now.
Black uses the example of great action-oriented messaging from the cleaning product company Method:
“It’s time to clean happy with biodegradable products that clean like heck, smell like heaven and leave nothing nasty in their wake.”
Awww, you are feeling more alive already. Right?
5. Messaging by committee
It’s kind of inevitable that when you fill a small conference room with senior managers for a messaging session, there are going to be some severely mixed opinions and voice that need to be heard. It just is. While this may seem like a great way to get everyone involved, it is also a great way to create a very diluted and boring marketing message like this one:
“Our mission is to help innovative leaders in the CPG industry increase the velocity of their business and drive engagement with their social communities to inspire meaningful change.”
…huh? While the aforementioned is full of powerful, business language…it essentially means nothing to customers. Black describes this mission statement as one that is suffering from ‘whiteboardities’ which is the inflammation that occurs when someone crams everything from the whiteboard into one sentence.
Simplify your mission statement and, going back to tip #4, make it more of a log-line. In simple language, what exactly does your company do? Keep your mission statements short and focused.
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Now, go on! Improve your messaging! Yes, improve. Every company has room for improvement – even Fortune 500 companies make these mistakes. Aim for messaging that doesn’t sound robotic or like it was fused together in some underground lab. Be straightforward, stay true to your customers’ values, and be concise.
Oh, and good luck!