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Five Myths of Messaging

The topic of messaging continues to be a hot one for marketers – at all levels and across industries. Whether your marketing world is B2C, B2B, or a combination (as it was for me while a CMO), the right words, stories, and pictures can set you apart. Messaging drives differentiation, even without you necessarily having to change your pricing, distribution, people, or product offerings. My definition of messaging is simple: the way people talk about the business. Those people doing the talking certainly includes executives as well as customer-facing workers. But many others could be—or should be—talking about the business. What are “back-office” workers, current customers, alumni, suppliers, and various professional friends saying as well? Some executives find the whole topic of messaging to be a bit soft and mysterious. It does involve varying helpings of strategy, branding, communications, and psychology. Still, effective messaging might be more practical and accessible than you think. The first step might be to leap past a number of false assumptions that hold organizations back from connecting as well as they could. Here are five of the most common and limiting myths I have noticed during the past several years. Messaging Myth 1: Only Extroverts can Excel For a couple of generations, we have been led to believe that gregarious and thick-skinned extroverts are best equipped to “get the word out.” Yet recent research shows that extroverts are neither the most persuasive among us nor the best sales people. Professor Adam Grant at the Wharton School gave personality tests to 340 sales people, then compared their scores to the revenue they generated. The people who are neither introverts nor extroverts (“ambiverts”) earned more than their counterparts on the ends of the scale. That research confirms what I have seen within sales teams, customer-service teams, and lots of other teams. Ambiverts naturally engage in more give-and-take during conversation. The great opportunity for company leaders to recognize is that there are likely more ambiverts around your company than introverts or extroverts—meaning that most of those who know you well are naturally equipped to carry your message. Messaging Myth 2: Companies Need One Voice, From the Top The idea of “one voice” is appropriate during a crisis, when inconsistency and inaccuracy can serve to make the problem of the day even worse. However, much of the opportunity behind effective messaging lies in the horsepower to scale. The goal should be a general consistency in language, tone, and evidence. But it’s best to allow (and even encourage) colleagues and customers to share your message using their own language. Messaging Myth 3: Your Message Needs to be Perfect Some organizations approach their messaging with all the zeal and enthusiasm of someone who is scheduled to be deposed. Sure, there are times when public communications must be vetted (especially when specific claims are involved, and/or in highly regulated industries). Still, if the vibe in your organization is that customer conversations must be perfect then in most cases the people who know your business the best won’t often engage with customers. Who wants to miss on all those opportunities? Your message need not be perfect. It won’t be. It just needs to be authentic and believable. Messaging Myth 4: Everyone Needs to Learn the Elevator Pitch The art of “pitching” has received a lot of attention. Shows such as Shark Tank, local speed-networking events, and elevator-pitch competitions have turned pitching into a popular form of public performance. The good news from crafting a pitch is the discipline it forces on knowing your value proposition and expressing it quickly. The bad news from focusing on a fast, one-way monologue (breathing optional) is that it ignores the more common dialogues that can really help the business. Some leaders, in their search for consistency, err on the side of micromanagement; they want everyone to learn a script. Organizations who excel at expressing their value in more natural conversations create an overall structure with some talking points, and provide enough practice and encouragement so that most employees feel confident engaging with customers. Messaging Myth 5: You Should Set It and Forget It Yes, it is true that companies tend to change their ad slogans too often. When executives get the itch to change marketing strategies, slogans are one of the first areas scratched. Messaging, however, extends far beyond the slogan or tagline. The stories, offerings, and recommendations in everyday marketplace conversations are a far more dynamic matter. Customers’ options and even the people in your company are changing all the time. Think of your messaging as “evergreen,” and re-visit it on a regular basis.
For Better Sales and Marketing Messages, First Get Everyone Uncomfortable

For Better Sales and Marketing Messages, First Get Everyone Uncomfortable

La-Z-Boy sells a lot of recliners. I don’t believe they win a lot of design awards, but then again their customers likely put a low priority on being fashion-forward in the family room. The recliner buyers wants to be comfortable and those big cushy chairs can indeed deliver comfort. That might be fine at home—but on the job comfort can wreck your marketing and growth plans. Too often I see internal teams running on auto-pilot in the ways they deal with customers and prospects. On the external side, you can be sure that competitors are trying to make your customers a little uncomfortable. And we have to make prospects similarly uncomfortable in order for them to consider doing business with us. ...
How My 14-Year-Old Son Wrote a Better Speech Than I Could

How My 14-Year-Old Son Wrote a Better Speech Than I Could

I was stunned when our 14-year-old son approached me with his idea. He wanted to run for President of his eighth grade student council. That, in and of itself, is not terribly remarkable, but it was certainly a departure for our son. He has struggled with anxiety issues for years. Because part of the process of running involves giving a short speech in front of a large student assembly, my wife and I would never have pushed him in that direction or even expected him to be comfortable with the idea. And my wife was even president of a high school class of more than 700 students! I am a professional speaker. I would typically be the person running toward the stage rather than away from it. Yet I was the one getting uptight. What if it didn't go well? What would be the impact on his confidence? ...
Ask Customers This in 2018

Ask Customers This in 2018

Sometimes, assumptions can hold our businesses down. I have come to recognize at least one assumption that often keeps businesses from selling more to their existing customers. The benefit of escaping that assumption can mean increasing your revenue by ten to twenty percent—or more.  The assumption is that your customers—even the loyal, longtime ones—know all of the things you offer. Why wouldn’t they? I mean, how long has your average customer been doing business with you? We are all creatures of our comfort zones. Your customers might be quite comfortable in what they buy from you today, how they have dealt with you in the past, and how they have come to think of you over time. ...
A Big Risk for a City such as Little Rock?

A Big Risk for a City such as Little Rock?

Has your company ever seen a Request For Proposals (RFP) that you knew you likely couldn’t win? Your options might include ignoring it altogether, tossing the “Hail Mary” pass in hopes for a miracle result, or perhaps just doing the basics in order to keep your name out there. This year’s Mother of All RFPs might be Amazon’s open competition for its second headquarters location. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company expects to spend $5 billion on the project over nearly 20 years. ...
Mangled Message: I Never Sausage a Bad Mascot

Mangled Message: I Never Sausage a Bad Mascot

Our latest Mangled Message™ illustrates the messiness of “sausage-making.” Actually, in this case, it is a big mess caused by sausage-mascot-making. Denny’s recently introduced a new mascot that is intended to be a sausage—a more humanized, hat-wearing sausage. Much of the intended audience—at least the loud subset of the audience which is active on Twitter—has interpreted it otherwise. Let’s just say that their descriptor rhymes with “bird.” Or “absurd.” And there are a lot of bathroom references. And hashtags such as #literallypoop. ...

Steph Curry and Nike’s PowerPoint Blunder

“Find” and “Replace” would have saved millions for a particular group of Nike executives.

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Using a Playbook for Better (and Faster) Sales and Marketing

Using a Playbook for Better (and Faster) Sales and Marketing

The playbook concept for bringing together marketing and sales teams has become increasingly popular. When conceived and used correctly, playbooks can align the efforts from marketing, sales, product development, and customer service to provide a consistent voice to the buyer. They are also inherently efficient, providing a ready central source of the information and guidance that sales and service teams need. Unfortunately, not all playbooks are conceived, structured, and used correctly, and thus some wind up providing neither consistency nor efficiency. ...
Turn Your Dry Case Studies into Compelling Customer Stories

Turn Your Dry Case Studies into Compelling Customer Stories

What makes for an effective marketing story—the kind that is fun to tell, interesting to hear, and persuasive? We are learning more and more about the importance of good storytelling. Many companies rely on published case studies as a primary means to create and share stories and carry their sales conversations. One client has nearly 500 case studies on its website, many of which run well over 2,000 words. That represents a lot of work from the marketing team and a treasure trove for anyone who talks with customers! ...

How Buyers are Different When Other People are Involved

We human beings can be a strange lot when in our role as consumers. As just one example, we tend to behave differently as buyers when other human beings are involved in the process of selling to us. Some new research has now quantified the degree to which fear of embarrassment, or fear of being wrong, has an impact on buying behavior.  

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