James Lawrence is the co-founder of Sydney digital marketing agency Rocket and is the author of the newly released Amazon bestseller Smarter Marketer. In this post, Lawrence argues we’ve been distracted by technology and lost our focus on the message in marketing.
It is commonplace for our clients, large and small, to spend a lot of time focusing on the colour of a button, one stock image over another, the size of a logo or the structure of a landing page. Messaging, on the other hand, is often an afterthought, bolted on at the end of a creative process.
Further, many clients are happy for just about anyone to handle the messaging requirements of a campaign. We’ve seen technical specialists, unproven juniors or relatives of the business owner sit down and write the words that are going to be used to support an entire digital marketing campaign. Decisions for the ‘right’ copy often come down to readability and personal preference.
This is the wrong approach.
Start with the message. The rest is secondary.
Words, and the message they convey, are the most important part of any campaign and should be tackled at the start. Imagery has its place, calls to action are important, and we know everyone cares about their logo. But in the end, it’s the promise in the words that matter to readers. It’s about how the words speak to them.
As marketers, we tend to get too close to our products or services. We sometimes overestimate their importance to the lives of our prospects. We need to remember people don’t care about our brands; they care about themselves and how they will benefit from engaging. For this reason, you must craft your words deliberately. You must use your words so that they have the maximum impact and speak most clearly to the lives of your prospects. Your words don’t have to sound pretty. They do have to mean something valuable, and they do need to inspire action.
Be specific. Be courageous.
In his book Scientific Advertising, published in the 1930s, Claude C. Hopkins addressed the importance of specificity. He pointed out how ineffective ads were when they included language like ‘best in the world’ or ‘lowest price in existence’. Today, many companies seem to have forgotten about the importance of specificity. In reality, most marketers are not brave enough to be specific.
This is a time for courage. Don’t water down your message. Each time we work with new clients— from law firms and property developers to waste removal operators and amusement parks —they are surprised how specific we want them to be in their messaging. They want to play it safe and speak to a ‘wide range’ of people. In the end, they’re not really speaking to anyone.
It’s about the offer, not just price.
Unless you have a very well-known product or service, it is highly unlikely simply stating the name of your brand in a campaign will be enough to get people to buy what you’re selling. And unless your product or service is a commodity where price is the only real decision factor, then simply publishing your price is unlikely to drive sales. Still, so many campaigns focus only on brand and price.
You need to craft compelling offers that make your prospects want to take the next step. There are many ways to do this; bonus products or services, a guarantee, a discount or bundling your product with other items your prospects will value. You might be uncertain about which elements will work best for your product or service. Experiment with ideas you think are most likely to work and then measure. A good starting point is to analyse and understand the reasons existing customers already buy from you.
Be ready to defend your approach
The more specific you get in your messaging, the fewer people you will reach. The more compelling you attempt to make your offer, the more likely it is to have an impact on other parts of the business. Key stakeholders might not like this. But remember, you need to be the leader in communicating the value of what you do and why you do it.
Show them the results of two campaigns—one that went broad and one that was more targeted, one with a certain offer and one without. After running competing ads or campaigns for a sufficient period of time to build out a meaningful dataset layout the difference in performance. Be ready to explain with confidence to stakeholders why you approach your messaging and offer the way you have.
Think carefully and be brave
If you do everything perfectly in your campaigns, but get your messaging or offers wrong, you will underperform and quite possibly fail. This is a hard truth to swallow. So be brave. Think very carefully about what you need to say to have the most impact on your prospects’ behaviour. Then say it!