Why Stories, Messaging And Differentiation Are The Missing Ingredients In Your Revenue Recipe
I spend a fair amount of time poking around the internet, reading what “experts” are writing about, watching videos and following people who publish thought leadership pieces. It’s fascinating to see what people publish.
Lately, a lot of content is about getting ready for 2019 and all of the secret tips, fast tracks and shortcuts to producing better results.
Most of them are pretty good: Get ready for voice search, use more video and make sure your marketing is focused on more than one channel. The list of tactical recommendations goes on and on.
Yet most companies and many marketers are still struggling to produce consistent business results. Leads, sales opportunities, new customers, new revenue, shorter sales cycles, increased close rates and lower cost of acquisition — these are the metrics that marketers should be measured on, and yet they continue to be elusive. Why?
I’ll tell you why: It’s because no one wants to write articles about how your company’s story either sucks, isn’t being told consistently or effectively, or even worse, might be nonexistent.
No one wants to make videos about how critical it is for your business to be dramatically different from all of the competitive options.
No one wants to do an infographic about how to create disruptive, compelling and emotional messages.
No one wants to produce a podcast about why the experience prospects and customers have with your business is the best marketing and most important marketing you’ll ever work on (and why no one ever works on this).
I’m an inquisitive person, so I want to know why no one wants to talk about this, and why no one wants to call people out on their generic messaging, weak product offering or average service experiences.
Why don’t we as marketers challenge the companies we work with to say something interesting, deliver a remarkable experience and create something special?
It’s Much Harder To Change Your Message Than It Is To Launch A PPC Campaign
Let’s face it, human beings are always looking for shortcuts and the easy way out. You can do the heavily lifting to create a compelling messaging strategy, or you can buy ads, redo your website or start an email campaign. All three of the latter are easier than the former, and that’s what people do.
Need more leads? Spend more money on your Google AdWords campaign! Don’t change your message, just throw more money at the problem. Need more sales opportunities? Fire the CMO or change the agency (because they must not know what they’re doing). Instead of changing the stories, change the team. Need more new customers? Buy a new CRM system so you can be more efficient, instead of creating a remarkable business that people talk about.
The energy is misdirected because of your own inexperience and the lack of solid guidance from experts. Yet there are tons of examples of businesses that launched and grew with little or no marketing. They grew because they had a compelling and disruptive product or service. They grew because they had an emotional story. They grew because people talked about them.
Ever seen any advertising for Costco? What about Krispy Kreme or Kiehl’s? How about Spanx or Lululemon? What about HubSpot, Salesforce.com or LinkedIn? In every industry, for every product category, you’ll find companies thriving without pumping millions of dollars into a “getting their name out there” strategy. They do it with messaging, stories and differentiation across the entire prospect and customer experience.
Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot, used to say that inbound marketing was about the size of your brain, not the size of your wallet. I could not agree more. Today, creating compelling stories, remarkable differentiation and messaging that engages your prospects is all about the size of your brain.
We’ve done this over and over again for clients — clients whose businesses have grown, been sold and achieved massive success. It’s not about budget; it’s about vision, insight that you need this and the desire to do the hard work associated with it.
Being Different Is Uncomfortable – For Everyone!
Every marketer’s goal is to get their company to stand out. Think about this like attending a party where your goal is to stand out. I could get you to stand out by wearing a clown costume. Would you feel comfortable? Probably not. Everyone would be staring at you, talking about you and wondering why you’re wearing that clown costume. Mission accomplished!
This is an extreme example to make a point. You are going to feel uncomfortable. I could tone it down a bit and make you wear a velvet sport coat or a bright yellow dress. Both are much more acceptable but could produce a similar reaction from fellow partygoers and generate a similar feeling of being uncomfortable with everyone looking, talking and pointing. You stood out, but you had to be uncomfortable to achieve your goal.
Human beings are uncomfortable with standing out.
Look at your own messaging and stories. Is it different than your competition? Is it remarkable? Are you saying things that no other competitor can or does say? Or did you select messaging similar to your competitors because that felt safe? If they’re saying it, it must be right. Does that sound familiar?
In case you’re not convinced yet, let me give you a very practical example. Almost everyone comes to your website before they reach out to you in any way. Google identified that people spend roughly 10 seconds on a site before they decide to either stay and click around or hit the back button.
That means you have 10 seconds to tell a disruptive, compelling and emotional story that grabs them and gets them to want to stick around. That also means you’ll have to say something different than the six other sites that prospect was on before they visited your site.
It’s the first step in a very long and complicated buyer journey. But if you’re not clearly differentiating yourself in this very first experience, you’re simply letting leads, sales opportunities and new customers slip through your fingers.
You have to stand out, you have to be remarkable and you have to say something on your site that gets your prospect’s attention and holds them there. It’s no longer optional — it’s a requirement for every company. Do you have this on your site right now?
It’s Organizational Transformation
As I said, most companies don’t create better messaging for a lot of reasons, and the first step is understanding those reasons.
In most cases, changing a company’s go-to market message requires changes to the entire organization and changes to the way they think about almost everything.
If you want to try and understand why this becomes such a big challenge, think about the last email you received that was long and without breaks. What was your first response? How did you feel when you got it? Think carefully.
I already know the answer. You thought, “I’ll look at this later,” and you closed it and went on about your day. That action was a direct result of your brain being over-stimulated. Your brain is an organ, just like your heart and lungs. When it gets tired, it shuts off.
This is the same feeling most of us get when we consider changing the messaging at our companies. It’s how we feel at the thought of changing how we deliver our services or the idea of getting everyone in the company to contribute to the content marketing efforts. Even if it’s the best idea ever, that feeling of “I’ll deal with this later” is hard to overcome.
It Requires A Long-Term Perspective In A Microwave World
Everyone wants results today. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’m talking about here requires a much longer time horizon.
Again, as an example, Square 2 spent all of 2018 creating three simple pillars for our differentiation strategy — pillars that are remarkable and no other agency can claim:
- Thought leadership with a defined buyer journey methodology that helps us organize strategy, tactics, analytics and technology for clients (The Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ and the supporting book, Smash The Funnel).
- AI-powered insight and recommendation engine for our clients to get better insights and more effective recommendations based on their marketing performance data. Every client gets free subscriptions. MAXG is revolutionizing how marketers know what to do and when to do it.
- Guaranteed results, because ultimately our clients want business outcomes and results from our efforts. Now we’re ready to financially put our money where our mouth is and guarantee results for clients every 90 days.
This isn’t a commercial for our agency; it’s an example of how long it took to create these three remarkable elements of our business. It took all 12 months. It’s heavy lifting that required almost everyone in the agency to participate.
Nothing here could have been created in days, weeks or even a couple of months. You need a long-term perspective on what it takes to be remarkable and truly create something special in your space.
There may be some quick wins buried in your business. You likely have remarkable aspects of your business that you’re not talking about, not talking about enough or not talking about properly.
If these exist, then pulling them out, polishing them up and getting them ready for prime time can be done quickly. The first step is going through the exercise of looking for them and evaluating them to make sure they are actually remarkable. We do that with clients every day in what we call the remarkables workshop.
Leadership And Vision Are Mandatory
Businesses are made up of people, so most businesses have the same human characteristics of the people who make up those businesses. Some are inpatient because their people are quick to act. Some are slow to change because the people who work there resist change.
Almost every business has a leader who sets the tone for the rest of the organization. Companies who have leaders with a vision have a better chance of executing the changes we’re discussing here.
Vision almost always takes leadership. Leaders have to share the vision, illustrate it for their teams and, in some cases, hold everyone’s hand as they move from the current state to the future state. Leaders like this are hard to find, especially in small to mid-sized businesses.
Leadership like this is hard to find in companies whose CEOs have grown up in the business, starting out as their first employee. They’re great at their jobs, but perhaps leading and being a CEO is not their core competency.
So many facets of business need to come together to make the creation of compelling messaging and remarkable differentiation even possible. That’s why it’s so infrequently demonstrated.
It’s also why companies languish with marketing and sales performance, wonder why they can’t grow and blame marketing, sales and other reasons for that lack of growth.
I’ve worked in marketing my entire professional life. That’s over 30 years of experience, and in that time, I’ve seen this play out over and over again at Fortune 50 companies as well as smaller entrepreneurial companies.
Big companies are mired in politics, territorial battles and CYA thinking. This means making changes to messaging or go-to market strategy requires months of interdepartmental cooperation. Who actually owns messaging? Is it marketing, is it corporate communications, is it the ad agency, is it the CEO or is it the board?
Smaller companies are easier to wrangle but less likely to take risks and less likely to do the heavy lifting required to make operational changes, sales changes and delivery changes. They are also less likely to take a long-term perspective, less likely to invest appropriately and less likely to be patient while the changes take root.
As you’re getting ready for 2019, it’s not about the marketing campaigns you have planned, the fancy technology you purchased or the size of your sales team. If you have nothing interesting to say, don’t say anything at all. If you’re not remarkable, you are invisible.
If you and everyone at your company can’t tell a disruptive, compelling and emotional story that clearly illustrates what you do and how you help your customers, you’re never going to hit your revenue goals in a consistent and scalable way.
No one ever talks about this. No marketing experts ever identify this as the missing piece of the puzzle, but in almost over scenario it is the most important marketing work you’ll ever do, and you should be doing it right now for next year.
Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!