GreenFig’s Digital Marketing Science course is over halfway through the Fall training class. The class continues to build the students’ knowledge and competency in digital marketing and with instructors like Steve Patti, you can see why.
Steve Patti is an entrepreneur, B2B CMO, message strategist, CX leader, and adjunct professor guiding our GreenFig students through 18 hours of strategy training. The classes ranged from aligning business strategy, understanding the B2B buyer, content strategies, and storytelling.
We continue to be in awe with our industry leaders bringing to class the evolved strategies and methods in digital marketing getting our students job-ready for the digital marketing careers in the 21st Century. Enjoy Steve’s thoughts and advancements in content marketing.
Message Strategy: Why it is Critical to Sales & Marketing Success
For the past decade, we have seen the birth and explosion of the content marketing industry. At every turn we see books, conferences, platform software companies, and self-proclaimed thought leaders telling the marketing world “marketers are now publishers”. When this mantra became old, they quickly pivoted to say “marketers are now storytellers” and if you wait long enough you will see the next slogan just in time to support the sales of more content books and conferences.
But is content (and the notion of content marketing) really new? As King Solomon once said, “there is nothing new under the sun” -- and so it is with the field of marketing. Old concepts are renamed, repackaged, and sold as new – but are they really (new)?
For hundreds of years, the messages merchants deliver to their target market have always been critical to attracting, engaging, and converting buyers into customers. However, what has changed in the past 10 years is the ability for buyers to bypass what the merchant says and instead find out what the merchant’s customers say about their product experience. This phenomenon has carried over from B2C to B2B markets whereby the majority of B2B buyers no longer trust branded content and instead turn to peers and trusted experts for insight into a company product or service experience.
The result for B2B marketers are over 50% of their content budgets are now wasted (content goes unread). The result for B2B sales professionals is that buyers now are an average of 57% complete with their buyer journey before contacting them (source: CEB research). This has created a credibility crisis among B2B brands as they scurry to rethink their message and content strategy.
So how did we get here?
The answer may lie in the claim of the content marketing industry that “marketers are now publishers.” In truth, marketers have never been publishers in the sense that they have an intimate knowledge of their readers’ interests and create tailored content to cater to those interests. To the contrary, many marketers are experts at talking about their company, their products, and their awards/accolades but have little insight into the real fears, questions, and doubts their buyers have when trying to make a product purchase.
Effective marketing and sales are about the buyer – not the seller. Successful brands are realizing they need to rewire their communications strategy to focus on three core competencies:
- Buyer insight collection (personas, journeys, CX monitoring)
- Buyer-centric (branded) content
- Non-branded customer stories
The core consistent theme is deepening buyer insights to be able to “walk in the shoes” of the buyer and more importantly, deliver credible, trustworthy content that does not sell – but helps them buy.
It all starts with the message strategy and creating a Message Map for each market segment. A Message Map highlights the purchase drivers and perceived barriers for the various stakeholders in the buying group and then aligns the vendor value proposition and evidence (customer proof points) of being able to address the drivers (pain point, business goal). With regards to value proposition development, CEB research cites that personal value is 2X more effective than a business value in influencing vendor selection. That means the vendor value proposition messaging must focus on both enterprise value (business outcomes that vendor solution delivers) with persona value (personal outcomes vendor/solution can deliver to benefit the stakeholder).
When it comes to content strategy the human brain can process visual images 60,000 times faster than text so the use of video (to capture customer stories) and illustrations/Infographics (to simplify complex subject matter) is key to accelerating buyer understanding – and thus, pipeline velocity.
The Message Map is core to a vendor’s message strategy and informs all of the campaign and advertising copy for demand generation as well as sales enablement. By leading with customer value (business, personal) and providing fresh insights, vendors can regain lost trust and improve buyer engagement – both in the lead generation pipeline (pre-MQL), but also during the active selling stage (Opportunity) in an effort to shorten sales cycles and increase sales close rates.
If the majority of your messaging and content is seller-centric, perhaps it is time to reconsider your approach.
By Steve Patti