By Andrew Ballard | Guest Contributor
Marketing is a complex pseudoscience, one that has become even more challenging to get right in the adolescence of our digital era. And your success depends on crafting the right message.
In this second installment of a four-part series detailing the four secrets to marketing success, I’ll cover how to create the right message. After you target the right market (the first secret from my previous post), you’ll develop messages that are compelling and relevant to your target audience based on the customer persona profile you created.
Researching Your Audience
When crafting messages, remember you are writing for your future customers based on their values and not for yourself. To truly understand what your prospective customers care most about requires research. Growth strategy nerds like me refer to this research as “voice of the customer.”
Understanding the preferences and perceptions of your customers is arguably the most important business information you can acquire. It gives you insight into how they and people like them (prospective customers) make buying decisions. You can gather voice of the customer information through interviews and focus groups.
Once you know what your customers care about, there is a tried-and-true formula that will help you properly sequence your messages to improve results. Many successful copywriters use the AIDA method. AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire and action. These are the four stages a consumer or purchasing agent goes through (during the buying process) as they consider and eventually make a buying decision.
The length of time it takes a consumer to go through these four stages has mostly to do with the product category. When purchasing a loaf of bread, a consumer isn’t even aware of the buying process. It takes a matter of seconds. However, when considering a larger purchase, such as a new car or cloud application for a business, the buying process can be lengthy.
Writing for Your Customers
The AIDA messaging method looks like this:
You need to cut through the clutter before you’ll get anyone’s attention. The most important copy you’ll ever write is the headline or hook. (A hook is a short phrase or sentence at the beginning of a piece of content that’s designed to pull the reader in and get them to continue reading.) Advertising legend David Ogilvy started by writing up to 16 headlines for every ad he wrote and made a gazillion dollars doing so. You might consider following his lead. Asking a poignant question and using a stunning illustration or photograph are also effective attention-getters.
You want to communicate what's in it for your reader early in your message to peak their interest. Use short, simple sentences that convey advantages and benefits. A list of features won't get prospects excited; benefits are why people buy. Explain how your product or service will make your prospect's life better, safer, more fun or productive.
All purchases are motivated by either decreasing pain or increasing gain. Make a connection with your audience's underlying motivation based on the solution or satisfaction your product or service will provide. This is the part of your message where you'll make an irresistible offer, a strong guarantee or astonishing claim (as long as it's legitimate).
A call to action is imperative if you want to generate a response. Be specific about what you want your prospect to do: call for more information, go to your website, download your app, schedule an appointment, etc. Creating urgency (limited time or inventory), building value (third-party endorsements) and offering an incentive can also increase action and response rates.
Another best practice for crafting messages that succeed in generating results is to be very clear and concise. Don't try to cram in every copy point imaginable. Stick to a single sticky selling proposition. Following the AIDA messaging process — in sequence — will most likely improve your results.
Selecting the Right Media
When you target the right market with the right message, you are halfway there. Check out my next post to learn about the formula for selecting the right media (communication channels) to deliver your message.
Andrew Ballard is the president of Marketing Solutions, a Seattle-area agency that develops research-based growth strategies. He has over three decades' experience with specialties in marketing research, strategic planning, brand development and advertising, and has helped hundreds of organizations (from startups through Fortune 500 companies) achieve breakthrough growth.>
Andrew is a respected author, educator, keynote and TEDx speaker. His articles on marketing strategy have been published in business journals through all 50 states. His book, "Your Opinion Doesn't Matter," has been endorsed in both corporate and academic circles as innovative and insightful. Andrew is also a part-time faculty member at the University of Washington.
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