Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

10,000 Reasons to get Clear about your Value Proposition

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, May 29, 2013

Last week I met two entrepreneurs in the customer development phase of building start-up companies.
The first entrepreneur, Rajesh Setty founder of  WittyParrot and many other startups led the "what we do" conversation with a demo and it was very clear after just one minute how their product creates value; the other took a while to explain what his company did and it took me even longer to "get it".

I asked both of them, how many times they expected to pitch their "big-idea" and "what-we-do" stories in the next year.
I qualified this by suggesting that they were not only pitching to prospects; they will be pitching to colleagues, prospective new hires, investors, business partners, friends and family, social networking contacts, web-site visitors and of course to strangers on a plane or at a cocktail party in response to the "so-what-do-you-guys-do?" question. 

Rajesh suggested that he would probably pitch his story 2000 times in the next year, the other entrepreneur about 500 times. Let's pick a point in between, say 1000 and multiply this by 10, because both companies have about 10 employees today. Most are engineers, but all are going to be interacting with the above networks of partners, prospects and strangers.
That's about 10,000 times for the company pitch in the next year....and of course in a start-up, the story is changing by the month as lessons are learned from product usage, use cases expand, and new capabilities are built into the product.  In addition, if the company gains funding and grows, employee headcount may treble in the same period. How long will it take to enable new hires to get-on-message?

One entrepreneur rated the clarity of their value proposition at 1/10 and explained that he currently has a consultant working on helping him clarify it, Rajesh rated his message at 6/10 and a work in progress. The image below represents what is created when you are less than 7/10 for message clarity....pollution!
 
Poor messaging is like discarded waste; forgotten, of no value, to be buried forever from memory.

How then can a start-up, or an F500 company for that matter, address the problem of unclear messaging? If you have read this far I think you’ll agree that it’s important. The answer to the question is that it’s not easy.
Often it’s hard for entrepreneurs to take the buyer’s view and to truly understand the problems the buyer is facing and how they could potentially use the products to create value… but this is the place to start. Hiring a consultant to help create clarity in messaging in the formative stages of company building is potentially a high-payoff investment. How important is message clarity to you?

I believe there is an opportunity to create a software as a service product to create and maintain messaging that resonates with buyers, that everyone from entrepreneurs to marketing managers in F500 companies can use and I’m in the process of building it and we are interested in talking to early adopters in our customer discovery phase of development.

We helped an Israeli technology company re-launch their Infrastructure as a Service product at a critical time in the evolution of public and private cloud solutions and it was transformational for the company. They weren't looking for a consultant to help with messaging, but recognized they were about 4/10 for clarity in their value prop at the time. We began by creating buyer-persona’s around best guess use cases.

We helped to create a messaging architecture that identified the relevant capabilities and grouped them under logical positioning pillars.

We then generated sales ready messaging for the sales team to use when engaging prospects over the phone and in person and trained the sales team to use it in consultative conversations.

The marketing team used the messaging to transform their Website message from product-centric gobbledygook to buyer-relevant copy. Marketing managers in each country began to use the messaging in creating blog articles and they quickly began to generate new visitors that converted into inbound leads and new-name customers in the first 6 months after the messaging workshop.

Since this engagement, we have added visual storytelling to our methodology, to capture the value proposition in a meaningful visual confection where both salespeople and buyers can quickly "get", remember and communicate your “big idea” and value proposition.

Take-Aways

  1. It's never too early to get clear about your value proposition.
  2. If you can't nail your value proposition for the users you are trying to attract and sell to, how can you expect to get them excited about using your product or service?
  3. The sales cycle starts in marketing with content creation and if the content you create doesn't resonate with your target buyers, they won't come.
  4. If you cannot answer the next three questions with absolute simplicity and clarity so your ideal prospect can understand it, you have work to do.
  • So-what-is-it-you-guys-do-then?
  • What is a metaphor for an existing product idea, service or capability could you use to help a buyer who does not know your product or company to instantly understand how they could use your product?
  • Why should I buy from you? 
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Topics: value proposition, messaging architecture, message clarity, big idea

Tower Data Brand Messaging Update and Website Revamp Project

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Mar 26, 2013

Email data solutions provider, TowerData went live with their redesigned Website last week, with a stunning new appearance and a message that grabs your attention after landing on any page on the Website.


TowerData Background

TowerData helps companies increase the performance of their email marketing by validating email addresses for improved deliverability, providing intelligence about email leads and subscribers, and increasing size of the email list. TowerData has been in business since 2001 and has helped thousands of customers improve their email marketing results and take their email list to the next level.

We created the new TowerData brand message in partnership with enterprise inbound marketing agency, Kuno Creative (Kuno),  who created the redesign and new content and managed the website transformation project. Kuno is managing the content marketing, demand generation and marketing automation program for TowerData.
 
TowerData is a HubSpot customer and has already been successful with its demand generation activities, generating a predictable volume of inbound leads and doing well with keyword rankings. As a next step, TowerData wanted to attract and convert more qualified sales leads by improving its brand messaging and content.

Goal: Brand Update and Website Revamp

Tom Burke, CEO of TowerData stated, “the project was driven by a need to update and focus our brand and revamp our 6-year-old website.” Prior to the redesign the TowerData Website, although functional, looked dated and the message did not clearly identify how TowerData served its clients or what differentiated their services in a highly competitive market. TowerData sought to make its core service strengths readily apparent and easily understood by website visitors. 

Complication: Prior History

TowerData had already identified a redesign and branding vendor who proposed a traditional approach of interviewing stakeholders, including TowerData customers, to understand the business, and pull out the themes and message from there. Our approach would involve more than a brand refresh.

Resolution: Create a Messaging Architecture

TowerData selected Admarco and Kuno for the messaging and Website transformation, and we began the project with the development of the TowerData Buyer-Persona, which details the roles and thought processes of representative buyers. The messaging process was done entirely over the Internet to save time and money and we used the MindManager tool from MindJet.com to capture the information in a brainstorming session attended by Kuno and top TowerData stakeholders.  



With the Buyer Persona created, we moved to developing the Messaging Architecture and began brainstorming the Win Themes and Positioning Pillars. 

The Messaging Architecture is developed by identifying product usage Win Themes, i.e. how the products are used to create value, solve problems and help buyers achieve their goals.  

Win-Themes are self-describing information chunks that encapsulate feature, function and benefit in a meaningful sentence. In other words a Win-Theme describes what the product or service is, what does it does for the buyer when they use it and what that means in terms of value for the buyer. The brainstorming and review process required five Web Conferences to complete and took around about 10 hours to capture and edit over a period of 2 weeks. 

Positioning Pillars are used to position the product in the market vs. competition. Some of our clients are unsure of their Pillars at the start of the process, but in TowerData’s case they knew they wanted to position around Email Append, Email Intelligence and Email Validation

Content Creation Templates

Content Creation Templates are used for generating content from the Messaging Architecture and Buyer Persona. For TowerData, we created more than 20 templates, one for each target buyer goal.

The template development process starts with selection of the buyer goal and we populate it with the related problems and consequences from the buyer persona. We then select the appropriate product usage Win-Themes, and write the solutions summary, highlight the keywords and an attention grabbing Hook that can be used in an email header or call to action. Templates are completed with a proof point to support the product usage scenario and the value contribution.

Content Creation templates are the key to creating consistent content that can be used across the organization by people who were not involved in the messaging development process. Content Creation templates enable professional writers quickly generate Web page and blog content that is keyword rich, technically accurate, resonates with buyers and highlights the value in using the products/services. There is no limit to the number of templates that can be generated and combinations of Win-Themes can be used to fine-tune value messaging for very specific buyers.

Lessons Learned:

  1. The Internet-only brainstorm process was less than ideal as the Mindjet tool interface and screen painting process over the Net was slow and difficult to follow as the brain-pattern became more complex. (We are creating a SaaS Messaging development tool to enable collaborative real-time data entry to improve the message-capture process and hosting of the Messaging Architecture. Messaging is not static. As new buyers and needs are identified, new product capabilities are added, new market segments entered and market conditions change, your messaging needs to change. Our goal is to enable our customers to manage their own messaging on completion of the project).
  2. This was the first time we have used the content creation templates and they served as a critical link in extracting intelligent copy from the Messaging Architecture and formatting it for reuse by others not invoved in the brainstorming process to generate quality copy.
  3. Key-word rich Win-Themes are high value deliverables that can be reused countless times throughout marketing and sales messaging and serve to reinforce the brand value and align sales and marketing conversations. 
  4. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will report in a few months on the results from the project in a comprehensive case-study.

TowerData CEO's thoughts 

Tom Burke, TowerData CEO, remarked on the process, “Rebranding was much more to us than a new logo or graphics. We wanted someone who could help us articulate and crystallize our message and positioning, and then convert that into engaging content. The Admarco process provided a comprehensive view of our services from the buyer’s perspective and a robust structure that we can use with Kuno Creative to develop our content.”

A Final word from Kuno Creative

John McTigue, Kuno’s EVP and Co-Owner, has been guiding this process from the Kuno Creative side. “What’s often missing from any brand refresh or website redesign project is understanding who the customer is and what they want, then tailoring the entire content strategy to fulfill their needs.

Admarco’s interview and modeling process provided a structured way to develop buyer personas and easily turn their needs into product-usage Win-Themes to drive a content marketing strategy and editorial calendar. We plan to incorporate this process into many of our enterprise inbound marketing client accounts to help them achieve success faster and more efficiently.”


Align Sales & Marketing Messages with Buyer Needs
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Topics: messaging architecture, brand messaging, content creation, towerdata, kuno creative

Your Sales Problem is not the Problem, it's in Marketing

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Feb 05, 2013

The Symptoms are not the Problem

I have detected a pattern in our inbound lead generation that indicates a typical problem in mid-sized SMB technology companies. The problems can be rectified within a few months and relatively inexpensively, once it has been correctly identified and stakeholders are on-board. The outcome from fixing the problem will positively affect the future of the company. I'm going to describe company X, a lead that came in last week with the problem and how we go about identifying the cause and solving the problem.

Company X founders have long since moved-on and the company is no longer the darling of the investment community and is possibly owned by a Private Equity company who are interested in flipping it as soon as possible.

The business is hard-won and the methods are traditional. Revenue growth has flat-lined and every quarter is a struggle, as is hiring and keeping good sales talent. Multiple CEO's, sales VP's and many salespeople have passed through the halls of Company X in the last 2 years. New agile competitors are attacking the installed base and leads are few and far between. 

Do you have enough Leads? - No

The inbound inquiry (lead) I receive in my HubSpot Inbound Marketing system comes from the sales leader typically, although it can come from the marketing director. The inquiry is usually for a sales performance related whitepaper and symptoms of the problem are nearly always "sales aren't making their numbers" or "weak pipeline". The first question I ask is, "what is the problem that is causing the weak sales effect?" The answer is often silence or head-scratching and then I ask if there could be a lead generation problem....to which the answer is nearly always - yes.

A quick look at our visitor's Website and I form an opinion that is then validated through running a couple of reports. Do the following describe your Website?;
  • A Scrolling montage of smiley faces, screen shots and captions that are coupled with abstract product features or benefit statements that presume the visitor has prior knowledge of the company products and services.
  • There is no Big-Idea where I can "get what the company does" and how they create value for their customers.
  • Drilling down on menu items indicates the markets they serve, but it leads to more product-centric capabilities and I still can't figure out what the company does and why I would want to work with them. I can download a whitepaper, but why would I?, - other than curiosity, there is no compelling reason to.
  • There is no blog, so I look at the news to get some insight, and the last article was published 6 months or more ago. 
  • Finally I revert to customer testimonials and out of the mouth of one of the customers comes the product-usage value statement.

Suspicions Confirmed - it's a Marketing Problem

I then run a marketinggrader report and my suspicions are confirmed as the company scores a Website grade of less than 50/100...in Company X case they scored 38/100.

I know after reading this report that the company is getting very few inbound leads. They are virtually invisible on the Internet to potential prospects who are looking for products with similar capabilities to Company X to solve problems.

I also know that if we examined the effectiveness of their keywords, that their few traffic producing keywords would contain the company product name and their product names, few others.  What is really distressing is that the company typically has really solid technology products, backed by great pre-sales and support people.

There is no marketing VP and the marketing director is pulling her hair out or looking for another job. The company is spending a lot of its marketing budget on pay-per-click ads and also uses a 3rd party to generate appointments for the sales team.

They may have a marketing automation platform installed, but t
hey admit they are  underutilizing its capability and p aying too much for it  considering the meager  flow of leads.  I t is basically being used as an email engine blasting to their installed base and lists they acquired. 

Where to From Here?

When I ask Prospect X to rate the clarity of the company message, it's usually a 4 or 5 out of 10....but they want to be a 9 or a 10.
Then I ask how they rate the sales teams ability to clearly communicate value to the prospective customer and the answer is typically 3-4 out of 10, but they want to be an 8-9/10. Now we have a problem we can deal with.
  • The reasons salespeople fail are myriad, but what if they had a stream of well qualified leads? 
  • What if instead of just a few talented members of the sales team succeeding, everyone on the sales team could communicate clearly and confidently with propects?
  • What if the money being spent on sourcing appointments and the non-functioning marketing automation platform could be diverted into a proven Inbound Marketing platform and sustainable methodology for generating and nurturing quality leads?
  • It is difficult to imagine spending lavish sums on rebranding or a marketing agency to redevelop the company X message, where every marketing dollar is closely scrutinized, but what if the message could be made to resonate with buyers with a little outside help?
  • What if the sales team had a compelling value-creation story they could all tell and skills to engage prospective buyers that did not rely on the use of PowerPoint?
To me it seems obvious that the place to start is in figuring out how the company creates for its customers who use their products/services.  We can capture this information starting with a careful analysis of the problems and challenges our customers face, that lead them to use the products/services.

Brand Messaging and Positioning

Al Ries in the book "Positioning" suggests rather than try and create something new and different in the mind of the buyer, we need to manipulate what is already there and retie the connections that already exist.

methodology for consistent value messaging that resonates with buyer needs  is built from the bottom-up, based on connecting value-creation to buyer-needs. The chart below represents our latest thinking on this important subject.
  1. Start your journey to clarity in messaging value with a sales and marketing messaging alignment workshop. The output of this process is Messaging Architecture that will help marketers and salespeople position capabilities and engage buyers in conversations around their problems vs. the product features. 
  2. Identify your buyer-persona's and their roles, goals, issues and problems that your products/services can address
  3. Next, map your relevant capabilities that can help buyer persona's solve their problems
  4. Group Win-Themes into logical clumps and abstract the positioning pillars to create clarity in positioning vs competition.
  5. At this point we will have enough information to form the basis of a visual confection and visual story that salespeople can use to engage buyers in conversation around their issues.
  6. With the Value Proposition in place, the Brand Message including mission-statement, tagline, corporate positioning and corporate story can easily be derived.
  7. Content Creation Templates extract Win Themes and Buyer Persona issues and appropriate keywords and are used to develop consistent content for both blogging and Website pages by insiders as well as external writers.
  8. Creating a "Mission Statement" that helps employees connect their daily toil with company vision, revenue, profit and customer satisfaction goals will resonate with customers more than "to be good corporate citizens" and "to maximize stockholder value".
  9. Creating a positioning statement identifies the market segment you wish to occupy in the mind of the buyer and why your product/service is different and valuable. 
The positioning statement will be used countless times in sales and marketing messaging and it should be well thought out, built from the ground up and should not change every week.  

Connect Buyers to your Big Idea in a Matter of Moments
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Topics: messaging architecture, brand messaging, website messaging

5 Steps to Creating Marketing Content that Resonates with Buyers

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Jan 30, 2013

Weak Marketing Kills Dreams and Companies 

Innovation in our culture is constant, with exciting products created in start-up companies, or incubated in existing corporations, that promise to enhance our productivity and enjoyment of life.

Most of these companies won't make it out of start-up mode and the underlying IP will either get sold for pennies on the dollar, or product sales will limp along until the product is finally killed-off.

There are myriad possible causes for failure, but one common thread is a  lack of awareness in the potential buying audience, because the problem solving capability or potential to create value is invisible in Internet searches. If keywords containing your brand and product names are the primary sources of the little organic traffic you do get, then you have a problem, because buyers who don't know your brand or product cannot and will not find you.

This problem is not reserved for start-ups, I have seen it dozens of times in Silicon Valley in SMB companies ranging from ten million to half a billion dollars in revenue.

Sales and marketing fiefdoms and a lack of collaboration on messaging can lead to two different and fuzzy languages being spoken to the customer and buyers being left to figure out for themselves how the products could create value in their environment.

Today there are very effective ways of getting products into the hands of buyers and
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Topics: marketing messaging, messaging architecture, content creation templates

Shelby Cobra - Brand Marketing with Adrenaline

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Aug 21, 2012

Old School - "Mad Men", Top-down Branding

The marketing World is always evolving, and one of the most notable shifts in recent years has been the move from the outbound marketing era's “top down” branding approach to the more inclusive buyer-centric messaging favored by savvy startups, marketing innovators and companies utilizing inbound marketing to drive sales.
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Topics: messaging architecture, marketing message, brand message

Measuring Marketing Messaging Clarity and Effectiveness

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Apr 25, 2012

How important is clarity in your messaging and how clear is your message?
I'd say it's the difference between life and death for start-ups.

Sales and marketing are dependent on the clarity of your message to win mindshare, generate leads; and to engage, diagnose and qualify new opportunities, yet clarity is often an afterthought. 

I was prompted to write this article after a call this week with a technology company based in the Mid-West. This company has World leading technology, great vision and is completely failing in marketing.

They are in the red zone. When you arrive on their Website it is not possible to figure out that they do on the home page. Nor is it possible to figure out what they do by clicking on the CTA. You have to click on the product page to find the description of what they do and it's in 10 point font in the middle of the first paragraph. This is not a joke....this is a disaster.

Why Invest in Message Clarity?

 

Clarity attracts visitors, clarity engages visitors, clarity converts visitors into leads, clarity differentiates, clarity is monetizable, clarity wins new customers, clarity attracts employees, clarity builds mindshare, clarity wins investors, clarity builds market-share. You will see an new and clearer Admarco.net Website in the near future in pursuit of our own message clarity.

How do you measure the effectiveness or signal quality of your message for Inbound Marketing purposes?

For radio operators in the military  and other organizations, the signal quality is reported on two scales; the first is for signal strength, and the second for signal clarity. Both these scales range from one to five, where one is the worst and five is the best. The listening station reports these numbers separated with the word "by". "Five by five" therefore means a signal that has excellent strength and perfect clarity — the most understandable signal possible.

This is a good metaphor to explore how well you are communicating over the Internet.

A Guide to the colors

I propose the following as a basis for discussion on the effectiveness of your messaging for Inbound Marketing purposes.

Green Zone: The leaders in dark green have invested and continue to invest in messaging excellence as a primary driver of their business.

Light Green: The Challengers believe in messaging and are working towards excellence.

Black: The status-quo need help with their messaging, but for one reason or another, it doesn't get done. It's not terrible and it's not great, the sales guys will have to make more calls.

Orange: Weak messaging is costing your business. You will fail over time and will be overtaken by your competitors unless you institute a program to improve your Google rankings and update your messaging urgently. You get no inbound leads and are dependent on trade-shows, word of mouth and cold-calling for lead generation

Red: This is the land of lost opportunity. It doesn't matter how good your products and services are, if buyers can't find you and your message is opaque, you are headed for failure...soon. Urgent action must be taken in the short term.

Desert Islands: It is highly unlikey that a company will have a crystal clear message and be invisible on Google. Similalry it is highly unlikely that a company will have excellent Google rankings and have a completely unintelligble message....but there may be a few out there on desert islands.

Dead Zone: Self explanatory

Signal Strength = Google Ranking for primary keywords.

5 = You rank on Google Page 1 for more than 20 primary keywords 
4 = You rank on Google Page 1 for more than 5 primary keywords
3 = You rank on the first 3 pages for more than 5 primary keywords, but not P1
2 = You rank on the first 10 pages of Google for more than 5 primary keywords, but not on first three pages
1 = You are practically invisible on Google and only 1 primary keyword appears on first 10 pages, but not on first 3 pages
0 = No matter how hard I try I can't find your site through any keyword combinations on google - you are invisible

Messaging clarity = What is it you do and why should I bother?

When someone arrives on a Website with a clear message, they should be able to figure out what you do in the first 3-7 seconds while they make their decision to stay and explore more or leave.  

Therefore I propose the following five point scale
5 = I get what it is you do and what it will do for me in 3-7 seconds.
4 = I get what it is in 3-7 seconds, but it takes me 10-15 seconds to figure out what it will do for me
3 = It takes me 10-20 seconds to figure out what it is and what it will do for me
2 = I can't figure out what it is, but I click on a CTA and it becomes clear what it it and what it will do
1 = I can't figure out what it is, I click on a CTA and I still can't figure out what it is, but I try the product page and there it is buried in 10 point font in the first paragraph.
0 = I can't figure out what it is or what it does, it's all gobbledegook

If you are in the red, orange or black, we can help.

Connect Buyers to your Big Idea in a Matter of Moments

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Topics: sales and marketing alignment, marketing messaging, messaging architecture

What's in Rolls Royce Brand? - What is your Brand Value Proposition?

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Aug 22, 2011

A large assortment of some of the World’s finest cars came to my home town last week for the annual Concourse de Elegance in Pebble Beach.

On Tuesday afternoon about 200 cars were on display in Ocean Avenue, Carmel for the non-paying public to get up close and kick the tires (I don’t think so). With so many wonderful machines from the past century of motoring in better than showroom condition, I was given to ask, “What is the most prestigious and enduring brand for any motor car, for the past 100 years?”

There are only a handful of manufacturers still around around after 100 years that are still going, let alone one that is 97 years old and one of the World's Superbrands. One brand in my opinion rises above them all - and that is Rolls Royce. I then asked myself the question, “what’s in the brand Rolls Royce…what does it mean to own one, who buys them and why?”.
A bad photograph of a beautiful pre-WW2 Rolls Royce drop-head coupe that inspired this article.

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Topics: messaging value, differentiation, messaging architecture, branding

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