“Football is two things. It’s blocking and tackling. I don’t care about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you’re playing, you win.” This quote from Vince Lombardi, Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers coach, is important for us marketers to consider when developing messaging for our products and services.
As any football coach will tell you, blocking and tackling are two fundamental elements to playing football. Before the season begins, players are schooled on these fundamentals, and only those who have developed an expertise implement the formations on game day.
So how is this relevant to “good market messaging?” Some medical product companies slap together a marketing message, place it on a social media platform and the product website in a rush to drive customer purchase behavior. That’s implementing their offensive formations too soon. They are communicating the marketing message before their blocking or tackling is perfected, or in marketing vernacular, before practicing the marketing fundamentals. As a result, these companies put their ability to win over their prospects at risk.
Here is a list of marketing fundamentals to consider before launching your message:
- Know your customer and their needs
- Use your customer knowledge to identify key benefits
- Start with an impactful value proposition
- Brainstorm terminology that excites the customer
- Examine competitive messaging to ensure differentiation
- Test your message with customers
Know your customer
There are no shortcuts to great message development. It starts with customer research. Medical marketers conduct research to uncover:
- clinical / operational challenges customers face when performing their daily activities
- how solving these challenges improve clinical efficiency & effectiveness or reduce cost
- those product aspects that are most important in generating customer interest
I recommend performing qualitative research, either focus groups or in-depth interviews so you can uncover the customer’s perspective in greater depth. If your organization cannot afford these research techniques, visiting clients with a sales rep for interviews can also deliver great customer insights.
Market research respondents tend to react to product features. But, it’s not the features per se that drive customers purchase behavior, it’s the perceived benefit they obtain from the feature. Therefore, it’s imperative that marketing research force customers to explain why a feature is important to them. Without understanding the underlying need, we marketers are left guessing and we risk basing our campaigns on our beliefs not the customers’. The marketing message is unlikely to compel customer purchases.
Identify key benefits
Undoubtedly, market research will uncover dozens of product benefits. But spewing a complete benefits list distracts the customer from the key points that drive purchase behavior. The most important customer benefits are candidates for product messaging.
Develop an impactful value proposition
The next step is developing the value proposition, a succinct statement identifying the target customer and broadly conveying the primary drivers for a customer purchase. Without this, companies can wallow in detail that is unimportant. Done well, this statement serves as a guide for developing an engaging, informative and stimulating message to the customer.
Brainstorm compelling terminology
Only now that you have developed a framework explaining the key benefits gleaned from customer data are you ready to build a compelling message. Assemble other marketing team members to brainstorm terms and concepts that could potentially stimulate customer interest. You may also want to solicit your sales or clinical support team for terminology. Many marketing departments accept these brainstorming results for the final message. But two other steps must be completed before finalizing the message.
Examine competitive messaging
Your message does not exist in a vacuum. Competitors pound customers with messages about their products. They may even disparage yours. To establish a connection with the customer, you need to develop a distinct message. This starts with making sure you know what the competitor is telling the customer.
Review your competitors’ website content, social media posts and print collateral for the terms they use. Identify the benefits your competitor promotes as the most important (usually based upon placement and frequency, as well as the amount of copy, devoted to the concept). Then, compare and contrast the competitor list to your benefits. Which components of your message are similar? Which are different?
Look for terminology that you know addresses important customer benefits which are not addressed by the competition. These are potential concepts that can capture customer mindshare. What do I mean by capturing customer mindshare? Think “Kleenex”. Many people, myself included, do not ask to use a tissue when they have a sniffle; they ask for a Kleenex. Your messaging goal is to get customers to think of your product when they think of their challenge.
Test your message with customer
This step is the one most often ignored by companies. But it’s unlikely that Marketing, sitting their cubicles, can develop messaging that resonates perfectly with the customer. We marketers can’t fully know what the customer experiences and feels. Only by customer message testing can we know our message stimulates our desired response.
Some firms test messaging by posting on social media and tracking the messages that garner the most purchases. I’d rather post a message I know will work. Also, I believe “you only get one chance to make a first impression”, so I use qualitative market research to test the message before it goes out to the public. During the qualitative test, present your messaging concepts and gauge their reactions. Is there terminology that casts a negative impression? Do any terms adequately describe the challenges they face? And most importantly, how much do your messages compel customer engagement an inclination to purchase?
Taking these steps before releasing your product message are the fundamentals for good market messaging. Once performed, set up your formations: advertising buys, social media posts, product website content. But now you have messaging that follows Vince Lombardi’s advice and puts your product in the best position to win.