By: John Seroka
Companies that provide clear value propositions and differentiation are ahead of the game because they can be consistent with their marketing, sending a consistent message that makes it much easier to build credibility, recognition, and trust with the target audience.
Muddy messaging, if left alone, can be a silent killer. What’s the cost if you don’t deal with it quickly? At best is lack of sales and at worst is garnering press recognition that misrepresents you.
How do I make sure my brand message is clear?
1) Narrow your target audience profile. Coming to terms with exactly who your audience is and what characteristics make up your best audience for your offering is critically important to honing your message.
For example, if you’re a B2B company targeting mortgage bankers, who makes the decision to purchase your product/service? Who do you have to appeal to first before the person who writes the check will consider doing business with you? What is their origination volume? What is the average age of the individual(s) you’re targeting? What are their job responsibilities? What social media sites do they engage with? What publications do they subscribe to?
If you’re a mortgage lender, what’s the credit profile of the people you want to target? Are they first time homebuyers? Do they need to consolidate debt? Or, if you’re trying to recruit MLO’s, what are the characteristics of the MLO that is a good fit for your company and culture?
If you’re a real estate brokerage, one of your top goals is to attract high-producing agents to want to come work with you. How do you determine what agents are a good fit?
Oftentimes, especially in a business-to-business setting, the person who is interested in your product is interested in it for a different set of reasons than the person who writes the check. You need to speak to both of their needs.
Here’s another twist. What if what you’re offering is for businesses, but they white-label it and cross-sell it to their clients which could be the consumer or even other businesses?
In this case, you need to go through a similar profiling exercise for the consumer or other business entity as well. You must make sure that they have the right messaging to ensure their success in the cross-sell environment.
2) Identify the problem(s) you solve, or your product/service solves. No matter what you sell, you are in business because you believe you are solving a problem. What is that problem? Why do you believe you can win in the marketplace as you look around at your competition?
Answering these questions is essential for gaining traction with your target audience and the media.
As you answer these questions, especially if you’re a mortgage or real estate technology company, be sure to use language that’s easy to grasp. Simplicity sells especially at the top of the funnel. As people get closer to taking action, at the bottom of the funnel, that’s where they want to learn about the details.
Consider using an A/B comparison to help convey the benefits to a specific audience over another product most closely related. Show the up sides as well as the downsides so that your business referrers can help prospective clients make clear, informed decisions.
3) Identify what keeps your target audience awake at night. The stress of buying a house, for example, comes in many forms. Some of these stressors include:
- What if interest rates go up?
- Am I creditworthy?
- Do I have enough money down to be approved?
- Will I meet income requirements?
- How will the house appraise?
- Will I get approved on time?
By identifying what keeps your target audience awake at night, whether that audience is high-producing MLO’s or real estate agents you’d like to recruit, or lenders, or brokerages, you’ll be better positioned to speak to them and help them understand why your offering is better.
4) Identify your “why.” Why do you do what you do? The answer to this question grounds everything you do with something that your audience can connect with emotionally. This deeper connection is what builds loyalty (see Apple, Nike, Starbucks…you know many of them).
For example, maybe you recently went through the process of buying a new home. During that process, you discovered inefficiencies and those inefficiencies are what drove you to investigate solutions. So eventually you quit your day job to work full time on a solution, tested it and then brought it to market.
A great story can go a long way to set you apart from your competitors. Everybody has their own story…they’re like fingerprints. You might consider sharing an experience or your “a-ha” moment when your idea first came to mind. Have fun with this one!
5) Conduct a competitive assessment. Identify your competitors’ brand statements, value propositions, marketing messages and testimonials. Also, conduct a thorough review of their social media presence, public relations activities, and any online reviews.
By going through this exercise, you can then identify gaps in communications, shortcomings, where you think they really hit the mark in how/what they communicate and what they’re missing.
6) Answer the simple question “Why will my audience care?” This will force you to think like your audience and empathize with their needs to enhance your communications.
Let’s try this one out right now: Why will (specific target audience) care about my new _____________?
Remember, to pass the test, make sure you’ve taken a hard look at what matters to them (see #3). If the correlation to their priorities is too distant, you may be targeting the wrong people, or your message needs to be better formulated.
Your brand messaging is like the foundation of your house. Make sure it’s solid before you start building the structure, comprised of your marketing, public relations, and social media efforts. If you do it right to begin with, you’ll avoid tearing down the structure and having to start from scratch. Reshaping your audience’s perceptions can take a long time. It will also take time to repair the internal confusion caused by your own people lacking clarity on what you stand for.