How well are your lead gen programs performing? Be honest. When lead generation programs fail, they do so mainly because the messages communicated are irrelevant or ill timed for the target audience. We, as a society, have become so used to information overload it’s become the white noise of the marketplace. The knee-jerk reaction from companies is the “ready, fire” execution of promotional offers. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that volume replaces the need to “aim.”
Here’s the good news: it’s easier than you think to get out of this cycle of noise-producing marketing that feeds the black hole of spam filters everywhere. All it takes is a small bit of back-to-basics marketing discipline with three steps designed to help you understand the buyer. After all, in this competitive business climate, whoever understands the customer the best, wins.
Step 1: The Marketing Persona
A marketing persona is a fictional representation of a set of real people who share similar traits or experiences. A client I was working with was interested in reaching IT leaders of the Global 3000 companies. That’s a fairly wide range of folks. We needed more specific information in order to construct an effective integrated marketing plan. To help narrow the field, we built the persona of our ideal prospect, focusing on who they are, where they work, and what characteristics made them a good target. By the end of our brainstorming session, we zeroed in on this label to summarize them: “the skeptical futurist”. Key to each persona is more than just basic demographics. We also want to include information about what they think and how they make purchase decisions. Unsure where to start? Ask a sales rep about their latest win.
Step 2: The Positioning Statement
With a keen sketch of our target persona in mind, we now need a crisp positioning statement to focus our attention on the values and benefits customers care about and how our product can uniquely deliver them. This tool identifies the target audience (persona), names the product, it’s category, primary benefit meaningful to the persona, and relevant points of differentiation compared to the most likely competitive alternative. Intended for internal use only, this tool is instrumental in helping marketers stay true to the values and benefits that matter most to customers. While the positioning statement is not the message to the prospect or customer, customer-friendly messaging can be derived from it easily. The most difficult part of the positioning statement exercise is that it forces marketers to make sacrifices. Intuitively, we know we can’t be “all things to all people.” Yet, that’s what most companies end up trying to promote. That miss-step only adds to the noise and confusion in the marketplace. The positioning statement exercise is a forcing function that will lead marketers to produce clearer, tighter, and more consistent messages that prospects will be likely to hear and understand.
Step 3: The Message Box
Marketers must stop yelling at prospects. Successful marketing today is less about direct selling and more about story telling. And people pay attention when the story is about them. The Message Box is the best technique I know to craft a concise “elevator pitch” using language the persona will understand. Four messages make up your story: engagement, solution criteria, product reinforcement, and value. Of course, this is just the beginning of a messaging strategy. Use the Message Box to create a solid foundation from which to build a full content strategy that will help you map the right messages (and the required content) to each stage of the prospect’s buying cycle.
Bringing your campaigns to life
When it comes to effective lead gen programs, there is no substitute for a clear and crisp positioning and messaging strategy. These three steps will put you on the path to the marketing high ground.