First steps to focusing message

It's about the customer, not the message

My refocusing process often starts with a competitive analysis. It's tangible and (mostly) known, or knowable. Provided there is a product involved, I work with the firm to build it, if it does not already exist.

Even with a competitive analysis in hand, the critical question is always: What matters most to your customers? In other words: Why did they buy from you, rather than your competition?

One of the straightforward approaches is to ask your best customers if they might approve publishing a user story on the site. I have seen this produce unexpected buying reasons. Acting on that new information produced amazing results.

One example was with a recent client. I discovered that the most important buying reason wasn't about the product at all. It was about the benefits conferred when a disaster struck. The next step was to become an expert on that risk.

Luckily, my research netted data proving the risk was growing worse according to leading experts in the field. Posting a detailed objective article on the site that exposed the very real risks involved boosted sales significantly.

The article also boosted the firm's standing in the search engines since the article had synthesized information on the issue in a unique way. This prompted other sites to link to the article, making my client's site an "authority" (Google term). As a result, the client's rank in the search returns increased significantly.

Since customer motivation is the question, working with Sales often is the answer

Whoever does the selling knows most of the important factors. A salesperson must listen carefully to identify each customer's pain points, and then persuasively present the specific buying reasons that address the pain. Finding the important buying reasons in common across most customers is the trick. The best salespeople present a different array of buying reasons to each prospect.

Here my sales experience serves me well—I sold HP servers ($100-300K per) for a few years. Aggregating buying reasons from Sales is very much a qualitative not-by-the-book task. Consider: The goal is to list and gauge the rank of the strongest buying emotions driving sales.

Natural tension—when to cut and run

During the first cycle of message clarification, it is hard to know when there is a sufficient refinement to stop working on the core message and move to implementing changes in communications based on the new message.

However, once put to the test using analytics, it's easy to see if progress is being made. Producing a modest reduction in bounce rate and increasing engagement produces more meaningful data, and perhaps more sales.

Next: Help him visualize being a customer.