IBM just released its latest State of Marketing 2013 study, which surveyed more than 500 marketing professionals worldwide, from 15 different industries about what’s working and not. As always, it’s interesting reading (at least for those of us who like surveys and benchmark content). What caught my immediate attention in the survey results is the separation between marketers who are significantly outperforming their peers based on how well their companies perform financially, the top 20%, and what these best-in-class marketers are doing to outdistance themselves from their peers.
While the study pinpoints a number of areas, one thread seems to emerge – top marketers do a better job of understanding their customer’s needs and delivering against the entire broad customer experience. Said another way, they focus on delivering VALUE.
As we all struggle with declining email opens, challenging content strategies, low conversion rates and other metrics, I wonder if in our sometimes frantic effort to find the perfect subject line or the most compelling imagery for our latest eBook, we haven’t missed something very basic. We consistently challenge ourselves to write stronger email copy in fewer words to generate response.
We push our designers to produce more intriguing Infographics and more mobile-friendly content to build cross-channel response. Those are important efforts and need to continue. But if our offer – either the solution we are selling or the content we are asking our prospects to engage with – isn’t built around solid value as our customer views it, it’s likely to fail to generate a response, despite clever design or superior writing.
And it’s the last part of that thought that really counts: value as our customer views it. Especially in the BtoB market, where all solutions share a common high level value message (makes you money, saves you money or makes your life easier), maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how we’re describing our solution, the content we are promoting or the special offer we’re making. For example, that “valuable” free consultation we offer in our marketing campaign probably won’t produce the expected lead volume if prospects see it for what it almost always is – a thinly disguised sales call.
The good news is that revisiting the value proposition doesn’t have to be difficult. The bad news is that it does take work. Developing prospect/customer personas that contain very specific needs and then mapping a solution feature set to those needs should be something done on a regular basis. Once the needs are identified in detail, developing content that addresses very specific needs rather than vague high-level thoughts is possible.
Of course, if you go through the persona exercise and find gaps between your solution message and what your prospects’ specific pain points are, it may be time for a message revisit. In today’s rapidly changing, buyer centered environment, no amount of creative design or well-written prose will trump getting the value message right.