Landing your message: say it simply and say it often

Posted by Camilo Lascano Tribin on April 30, 2019

When you work in B2B tech marketing you often find yourself in the presence of incredibly smart people. Infrastructure architects, programmers, data scientists; these individuals are as intimidating as they are inspirational. And it makes sense: building the technology that drives productivity, innovation and shapes the way people work, live and interact with one another is complicated stuff.

However, when it comes to marketing it and in particular when it comes to landing your message, complicated can end up being your worst enemy.

Explain it to me like I’m a two-year-old

One of my favourite scenes in Jonathan Demme’s 1993 epic, Philadelphia is when the film’s hero, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) – himself an exceptionally gifted lawyer – goes to seek legal representation from Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), so he can sue his employer for unfairly dismissing him for being a homosexual.

If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. Coming at the beginning of the 1990s, the film bravely tackles the stigma and discrimination faced by homosexual men in the workplace, especially those afflicted by the AIDS epidemic that swept through the US in the 1980s.

What I want to focus on is when Joe asks Andrew to explain his situation to him as if he were a two-year-old, i.e. put it in the simplest terms possible. This scene perfectly captures the overarching point.

As this scene demonstrates, it doesn’t matter that both men are competent professional lawyers who share a deep and nuanced understanding of the law. What matters is that until you understand something in its simplest form, the complicated version has a higher probability of leading to misunderstanding and confusion. If we bring it back to marketing, misunderstanding and confusion either leave your customers unsatisfied (mismanaged expectations) or disengaged (they completely missed the point).

Einstein was right

Albert Einstein hit the nail on the head when he said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

So often we make the mistake of thinking that if we make something sound complicated, we’ll come off as intelligent. Do not confuse this for anything other than vanity. When you try to complicate matters, rather than coming off as impressive or intelligent you simply put more distance between yourself and your interlocutor. Sorry, I mean audience.

This is especially true in B2B tech marketing when you’re already dealing with pretty complicated subject matter. And it’s easy to fall into the complication bubble.

One of the best things to keep in mind when developing marketing communications for B2B tech is to recall how difficult it was to get your head around something before you understood the basic premise of it.

Take learning to drive. If you drive a manual car, hopefully you can remember how stressful and frustrating it was to learn to change gears. Getting good at gear changing was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome, even though it isn’t necessarily the most complicated aspect of driving. Fast forward to today; do you even think about the gears while you’re driving? Of course not, but that’s only because you’ve done it a million times.

Marketers in tech take note: your prospects do not live and breathe your products the way you and your colleagues do. What seems like a no-brainer for you (because you’ve seen, read, done or heard about it a million and one times) can be the biggest hurdle your prospects have to overcome before they become revenue-generating customers. 

If you want your message to cut through and your audience to know exactly what the benefit of your products or solutions are, you have to make sure you’re communicating that message in the simplest possible way. Believe me when I say you won’t come off as an idiot. If anything, you’ll come off as a hero and they’ll be thankful that they understand it and will feel good about themselves for understanding it so quickly and easily.  

Making the complicated simple, however, is no walk in the park. As Einstein said, to do it well, you’ve got to really know your stuff. And because this is critical to communicating your message successfully, I’m going to tackle this in next week’s blog, so stay tuned.

Now that you know what you’re saying, say it as often as you can

I’m often surprised by how little confidence brands have in their message, especially when they’ve got a good one. I see this a lot more in B2B than in B2C, however, both – to one extent or another – are guilty.

There seems to be a fear amongst marketers of bombarding prospects with the same message repeatedly. To be fair, it’s true that you can drive prospects crazy by bombarding them with marketing communications all day every day. But marketers seem to confuse spamming with strategically repeating a message in order to build brand association, affinity and familiarity.

“The People’s Vote”

“Fake News”

“Just do it”

“I’m loving it”

I don’t have to name any of the individuals or brands above for you to know exactly who or what I’m talking about, do I? You know exactly what each of these phrases is associated with and, in some instances, some bring out a very clear and visceral emotional reaction.

This is what finding the right message and saying it as strategically often as possible can do for your brand. But you’ve got to say it often and you have to say it over a long period of time. Trust the message.

Remember, you may be sick to death of hearing and seeing it, but that’s only because you’re living and breathing it every day of your life. For a potential customer, your message is a two-second headline they scroll past in the course of their incredibly busy day.

Play it again Sam

If you want to see your marketing communications work hard for your business, keep these two things top of mind: you’ve got to say it simply and say it often.

Once again for those at the back: you’ve got to say it simply and say it often.

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