How to craft messages that connect with your audience

Solomon Radley18/10/2018

It takes real creativity to craft messages that resonate with your target audience – and this simple formula will help you see which ideas have the best chances of success.

This trend towards ‘data‐driven marketing’ is a total cop out.

It’s one thing to use data to inform your marketing campaigns. But, depending on it as the sole basis for your creative decisions is another altogether. Data is no substitute for creativity.

Of course, A/B testing will help you work out which ideas your audience responds to best. Targeting tools will help you reach the right people with your campaigns. And yes, automation technology will help you serve the right content to buyers throughout their customer journeys.

But unless you can really connect with your audience, no amount of data or technical wizardry will make your campaigns a hit.

Technology is great for uncovering fresh insights about your customers. But the real magic still lies in finding creative ways to turn those insights into messages that will resonate with your audience.

Developing the ability to turn customer insights into powerful marketing messages will make you very valuable indeed – and you can find examples of these insight‐driven campaigns throughout the B2B landscape:

  • Customer service specialist Zendesk used the insight that maintaining client relationships is one of its audience’s top challenges to generate the idea for its Relationships Are Complicated social campaign.
  • Email marketing company MailChimp’s Did You Mean MailChimp? PPC campaign uses the brand’s high awareness levels to capitalise on the common typing mistakes people make when using search engines.
  • Samsung’s More Good Days at Work campaign works because it highlights the emotionally charged insight that leading a productive work life contributes to having a happy home life.

Of course, data will have played a big role in uncovering the insights that inspired these campaigns – and the marketing teams that developed them will have used technology to test if they worked. But without the creative thinking it takes to turn those insights into powerful marketing messages, none of them would have seen the light of day.

So, today we’ll outline a three‐step formula you can use to spot insights with the potential to become effective marketing messages. But first, we should run through the role these messages will play in your campaigns.

The ‘golden thread’ that ties everything together

When B2B brands tell a consistent story and communicate clear values, they attract prospects who identify with the problems they can solve and value the benefits their solutions provide.

That’s why the most successful content marketers will have a clear messaging framework to inform their content campaigns. Threading the same key messages through all your content will guarantee that everyone who engages with it walks away knowing exactly what your brand is and what it stands for.

There’s no ideal way to construct a messaging framework. But while each one is different, there are a few things they all have in common.

Towards the top of your framework will be a series of content themes, each derived from one of your target audience’s biggest pain points. You’ll then have a lead message to go with each theme, along with a series of supporting messages to help drive the point home.

The key thing to remember is that all the content you create for each campaign should feed into your brand’s overarching story.

Your target audience determines your content themes, which determine your lead messages, which in turn determine your supporting messages. Then, your content pieces feed directly into your messaging framework.

For example, let’s say a consultancy firm researches the challenges facing its target audience and discovers that its clients’ sales teams are having a hard time closing deals. Starting from this insight, it might develop a campaign on the theme of sales optimisation.

Now, while researching this topic the consultancy might also uncover evidence that this challenge actually has little to do with the sales team’s closing skills – and is instead down to how they treat prospects at the start of the sales process.

Suddenly, this firm’s marketing team has the makings of a powerful message that’s sure to grab the attention of its target audience. This one message could form the basis for an entire content campaign challenging B2B brands to rethink the way they sell to clients.

Its marketers could then develop supporting messages that build on this idea. They might stress that B2B buyers hate when salespeople waste their time, or how providing insights throughout the sales process drives customer loyalty.

When brainstorming ideas for your own messaging framework, you’ll often find it’s easy to think of potential themes to focus on. The hard part is spotting exactly which of them are most likely to resonate with your audience.

The secret to identifying great messages

It goes without saying that your customers won’t respond to just any old message, and you don’t want to waste your time building a campaign around an idea they couldn’t care less about.

What marketers need is a way to tell if a particular message is worth testing before they build a whole campaign around it – and that’s where this simple three‐step formula comes in.

You see, the best marketing messages almost always have the same three things in common. They confirm a belief your audience already holds. They provide new insights relating to that belief. And they do all of this in a way that shocks or intrigues their audience.

“Your idea must be inherently sound, believable and prove something the reader suspected was true,” says copywriting expert Glenn Fisher in The Art of the Click. “People buy good ideas they want to believe.”

More often than not, these messages are actually quite simple. Their power doesn’t come from their complexity or the brilliance of the mind that conceived of them. They’re just new ways of looking at things – ones that your customers have never thought of before.

Take the Edelman Trust Barometer, for instance.

This annual research report has become one of the world’s most successful content marketing initiatives. It works because it starts from the insight that many brands struggle to earn their customers’ trust and confirms an intuition most marketers already have. (Namely, that the public thinks many types of organisation are basically untrustworthy.)

Then, it informs people’s thinking about this intuition by providing hard data about the specific levels of trust people have in different institutions.

Finally, Edelman’s creative teams use the insights the survey uncovers each year to produce content that intrigues their target audiences.

Of course, publishing original research isn’t the only way to create content that resonates with an audience. But take pretty much any successful B2B marketing campaign and you’ll find the idea behind it can be summarised using this simple three‐step formula.

Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever before to uncover meaningful insights about your customers and the challenges they face. But, it’s the messages you create using that information that will help you connect with your target audience.

Building each of your messages around a challenge your customers face guarantees your content will confirm something they already believe. From there, use this three‐step formula to provide them with a new way of thinking about things that both informs and astonishes them.

Key takeaways

  • Data is no substitute for creativity. Technology is great for uncovering insights about your customers. But you still need to turn these insights into messages that will resonate with your audience.
  • The best messages confirm, inform and astonish. Take a belief your audience already holds, provide new insights relating to that belief and do so in a way that shocks or intrigues your audience.
  • Remember the power of one. A single powerful message should sit at the top of your messaging framework and form the thread that runs through all your content initiatives.