Marketing

Messaging Gaps: Are You Pitching What Your Customers Are Buying?

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George

We recently moved our team into a co-working space. We checked a bunch of options out. They all pitched us on the same things: the fancy coffee machine, the table tennis, the cool furniture.

The problem?

I wasn’t interested in those things. I was thinking about all those logos on the wall in reception. I wanted to know who else was in the building.

I was paying for the networking, not the decor.

I call this disconnect between what companies pitch to prospects and what their customers are really paying for a ‘messaging gap’. It’s something I see a lot. Often enough to name, at least.

Messaging gaps create all kinds of problems at a tactical level: less relevant traffic, lower conversion rates, fewer leads that close, etc. But it’s the aggregate of these things that gets you in the end.

The wider your messaging gap, the more money you waste putting the wrong messaging in front of potential customers.

visual showing messaging gap between what customers are buying and what team are pitching

Having a messaging gap isn’t a copy problem, it’s a strategy problem. And it impacts performance at the strategic level, which means it impacts everything.

If your messaging is out of whack, your entire funnel is out of whack. 😱

We talk a lot about optimisation as an industry: conversion rates, ad CPLs, email CTRs. This stuff is important. But the fastest way to improve the performance of every single piece of content on every single channel you have is to talk about things that matter in a way that moves people.

This might sound easy, but it’s actually really hard and there’s only one way to do it: knowing your customer.

 


 

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How to Close Messaging Gaps

I’ve been closing messaging gaps for years. I’ve tried all kinds of things, from running day-long workshops to paying expensive consultants for research.

The best way I’ve found to close messaging gaps is:

  • Conduct one-to-one customer interviews to find out:
    • The pain points people experienced before your product
    • How your product solved those pain points
    • The positive impact on their life and work
    • Why it’s worth paying for and better than the alternatives
  • Once you have a reliable hypothesis, religiously A/B test your messaging to prove or disprove what your customers have told you

ps. check out the Customer Research section of our Playbook to grab the interview script, persona and messaging templates I use when I’m doing this for our clients.

The good news is that the internet has made this much cheaper and easier than it used to be. In fact, it’s so cheap and so easy, it’s a wonder more marketers don’t bother.

The combination of interviewing customers and then validating your learnings through A/B testing is powerful. Over time, you’ll squeeze your messaging gaps out of existence.

chart showing messaging gap fixed through interviews and testing

Something I’ve noticed over the years is that some companies are open to this kind of thing, others aren’t.

Some marketing teams have a ‘testing culture’. The rest have a ‘guessing culture’. 🙈

Like any cultural issue, this starts at the top. It’s your job as a marketing leader to embed a ‘testing culture’, unless you want to live with wide messaging gaps and lots of wasted money. That two-step process I’ve just described is easy, but you need to make it happen.

My advice, as with anything new, is to start simple:

  • Speak to at least three paying customers every six months (you can use the templates in our playbook to learn who to interview, what to ask and how to document your learnings)
  • Set up simple A/B tests on easy-to-test content like emails, landing pages and ads. Aim to have three tests running at any point in time. Focus your tests on important elements like headlines or subject lines. Don’t test more than one  element at a time, or you won’t know which one is making the difference

 

How to Create Messaging Gaps

Messaging gaps are made up of assumptions. That space between what you’re selling and what your customers are buying is full of all the assumptions and biases that have accumulated within your business over the years.

How many times have you heard something like:

  • “That part of the pitch really landed, X must be important”
  • “That email performed well, Y must be important”

chart showing where messaging gaps come from

These observations are useful and interesting, but they’re not conclusive. Also, they only focus on the parts of the customer journey that we get to see. Customer success will focus on the things they hear people say six months into being a customer. Sales focus on the things they say when they’re making a decision. Only the customer sees the whole picture.

That’s why the most reliable evidence is first-hand insight straight from the customer that’s been backed up by some kind of test.

The more you second guess what customers care about based on fragmentary second-hand evidence, the wider your messaging gaps become. The more you speak on your customer’s behalf, instead of speaking to them directly, the worse things get.

My principle is this: never assume. Listen to customers, then prove it out with some kind of test. Do this so consistently it becomes second nature.

Embed a ‘testing culture’ and you will crush any competitors that still rely on guesswork. 💪

Thanks for reading. If you have ever questions, thoughts or feedback, I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line on Twitter anytime.


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