Donald Miller is an author, speaker, and CEO of StoryBrand, a company that helps businesses clarify their message.
StoryBrand helps hundreds of brands to eliminate confusion, connect with customers, and grow sales. Miller says many brands struggle to break through because they don't test their brand messages before sharing:
"We have a mantra at StoryBrand: If you confuse, you lose," said Miller. "The answer to confusion is always 'no'. When people are so close to what they offer, they tend to be either really vague or they speak inside language. I'm amazed."
"I'll actually say to somebody, 'Do you think on a scale of 1-10 that your message is really clear, from 1-10 with ten being clear?' They will say they are a 10. I will tell them to come up in front of the group [and] ask them to tell me what they offer. They will say, 'Nutritional packages that allow equestrian products to flourish.'"
Clear as mud, right? Miller says professionals often fail to use simple phrases people can easily understand:
"Here's the thing, test it at Starbucks. You're standing in line . . . there are strangers all around. Say, 'I'm so sorry to bother you, but I'm actually starting a business. Can I tell you what I offer and then ask you if you understand?'"
Does Your Message Resonate?
Companies allocate enormous resources to hone their message.
A brand message, communicated to your target audience, describes what you do, the value you bring, or how you're different. Your brand message should resonate with the needs, wants, or luxuries of your niche, sometimes with simple slogans like these:
Designed for Driving Pleasure.
Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.
Strong brand messages are memorable, stir an emotional response, and distinguish a brand from its competitors. But when companies hone their identity, they sometimes miss a key element: relevance to their customers. What's important to your company may not be the thing that matters to your customers. Consider these questions to clarify:
- Why does my brand matter? Why does it matter to our customers?
- What does our brand stand for? How will this affect our customers?
- How are we different than competitors? Why does this matter to our customers?
When you don't speak to customers on their terms, you are probably falling short. Be clear on what your customers care about and how you can address their situation. Use language that is authentic and messages that align with your clients' desires or purchasing plans.
Also, consider testing brand messages before publicizing them. This doesn't have to be complicated. Start by simply reading your copy out loud to yourself. Does it sound conversational and real? Then test it out on others. Poll your friends and family, create anonymous surveys for staff and clients, run focus groups with target audience members, or do a website trial with a third-party testing tool. As you move forward, consider logging the impact of:
E-mail subject lines
Print ads, graphics, or layout options
Call to action statements
Packaging colors or logo designs
Online landing pages
Advertising campaign concepts
Time or location an ad is presented
While testing takes work, business leaders agree it is worth the effort: 72% of advertising professionals said it's important to test an ad before it's launched, and 85% of product-focused managers said testing is vital to their success at work. Testing content can sharpen your focus, make your message more relevant, and boost the response to your marketing pieces.