Here are 3 Fundamental Reasons Why Your Company’s Messaging (and Sales) are No Longer Good Enough
In January earlier this year, my business launched a new product that sold extremely well.
You might not care about the product itself (a bundle of cookbooks), but you should care about the reasons why that launch sold so well and our next couple did not.
And these lessons are not a re-hash of old truisms. These are the unspoken rules of how marketing has evolved in the past 5-10 years, and these are the reasons why most companies are falling behind…
See, I’ve been studying and implementing marketing and copywriting strategies for many years. And during our book launch, I was very “proud” of our conversion rates – the rate at which we turned potential customers into actual customers.
So when the launch went well, I thought I was smart.
Surely, this launch was further proof that I had built up skills and knowledge that would allow me to continually create marketing campaigns that effortlessly sold new products?
Only sort of.
During the 3 months after our book launch, we also launched several other books that did NOT sell nearly as well. In our January launch, we did have excellent marketing and messaging. However, I was reminded in the months after our launch of one big lesson…
As we progress further into the digital age, the biggest marketing (and business) skill your company must cultivate is AGILITY.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Most aspects of marketing still rely on the same fundamentals. So keep studying timeless marketing principles from Robert Cialdini, Gene Schwartz, Claude Hopkins, and Gary Halbert.
However, agility – the ability to move and think quickly and easily – has become FAR more important than any other skill.
My personal focus is on messaging – the way in which your company connects its vision to your customers’ needs and desires. But the need for agility really extends to your entire business.
There are 3 primary reasons that your company’s messaging (and sales) are not nearly as good as they could be…
Reason #1: Your Company (and Team) Are NOT Built Around Speed
Quick Synopsis: Oversight quality and oversight still matter, but you no longer have time to slowly craft refined messaging about your company or product. It’s more crucial that you put out many different messages on many different platforms, and then adjust based on what is working.
James Joyce, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, or Fyodor Dostoevsky…
These are some of the greatest authors in history, and yet, each of these authors produced only 2-3 truly great works of art during their lifetime.
They produced other books, but not every book was “great” – some were just very good. The problem is that they simply couldn’t produce fast enough, because they were each only one person. And – contrary to popular myth, no matter how skilled/talented you are, which of your work becomes a great success is pretty random.
For example, there was a study of 2,887 scientists (physicists). The researchers tracked the careers of each scientist and when they published their “highest-impact” papers – the breakthroughs and innovations.
You would expect that as the scientists got older and had more experience, they’d be more likely to discover a huge breakthrough or innovation.
Not the case. There was no correlation between the stage of a scientist’s career and how likely they were to make a breakthrough or innovation – it was completely random.
In other words, experience and skill were necessary factors for success but not at all predictive of when breakthroughs would happen.
And another study of 48,000 researchers found that breakthroughs and innovations were not the result of being the smartest or the most well-funded or well-educated. While those things obviously matter – the biggest factor is how many papers a researcher publishes (by a long shot).
Marketing and messaging are no different.
You cannot predict which marketing campaigns will be home runs. My success last January was made possible because of prior work I’d put in, but it happened at that time for no reason other than that I serendipitously tapped into a moment in time.
Luckily, though, because of the increased pace of the digital world, if your company is agile and built for speed, you can take advantage of this reality. But most companies are not making this transition…
In particular, no matter the level at your company, it obviously can’t be just you (or any one person) making all the decisions. Your team must be chosen for their ability to think and act quickly and independently. And you must set them up to be able to act quickly and autonomously.
In our business, we’ve begun hiring specifically for agility, but we’ve also put in goals and structures where speed is unquestionably required (bigger goals), autonomy is demanded (narrower communication lines), and “failure” of a sort is expected.
Amazon is perhaps the best-known example of building this agility into their company (e.g., their two-pizza teams). And it’s obviously worked, but it’s largely because they’ve also been willing to deal with their share of failures (e.g., this price-testing faux pas all the way back in 2000).
Spotify, Valve, and Github are other great examples.
The takeaway here is not that your company needs to be structured identically to these companies, but rather that the focus must be increasingly on allowing and enabling your team to quickly try out new marketing campaigns and messaging on an ongoing basis. It’s the only way that you can possibly find the “home-runs” in your marketing/messaging.
Which leads to this…
Reason #2: You’re Not Testing Enough
Quick Synopsis: The best way to be agile in your marketing is through testing – of sales copy, lead capture, ads, emails, and even sales scripts. You must always be testing something, gathering data, and adjusting.
Always. Be. Testing.
In marketing or in business, your job is now easier in many ways than an author or scientist, because you can publish your projects almost instantaneously and continuously.
That means you could potentially…
- Set up and test 1,000 different ads at a time
- Continually set up and test new sales pages and lead capture pages
- Run endless surveys for your audience
- …and much more
In the digital age – which is honestly still in its infancy – you’ve got the ability to test everything more quickly and less expensively than ever before.
Not all of this is easy. But it’s possible, and if you’re not taking advantage of this reality as a company, then your marketing and your business will ultimately lose to the company who decides to rely less on ingenuity and more on market feedback.
If you want to hear about an impressive example of a company embracing testing at this level, check out Gabe Leydon from the company “MZ”. This interview is from late 2016, but even at that time, they were creating over 20,000 ad creatives per week:
If you’re running a small consulting agency, then clearly, you don’t need to be running nearly that many ad tests. But if you’re running marketing for a major company, then testing should be half of your job.
And no matter what type of marketing you’re doing, you should always be running a test. Because even if you’re not the greatest marketer in the world, you now have at your fingertips the greatest amount of data in history.
So whether it’s your website front page, sales call scripts, facebook ads, or the emails you send out, being agile in the digital age demands that you test constantly.
If you want a good place to start, check out this article.
Again, the takeaway is not that you need to be running thousands of split-tests, but rather that everything you do must be geared towards always testing.
Skill and experience are no longer enough, because you’re competing in a world where your competitors are constantly testing their own marketing and messaging. And the more they test, the more data they have, and the further behind your company falls.
Unless, of course, you’re testing as much or more than they are.
Reason #3: You’re Not “Listening”
Quick Synopsis: Customers have more voice than ever, but most businesses still GUESS at what their customers want. Your #1 goal must be to engage your audience continuously solely to learn what they want and to “co-create” both messages and products WITH your customers.
Listening is a great life skill, but it’s arguably even more important for your business.
While testing is an absolute necessity, if you listen agilely, it will truly set your company apart.
I’m assuming you already have some customers and some audience. If you’re starting a new business, there are still plenty of ways to do this, but it’s not the focus here.
Long-gone are the days of research groups and secret surveys. They still exist, of course, but your business should mostly forget about them.
What you need is a plan for engaging your audience continually, but not to sell or market…to LISTEN. In fact, the customer service strategy of your company should now revolve primarily around listening before there’s a problem.
And the best way to listen is to engage the platforms that we (as businesses) love to hate: social media.
Social media might be terrible for humans in some ways. It increases tribalism and leads to addictive behaviors. On the other hand, social media presents not just an opportunity for you to sell better, but primarily for you to serve your customers better.
And the way to do that is to actually INTERACT with your potential and actual customers. Most medium and large companies use their social media platforms to try and portray and image or brand. Those things have their place, but your primary focus should be on direct interaction with your customers and potential customers.
It’s a slow and time-consuming process, but if you want true engagement, tons of data, and an idea of how to truly help your audience, then you cannot forgo direct interaction.
And by the way, I include my own companies in group of companies that don’t do it well enough. We’re trying to get better, but we’re not great at it yet.
One of the main reasons this is so critical is because your marketing needs to be co-created with your customers. It’s not just about finding out what they want, the ways they talk, or their fears and dreams.
Those things are important, but it’s now possible and necessary to have them help you create your company’s marketing.
There are famous and obvious examples (like GoPro), but your strategy doesn’t need to be that big at first.
You can start simply by chatting on Facebook, IG, or any other platform with your customers, and start a central database of customer thoughts, concerns, fears, and desires. It doesn’t even need to be related to your company’s product or service. Your goal is first to simply know your customers better.
After that, get your customers involved. If you’re launching a new product, ask them how they’d tell their friends about it. Or run contests for the most creative videos showing your product in action.
Really, the method matters much less than just starting to interact.
Speed and Agility are No Longer Optional
Personally, I love reading great marketing books, thinking deeply about marketing principles, and dreaming up new ways of connecting products with customers.
But that level of strategizing is quickly becoming less important than it’s ever been. As businesses, we’ve now got incredible amounts of data and so many opportunities to instantly interact with our customers.
So while strategizing and being creative is still necessary, being fast and agile are the bigger drivers of success in marketing and messaging.
If your company can move faster, interact more, test more, and work with your customers to co-create your messaging and marketing, then your company will win. And the corollary is that your customers will also win, because you’ll create better products and you’ll be able to connect your customers to the products that they actually want and need.
It’s a true win-win scenario for your company and your customers. That is, of course, unless you aren’t agile enough…