Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Principles of Highly Persuasive Messaging


At the November 2010 meeting of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association, Michael Cannon, CEO of Silver Bullet Group presented the Top Ten Principles of Highly Persuasive Messaging.  Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned sales and marketing effectiveness expert, dynamic speaker and best-selling author of several business marketing books. An expert in enabling B2B companies to increase competitive differentiation, win rates, and market share, Michael has assisted hundreds of companies, such as Agilent Technologies and Oracle, to increase revenues. He has over 20 years of sales and marketing, management and founder’s experience in the enterprise software, telecommunications, wireless, training, and professional services industries holding positions ranging from Account Executive to VP of Sales to CEO.

Michael is Founder of the Silver Bullet Group and creator of the hugely successful Silver Bullet Sales Messaging® System, a proven, proprietary methodology for dramatically improving the quality of B2B messaging. His presentation was subtitled, Objective Criteria Equips Marketing to Accelerate Revenue Growth (by doubling the effectiveness of the messaging and the tools that persuade people to buy).

Michael immediately engaged the audience of product focused professionals by questioning what roles and business objectives were represented in the audience.  Although his examples involved primarily the sales organization’s perspective within B2B enterprises, the approach he suggested applies to every product messaging situation charged with accelerating revenue growth by creating greater competitive differentiation and advantage, increasing Marketing ROI, and providing better channel (Direct, Indirect) engagement and support. 

Cannon defined messaging as “the words you use, both written and verbal, along with the supporting visuals, to persuade a person to do business with your company.” Naming the root cause of ineffective customer messaging as the “Customer Messaging Gap”, the bottom line is that companies do not provide persuasive answers to key customer questions, such as
  •  “Why should I change out my current solution for a new solution?” and
  •  “Why should I buy this solution from your company rather than from the competition?”

Cannon picked apart a typical Customer Messaging Map (that could have been pulled straight from a Marketing Requirements Document), identifying targeted messaging to key stakeholders with distinct message categories, distance to customer, message types, questions to answer and message goals.  The further distance from the sales conversation, i.e. corporate messaging, market messaging, and product messaging, the less influential the messaging is to the customer buying decision.  The gap is at the critical sales messaging area just prior to the sales conversation where opportunity creation, the question of competitive offerings and request for a meeting occurs.

Statistics reinforce the problem with sales messaging:
  • “58% of a vendor’s marketing content is not relevant to potential buyers”
  • “80 to 90% of marketing collateral is considered useless by sales.”
Further aggravating the problem, in an attempt to resolve the gap, Sales representatives take it upon themselves to create sales messaging ad hoc, or Field Marketing is tasked with creating the messaging out of sync, and/or customers are forced to figure out the answers for themselves to justify their purchase decisions. This wastes cycles, risks revenue loss, and frustrates sales and customers alike.

Cannon discussed an infographic from CSO Insights, 2008 Sales Performance Optimization Report that displayed the “Effort vs. Impact on Sales Effectiveness” of marketing programs.  In order of impact from highest effort to lowest cost:
  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • SKM (Sales Knowledge Management), Sales Training Event, Blitz Campaigns & SPIFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund), Sales Collaboration, Sales Process Mapping
  • Sales Messaging mapped as the most impact for least effort and cost 
Sales messaging must provide a persuasive answer to the buyer’s primary buying questions. Buyer’s questions can be answered at three different levels: feature, benefit and customer business value.  Customer business value centric messaging is the most effective in creating the business value from the customer’s perspective, by identifying the lowest total cost of ownership and implementing the least risky option.  Since most buyers consider your sales messaging to be claims, it’s important to provide proof points with customer testimonials and 3rd party organizations to prove the truth of each key claim. The more clearly you contrast the difference between you and your competitors, the more business you win.  Messaging should succinctly clarify the contrast between offerings using quantification and sharply contrasting adjectives.

Sales messaging must be aligned to the buy/sell process, with key messaging relevant to each step of the customer’s decision making experience as well as buying identity in the technology adoption life cycle.

A summary of the top ten principles of highly effective messaging:
  1. Target the buyer by audience type and buyer role
  2. Indentify and persuasively answer the audience’s primary buying questions
  3. Enable the sales cycle and the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC)
  4. Make the right comparison
  5. Use strong comparative language
  6. Define clear capability advantages
  7. Communicate value in the customer’s context
  8. Incorporate lots of proof points
  9. Make the customer the hero
  10. Pass the sales and customer validation test

Additional information is available from Michael Cannon's Silver Bullet Group at http://www.silverbulletgroup.com/resources

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Cindy F. Solomon, CPM/CPMM blogs & tweets about software, startups, innovation and product management issues 
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