Cut Through the B2B B.S. and Develop a Message Your Customers Will Listen To [#CZLNY]

How do you frame your messaging in a way that speaks to your real customers? Craig Coffey, marketing communications manager of Lincoln Electric Company, led the discussion around this topic in his session at ClickZ Live New York.

Coffey is in a business that’s driven by engineers, and so of course, they think like engineers. And that’s how you get things like specifications sheets as your main form of marketing collateral, which he shared as an example of the message he wanted to fix.

His mission: Make the message clearer for all consumers beyond the specs. If your business is struggling with this obstacle, too, start by moving beyond the idea that you (the internal team) are the target market, says Coffey.

At Lincoln, they implemented a “boot camp” process. The goal was to break down the technical teams and get them to think like marketers. The process was to move from specs and features to the things like how to satisfy customer needs.

The boot camp team needs to be comprised of the following team members to be successful, Coffey said:


So what really is the goal with your messaging? Coffey says what you’re after is a competitive differential advantage.

He then shared the process at Lincoln that helps them flesh out the competitive differential advantage when launching a new product, for example, and it looks something like this:

  • List features
  • Identify competitors and narrow the set based on various factors
  • Determine the things that they do and the things you do
  • Only talk about the things in your messaging that are different from them

Here are a few other tips on your competitive differential advantage:

  1. It must be unique, as in you are the only who can claim to do it
  2. It must be sustainable over time
  3. Your customer must value it

Next, develop buyer personas. You may think the end customer is the decision maker, and in some cases they are, but make sure you know when they’re not. When they’re not, know the buyer persona and what motivates the decision maker.

When you’re brainstorming to figure out what motivates a buyer, remember that some ideas will be useful, and some may not be – but it’s important that they’re all thrown out there, Coffey says.

Then, test and re-test your message to make sure it resonates. Test with internal folks. Then, test with small group of potential customers, and ask if it measures up. Finally, open it up to a bigger group for testing.

Finally, Coffey shared a video Lincoln created as an exemplification of creating the right messaging for their target audience:

As the session came to a close, the Q&A portion brought up a few additional concepts:

Question 1: Have you found useful ways to leverage distribution channels like your resellers to extend tentacles to the decision-makers?

Answer: The trouble is, you don’t get to see behind the curtain to see the distributor’s customers. And, distribution channels sell competitive products in addition to yours. So Lincoln’s response was to create a direct consumer website for people to buy, so at least the option is there.

Question 2: How do you connect your engagement metrics to direct sales?

Answer: It’s hard – especially when sold through distribution channels. You can use indirect metrics like, do you get more orders or less orders when you do certain things? It’s really not an easy answer for many.

Question 3: Have you considered being an underwriting sponsor of some sort of influencer?

Answer: Yes, in fact, consider making people brand loyalists before they are famous. If you support them from the ground up, that’s huge.

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