How Do You Know Your Sales Message Works?

October 20, 2010  |   Posted by :   |   Sales Message,Slideshow,Small Business Marketing   |   4 Comments»

How Do You Know Your Sales Message Works?

Your message is a moving target: What’s relevant today may be old news tomorrow. The right metrics will keep your message on point.

But you can crunch numbers all day long, and they would be worthless unless you can clearly answer the most important question of all: How do you measure success?

Many organizations are content to measure ‘brand image’ and ‘brand reputation.’ These ideas are translated into a core business asset with intangible (albeit very real) monetary value. Who would argue that the Coca-Cola brand has no dollars-and-cents value? Indeed, image and reputation factor into pricing strategy. And that’s why you’ll pay more for a Coke than a store-brand cola, every time.

But, what if you don’t have the #1 image in your category? What if you’re Dr. Phizz instead of Mr. Pibb? That’s where the right message and metrics come into play.

When I build a Sales Message Platform, I’m looking for two anchors: differentiation and relevance. To have an effective message, you must be both different from your competition and more relevant than your competition. Far too often, I see marketers solve for one or the other and then stop. That’s not entirely wrong; it’s just not entirely right. Consider this:

  • You can be highly relevant, but not very different: The cap on a toothpaste tube is very relevant, but one is pretty much the same as the other. If it fits, it works.
  • You can be very different, but not very relevant: Think of a Rube Goldberg machine (anyone remember the game Mouse Trap?) It couldn’t be more different, or less relevant. Who really wants one?

The most effective sales message is both different and relevant. But, here’s the tricky part: These aren’t static ideas. You can’t assume that what makes you different and relevant today will hold true in a year. 5 years. 10 years. Messaging strategy is a process, not a project. It’s a long-term commitment. And metrics are your ongoing guide to ensuring your message evolves as your audiences and their needs do.

So, how do you measure differentiation and relevance? When I build a Sales Message Platform, my first step is a Discovery process in which I conduct both primary and secondary research. From those findings I develop a set of what I call Value Drivers. These are key themes–usually 8 to 12–that have one common characteristic: they all showcase both differentiation and relevance. Value Drivers capture client advantages in any number of relevant areas, including price, innovation, quality, service, convenience–whatever establishes my client as having the ONE brand position that no competitor can claim (and more importantly, that customers want more than anything else).

From the initial research, I establish the relative importance of each Value Driver to each audience. For example, Customer #1 may value convenience over price. Customer #2 may be just the opposite. Convenience and price are relevant to both audiences–just not in the same way.

Once I’ve established this baseline understanding of how the Value Drivers relate to each audience, I’m ready to write sales messaging that’s tailored to each audience. That messaging becomes the basis for all marketing communications developed–both online and offline. But, that’s just the beginning of the process.

I regularly measure how my sales messaging is performing in the real world. I monitor the ongoing differentiation and relevance of each Value Driver, to ensure that it remains as effective as it was when first created. Depending on the client and her objectives, I may use static, online survey tools. Or take a more fluid approach, using online social analytical tools that monitor conversations continually and feed me data immediately. It’s a matter of client preference, objective and budget.

Regardless of the measurement tools used, the key is to use them. In the New Normal of Marketing, it’s not a matter of much you spend, but how you spend it. That starts by developing and maintaining the most effective message–not based on assumptions, but on metrics. This by no means restricts the creative process. Indeed, it provides a much needed focus. (My first boss, who worked with Leo Burnett in the 1950s and 60s and was a student of Rosser Reeves, called this “having the freedom of a narrow focus.”)

And that focus begins by answering one simple question, How do you measure success? My answer is simply, Measure your differentiation and relevance. And woe to your competitors who fail to follow suit.


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To talk about creating a Sales Message Platform for your organization, email Andy Bartling at Or call 314-570-7453.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Shirley Lopez

    January 21st, 2011 on 2:25 pm

    Thanks Andy,

    I agree that most don’t consider the relevance and differentiation. Being relevant to your markets needs is hopefully a given, but if you are very relevant, and few in your marketplace are, then simply being relevant to your markets true needs can possibly make you different as well.

    I like to be relevant to the law firms we write for and different by offering actual practical advice they can apply; whether or not they use our services. Few writers will expound beyond the services they offer, which may in fact be highly relevant, but why not be different in offering something more that your target market also needs, and keep the information free and general enough for them to apply. Soft sell in today’s market seems to make one different in and of itself.

  • Andy Bartling

    January 21st, 2011 on 3:06 pm

    Shirley, you’re so right: Being the go-to source for valuable information is a credible (and appreciated) approach. Much more effective, in most cases, than a hard-sell.

    Which is why most people would rather read a white paper than a brochure. Same basic information, but the tone makes all the difference.

  • Marc Aronson

    January 22nd, 2011 on 10:26 am

    I very much like what you have to say about using primary and secondary research to help you create messages that differentiate and are relevant. Many years ago I was taught how to do this by my mentor and it has stuck with me ever since. This concept has enabled me to be much more effective with my clients. The perspective you present this in reinforces my core values and is quite refreshing to hear from someone with your level of expertise. Thank you!!

    By the way, thank you for accepting my request to participate in your group!

  • Andy Bartling

    January 22nd, 2011 on 11:51 am

    Hi, Mark,

    Great to have you on board, and let’s keep the discussion going. And I couldn’t agree more: understanding the power of differentiation and relevance (together) is the key to more effective messages, and happier clients.