Today we're going to address why, and how to test your marketing messages.
Because to be able to sell properly, you need to build your product or service’s value communication strategy on a solid basis, grounded on top of what your target customers value most.
There’s no point in putting an extraordinary amount of effort into more operational aspects of marketing (such as investing in ads, or in creating email funnels, or being active on social media, etc., if what through those channels does not:
The more you help people understanding just how much value your product will create for them, the better prepared you will be to be able to set a price that’s aligned with that amount of value.
Because people don’t pay for what they don’t expect to get.
On top of this, if you get a chance to test your value story prior to product development, you can get information regarding aspects that potential customers value that you might not be considering including in your product.
So, testing your marketing claims before finishing your product development stage, would help you not only figuring out the best way to sell it, but also potentially re-define some aspects of your final offering, so that the one that you end up creating is more sellable. In other words, testing your envisioned value claims may help you solidifying our value creation strategy as well.
But let’s see how to test marketing messages, shall we?
Preparation before talking to people about our value messages.
Step 1 in our value message testing preparation: identifying purchasing stakeholders.
In a lot of purchase situations, we have a final user who has freedom to select, and pay for on his or her own, for the products that he or she is considering buying.
In that case, there is only one person with full power to decide whether or not to buy, and we can focus on selling our product or service offering to that person alone. If that’s your case, you can jump ahead to step number two (timestamps in description).
However, in a lot of situations, there are more people involved. For example, you may be selling a product to be used by several family members, and they may all be allowed chime in when selecting the product that they like best.
Or, you may be selling a very high-priced product targeting a specific gender, and some people may need to get their spouse on board with the investment decision.
Or, you may also find yourself needing to be able to address the needs, concerns and interests of a multitude of stakeholder groups. If you’re selling to other businesses or institutions, this isn’t that uncommon.
But what are the implications of this?
Since we need to convince different groups of people regarding our product’s value, and these groups aren’t looking for the same thing in the product, we need to adapt our value story depending on who we are talking to at each point in time. Because if we need to convince those people too, we want to highlight how our product satisfies each particular person’s specific desires.
And that’s why we must start by mapping who is likely to have a say in our product’s purchasing process. With some luck, that will be just one person. But, that may not be the case.
In case there are several different stakeholders with significant weight in the decision, we may need to talk to people from the several relevant groups to get their feedback on our vale story.
Step 2 in our value message testing preparation: generating our hypotheses regarding the purchasing criteria
Now that we have a list of the people who we think may have significant power in the decision to buy our product, it’s time to try to make an educated guess regarding what matters most to them.
From here onwards, I’m going to assume that there’s only one relevant stakeholder in your product’s purchasing process, the buyer, but please note that this is just to make the video simpler. In real life, you’d need to consider all the relevant groups.
So, considering what we already know about our customers from past interactions with them, and from some desk research that we can do without interviewing anyone, we’re going to try to make an educated guess regarding what they’re looking for in a product or service like ours.
We want to identify wishes, needs, pain points, etc.
And this leads us to...
Step 3 in our value message testing preparation: generating our hypotheses regarding customer segments that we may need to address differently
This may or may not be relevant for you. But let’s cover it, just in case it is.
From our analysis from the previous step, we may suspect that there may be groups of people who are looking for different things from our product.
For example, let’s imagine that your product is an online yoga course. You may find that people who might buy a yoga course are looking for different things. Some might be looking to lose weight, others to improve strength, or flexibility, others just want to keep active, others want to alleviate or prevent back pain, others might just enjoy it, and many may be looking for a combination of several of the previous.
You may be able to create a single course that helps several of the existing groups of people fulfilling their goals. So, with one single course, you might serve several different target customer segments.
The problem is, since these people are looking for different things (even if from the same product), their interest in your product won’t be equally stimulated by the same marketing messages or materials.
In other words, although you may be able to develop one same product for a diversified group of people, you will have to engage in niche marketing, because there’s no one generic marketing claim that appeals to everyone in that group.
So, our goal with this step, is to identify different groups of potential customers that we may want to communicate with in a different way, because they’re looking for different things.
What we want to be able to do, is to prioritize your course’s value claims to match what the several groups of people you really want to serve value most.
You might even want to create different marketing materials (if not full sales pages) to target each of the different groups specifically. Because as we know, the more we can make our product seem like it is exactly what a particular person is looking for, the more likely it is that we’re able to make a sale.
That means we may benefit from communicating our product’s value in different ways to different groups of people. Even if the product is the same.
Step 4, and last one in our value message testing preparation: defining hypothetical value messages to test.
The next thing to do, it to try to make an educated guess regarding the value claims that will make each group more interested in learning more and eventually buy the product.
And yes, I’m talking about already writing what you would expect to be the main marketing messages of your product on your sales page and on the marketing materials that you’ll use to sell your product to the several potential customer groups.
Just to be clear, we’ll test actual key sentences word for word. These are the ones you plan to use in your marketing materials in prominent places, such as headlines or ads.
Obviously, we can’t test too many. We can only cover the really important ones; the rest of the sales copy will be guided by what we find out about the relevant purchasing criteria. We don’t need to be nitty-gritty about the exact wording everywhere.
But when it comes to the main value messages, details are important. People must self-identify with our main messages immediately, consider them important, and believe them.
An important note here: if we will want to target different potential customer groups, with which we think we may need to communicate in different ways, we should talk to people from those different groups in our marketing research, to confirm our hypothesis regarding what is more valuable to them, but especially to confirm that those groups really are different.
It’s not uncommon for product creators to go overboard with all of this. But, at the end of the day, people often just aren’t that different as it might seem at first glance.
Anyway, up until this stage, we have been formulating assumptions based on our own past experience regarding our market; and possibly on some desk research that we can do on our own, such as looking at competitor websites and marketing materials, reading what people who might be our target customers are saying online, etc.
But finally, it’s time to talk to potential target customers and put those assumptions to the test.
Interviewing potential customers
And here there are several things that we must test. Let’s go one by one:
First thing to test: confirm that the purchasing stakeholders that we identified really are the correct ones
This is a very simple one (in principle). We just want to make sure that there isn’t some unexpected gatekeeper or influencer that we didn’t count on, but also that we aren’t overcomplicating things (sometimes someone we thought would be a major gatekeeper turns out to be close to irrelevant; the opposite is also sometimes true).
But this step is pretty straightforward; we just need to get an understanding of how the purchasing process works; with that we should be able to identify the purchasing influencers. Just ask the interviewee how they decide to purchase a given product, and that’s it.
Second thing to test: confirm that what we are assuming to be the relevant purchasing criteria, really are the relevant purchasing criteria.
Getting the decision criteria wrong is actually a lot easier than one might expect. It’s surprisingly easy to develop misconceptions regarding what people value.
In any case, we must understand what the relevant purchasing criteria really are, since our entire value communication strategy will rest on our ability to understand what people are looking for in our product.
If we fail to get this one right, wording nuances will be irrelevant. We’ll be trying to sell based on something that’s not important for potential buyers, and that won’t get them to open up their wallets.
So, how do we test this?
The simplest way to test for decision criteria relevance is to use a Likert scale, and ask people to rate each of the criteria that we put together previously on a scale of for example 1 to 5, in which 1 means that the criterion isn’t at all relevant for the purchase decision, and 5 means that the criterion is extremely important for the purchase decision. And don’t forget to ask why, and if there are any other important criteria that we didn’t ask about.
And by the way, just in case someone rates everything (or almost everything the same): 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5… – there’s always one of those, ask them to rank for example the top 3.
Otherwise, we can’t do anything with that data. And that’s just a lazy answer, believe me; when it comes to real life, some criteria are always more important than others.
Third thing to test: the actual hypothetical messages
Finally, we’re going to test our value claims.
And how will we do this?
Well, first, we’ll ask the potential customers to rate each message in terms of how important that value claim is for example to convince them to buy our product. We can again use a Likert scale from 1 to 5, or 1 to 7, in which 1 means “that wouldn’t convince me to buy that product”, and 5 or 7 would be “I would definitely buy the product because of that”.
Wording on the scale would be up to you, of course, this is just to give you an idea of the method.
Note also that you should ask people to rate the messages in terms of what your goal with that message is, which may not necessarily be a purchase.
You may for example have a set of messages for an earlier stage of the sales process, in which your goal is to make people interested in learning more about the product, and not necessarily buy it. In that case, 1 would be “That message does not get me interested in learning more”, and 5 would be “That message gets me extremely interested in learning more about the product”.
We can additionally ask people if they have suggestions regarding the wording (is it clear? Appealing? Relatable? Would they phrase it differently?).
And, we should also ask if there’s something else that they would consider to be one of the most valuable aspects of a product like ours and that we didn’t ask about. This one can yield a lot of very interesting information.
But moving on, as said earlier, product claims don’t just need to be important for the purchase decision process. They must also be credible.
So, for the relevant value claims, we need to ask how credible they are (using a scale as in the previous steps). And, in case they aren’t considered credible, what sort of evidence we would need to provide to increase their credibility.
For example, going back to the online yoga course example, let’s imagine that a claim such as “loose 10lbs. on your first month with this program” gets a very high score in terms of relevance for purchasing decision among people wanting to lose weight.
However, when it comes to credibility, things don’t look good. So, you’d need to find out what you can do to back up this claim to increase its credibility, and whether that’s possible at all.
For example, would testimonials from past students help? If so, what type of testimonials? From what type of students? (for example in terms of starting weight, age, gender, etc.). And, what else might help you support that claim besides those testimonials?
This is a very silly example, but I hope you get my point.
Also, remember that this value message testing should be a part of a wider value discussion that includes assessing relevant product features and achievable price ranges.
And a remark: pay attention to your interviewees’ wording when they describe what they value.
You see, the value messages should be relatable, so that people self-identify as having the problem that your product solves for them. So, ideally, we should adapt our language to reflect the way our target customers express themselves. Even if they don’t suggest wording changes.
The closer we can get to the potential buyers’ own language, the more relatable our communication will be.
Anyway, after all this, you should have an idea of:
This was only a basic explanation of value messages testing, but I hope you found it useful. Bye!