The evolution of marketing and branding has developed so aggressively over the last twenty years that organizations who haven't evaluated their brand in five years might as well start over completely. Customer priorities, client experience, content creation, and messaging have all evolved at unprecedented rates, leaving many businesses feeling overwhelmed by all the changes and unsure of where to begin.
The sheer amount of choices business leaders face when it comes to marketing stop many in their tracks—What is the best option? Where should we spend our money? How do we communicate our value? Do we build a website? Do we buy a CRM? What aspect of our business do we promote? How do we convey our value proposition? Where do we start?
Overwhelming information, too many directions, and too many choices that confuse businesses and muddy their path forward is the very issue stopping companies from successfully communicating with their audience.
As a content creator, I've designed everything from websites to video ads. While there is a lot I've learned over the years, one of the biggest (and most widely applicable) lessons I keep returning to is that simplification is often the number one issue getting in between businesses and their audience.
How well can you convey your value proposition?
Before you start making any decisions about how you're going to market your business, start by asking yourself if you can explain what you do (your value proposition) in under five sentences. Clearly. To someone who has no idea what you do. Now ask your team if they can do the same thing.
While you may have an underlying understanding of what it is you do for clients, actually communicating it is a whole different ball game. It isn't because you don't know what it is that you do. It's because you know all of it, and it all seems relevant. But you can't possibly tell someone what you do by telling them everything. You need to define the core message, value, and purpose behind your organization. Without it, you'll overwhelm anyone interested in learning about it.
This process of simplifying your message down to the essential pieces can be iterated out on a granular level with every piece of marketing material you create. Let's look at some examples.
Breaking down content
Take a look at the following two newsletters and consider which one you're more likely to read all the way through.
While the visual difference between option one and two is pretty clear, let's break down the specific reasons why option one is more successful than option two.
Option two is incredibly text-heavy, with very little white space between large blocks of text. It runs on like an essay, offering over ten links to choose from and way too much information. It has no headers to help readers pick out key topics and provides no visual content to support its message.
Each of these components creates friction between the reader and message, forcing the reader to meticulously sleuth through information to find what they're looking for—or even pick out what's important and relevant to them.
At a glance, they would have difficulty knowing what the newsletter contained. In further reading, they are faced with an overwhelming number of links to choose from.
Option one breaks up the information into small, bite-sized pieces for quick and easy consumption. There are headlines above each section to tell the reader what they're getting into. Each section is paired with a graphic to help support the information in the copy, providing both a visual break from the copy and a reference for its subject.
There is only one link per section, creating a clear pathway for the reader to find out more about each point. At a glance, a reader would be able to tell what information the newsletter offered, what sections were relevant to them, and where to go to learn more on each topic.
Essentially, marketing works best when the friction between seeing and understanding is minimized. The less someone must work to understand what they're looking at, the more impactful your content will be.
Consider your website
As your website is a critical function of your business, it's a great place to start when you're trying to uncover why your message isn't reaching your audience the way you want. One of the toughest hurdles many business owners must overcome when creating their website is taking an entire organization with many capabilities and honing it down into a simple message. To help you approach this challenge, check out this workbook for defining your message.
You can approach your website in the same way we approached the newsletter above:
- What is the most necessary information you are trying to convey?
- How easy is it to see/understand what you're providing?
- What visuals do you have to support your copy?
- How many directions are you sending visitors?
As a rule, never answer a question in a paragraph when you can get to the core point in one sentence or even a word. Your goal shouldn't be to tell your viewer everything—only what they need to know to be compelled to reach out to you. Overwhelming them with too much information that isn't relevant to their specific story is just going to increase the friction between them and you, ultimately pushing them away from working with your organization.
Measure your approach
While you may feel compelled to ensure your content has to answer every question, link to every source, and tell the entire story, that is almost always not the case. In nearly every instance of content creation, whether it's a website page, a newsletter, or a case study, you want to give your audience just enough information to be interested, educated, and still want to learn more.
If you gave them everything at once, they would feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused. Like you would with any new relationship, go step by step, offering only what is valuable and necessary at that moment. Don't overshare. Leave room for them to think.
When creating your next piece of content, ask yourself:
- What is the goal of my content offer (website page, newsletter, case study, etc.)?
- What is the most important thing I want people to take away from it?
- What have I included that is unnecessary?
- What is the next step I want viewers to take?
- How can I make that next step obvious and easy?
Making things simple is seldom a simple process. But it's well worth the effort when you begin to see your audience truly valuing your content and coming back for more.
Photo by pict rider