Is Your Brand Message Clear? Fix Muddy Messaging, the Silent Killer
We’re in exciting times right now. New mortgage and technology products glaze the mortgage landscape… non-QM products, equity sharing, the 15 year Wealth Building Home Loan and new technology companies. Great things are happening all around us due to the creativity and vision of entrepreneurial-types that have a passion for making home financing attainable and as easy as possible for all parties to the transaction. But, there is one tiny (or not so tiny) thing that can get in the way of successfully rolling out these products…”muddy” messaging. If left undetected or not swiftly dealt with, this can be a silent brand killer.
Some know their messaging isn’t up to par and seek help from a writer or other consultant. Others may not realize a messaging problem exists until they receive feedback indicating such may be the case. This feedback could come in the form of indecisiveness about whether to use your product/service, too many questions from prospects, a less-than-stellar media review or a general misunderstanding of your offering.
Companies offering these new, innovative products or services must take very deliberate steps to get the messaging right. The cost if you don’t…at best is lack of sales and at worst is bad press. Bad or inadequate press is the scariest and hardest to overcome of course.
Here are several steps you can take to ensure your messaging is clear and concise:
1) Narrow your target audience profile. It’s not enough to say your target audience is mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers, the consumer, etc. You must profile the individual you want to reach. For example, if you’re targeting mortgage bankers, who makes the decision to purchase your product/service? Who do you have to appeal to first before the person who writes the check will consider doing business with you? What is their monthly volume in units/dollars? What is the average age of that individual you’re targeting? What are their job responsibilities? Where do they get their information? There are many more questions to develop a good profile, but now you get the idea. If you’re targeting the consumer, similar data needs to be acquired.
Oftentimes, especially in a business-to-business setting, the person who is interested in your product is interested in it for a different set of reasons than the person who “writes the check.” This adds a layer of difficulty because you need to figure out how you can speak to both of their needs.
Once you’ve accurately identified the profile of your audience, then discover through research where they get their information. Do they get their information through social networks, financial planners, business journals or industry trade publications? The venues you leverage can determine how you shape your message.
2) Identify the problem(s) you solve or your product/service solves. How is what you offer smarter, better or faster than that of the closest competitor(s)? Answering these questions concisely and simply is essential for gaining traction with your target audience and the media.
If you’re a mortgage technology company, be sure to use language that’s commonly understood. Don’t challenge your audience to figure out technical terminology that only you, your developers and your competitors would understand. Speak to your audience in terms you’re sure they will understand.
If you’re offering a new home financing product, you might consider an A/B comparison or a case study to help convey the benefits to a specific audience over another product most closely related. Show the up-sides as well as the down-sides so that your LO’s, brokers and correspondents can help consumers make clear, informed decisions.
3) Identify what keeps your target audience awake at night. The stress of buying a house for example comes in many forms. Some of these stressors include:
- What if interest rates go up
- Am I creditworthy
- Do I have enough money down to be approved
- Will I meet income requirements
- How will the house appraise
- Will I get approved on time
For other industry-related companies, stressors can include:
- Compliance issues
- New regulations
- Change in direction of interest rates
- Internal processes/technology
- Discovering portfolio fraud
- Shareholder value
…and much more you can surely add to this list.
By identifying what keeps your target audience awake at night, you’ll be better positioned to speak to them and help them.
4) Identify your “why.” Why do you do what you do? The answer to this question grounds everything you do with something that your audience can connect with emotionally. This deeper connection is what builds loyalty (see Apple, Nike, Starbucks…you know many of them). For example, maybe you consider yourself to be a visionary on some level…you can foresee where things are headed, future (or current) challenges and you wish to solve these challenges to make conducting business easier or peoples’ lives easier in some small (or big) way. What drives your passion to solve a particular challenge?
Answering this question with a great story can go a long way to set you apart from your competitors. Everybody has their own story…their like fingerprints. You might consider sharing an experience or your “a-ha” moment when your idea first came to mind. Have fun with this one!
5) Consider conducting a competitive assessment if you haven’t already. This is always a great exercise. Identify your competitors’ shortcomings, where you think they really hit the mark in how/what they communicate and what they’re missing. For example, if you feel they are making unsubstantiated claims, then you can use this information to help position yourself better during sales calls, in collateral and your digital properties and communications.
6) Answer the simple question “why will my audience care?” This will force you to think like your audience and empathize with their needs to enhance your communications.
Let’s try this one out right now: Why will (specific target audience) care about my new _____________?
Remember, to pass the test, make sure you’ve taken a hard look at what matters to them (see #3). If the correlation to their priorities is too distant, you may be targeting the wrong people or your message needs to be better formulated.