By Bill Mount

Director of Insights and Strategy, The Crafton Group

 

I think Seth Godin is a heck of a bright fellow. I especially admire him when he expresses ideas that align perfectly with how we view the world of marketing. For example, in his book, Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?, he writes about how marketers, especially B2B marketers, are far too prone to rely on facts as reasons people should buy their products.

Says Seth:

 

“If you’re selling a business to business service and you can prove that it’s better, that it delivers more value, that it’s cheaper or more durable or more efficient, shouldn’t that mean you will close every sale?”

 

Of course, we all know it doesn’t work that way. Nobody closes every sale. And there are dozens of fat books and scholarly papers on neuroscience, decision-making and marketing that explain why: they’ll never admit it in a focus group or a research interview, but even the most Excel-obsessed, sharp-pencil-wielding, thy-Likert-scale-guideth-and comforteth-me businessperson will still always buy what feels right rather than what – at least according to the manufacturer – is right. (A more neuroscientifically accurate way to say it is that we buy what feels right, then convince ourselves that it’s right by looking to all those facts.)

      The truth is, building a sales pitch solely on facts and product attributes is risky. After all, a competitor can drop prices, introduce a more durable product, incorporate a secret ingredient or win some important industry award. Suddenly you’re in a facts arms race. Suddenly, you’re working hard to “out-fact” your competitors instead of out-thinking and outselling them.

      Without even knowing it, Seth Godin captures in four paragraphs the potency of what The Crafton Group calls Message Architecture. It’s an important part of how we help clients move from feature/function/fact-driven marketing to emotional, connection-driven, marketing.

 

Stick to the facts. Just stick them on the bottom.

In almost every client engagement there’s a session called an Emotivation Workshop. In these half-day sessions, we work together with our clients (and anyone else they’d like to include) to craft a new, more effective Message Architecture for their products or brands.

These new messages are always constructed from the bottom up, in three linguistic “stories,” like the illustration here (click it for a version you can actually read).

As with any good structure, Message Architecture has to be built on a firm foundation. In this case, it’s all the facts and features that make what we’re selling great: we’ve got the biggest, fastest, oldest, newest, freshest, lightest, heaviest, you get the picture.

Continuing the architectural analogy, the middle story is where the work gets done. It’s where we describe the benefits customers derive from all those great features and facts in the first layer.

The top layer is derived from a fresh insight that we always discover during the course of the project. This insight is the answer to the question “what, exactly, does right feel like?

Whether our client is selling carpet, a high-end dining experience, a new pharmaceutical or combine harvesters (by the way, we’ve worked in all those categories), there’s always an emotional need within the potential purchaser that goes much deeper than just rugs, dinner or a huge, expensive piece of farm equipment.

The closer we can come to acknowledging and filling that need, the more right our offering will feel.

This is how we’ll out-connect, out-motivate and outsell competitors.

This is where we’ll make our offering feel right.

We don’t have feelings about facts. We accept the facts that fit our feelings.

It’s important to keep in mind that, while Message Architecture is built from the bottom up, people perceive and react to it from the top down.

We Understand makes people look (“Hey! They’re talking to me…)

We Can Do Great Things For You makes them pay attention (…and they’re telling me things that benefit me, personally)

And, finally, We’re Great gives them reasons to believe.

Facts, features and functions are important parts of marketing communication. But in Message Architecture and in human psychology, they come dead last in the process of making a sale. And that’s good. Because, if some competitor comes in and cuts your facts out from under you, but you’ve done a good job making people know that you understand them and are doing great things for them, that powerful, emotional connection can buy you some time to build yourself some new facts – if you find you even still need them.

 

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Seth, Seth’s Book, Miguel de Cervantes