July 8, 2022
There’s a few nail biting moments after you click “Send” on the final copy, but believe it or not… your messaging is pristine. The bullhorns are blaring, the bells are ringing. Sales is going wild, marketing loves it, but in the past, you know it’s not time to celebrate just yet.. Yes - Dr. Product Marketer - you’ve been here before. It’s been checked off by the CEO, tested with your best sellers, and you’ve even pitched it yourself; but, you know the real test is yet to come. As your messaging hits the market, you’ll learn quickly what’s working and what’s not from the most important people - your prospects and customers. Or, will you?
In this blog post, we’ll talk about the deployment of messaging to salespeople*, why it can be difficult to debug, and some useful metrics to track. Tracking metrics around messaging is incredible useful useful; when messaging is working, metrics help build your case for a raise 🤑, and give you and your team buy in for larger strategic initiatives. When messaging isn’t working, help debug and solve problems quickly.
We’ll assume the messaging deployed has been A-okay’ed by every relevant stakeholder, and now, we’ll pick up the story as it’s getting deployed in the field for the first time.
*We’ll mostly focus on tracking messaging effectiveness in sales calls.
Message-market fit is often not about the message itself, but the context you deliver it in.
B2B sales are complex - buyers are different than users, personas have different needs, and competitors have seemingly always talked to your prospects first. While the messaging document you’ve crafted or the “Suggested Changes” in the playbook are near and dear to your heart, you know that these precious atoms should be placed strategically through a conversation; enough to guide your prospect, but not scare them away.
The difficulty with B2B messaging - crafting it, tracking it, getting it to work - is variability. Markets may have common pain points - hopefully, one of these is what your company solves - but an individual buyer will have a variation of those pain points unique to them. Sellers today - especially in competitive markets - have to listen closely, tease out the problems and pain points, and just at the right moment, hit them with the message that will stick while connecting it back to the individual prospect’s company, pains, and goals.
So much of the conversation is abstracted away for complexity, but it holds valuable data. We believe the context: the buyer’s company, industry, title, current pain points, future initiatives, and more - is the most important (and most forgotten) thing to understand when trying to track messaging effectiveness.
This connection of messaging to context isn’t just happening in a single call - it may be happening over multiple calls, multiple touchpoints, multiple reps, or even (in the case of closed-lost revivals), multiple months. But the context is what makes your message stick, so tracking anything about messaging without tracking anything about context is a battle fought with a blindfold.
Today, understanding context of deals is pretty much limited to firmographic and CRM data.
For example, at the end of a messaging sprint, you’ve rolled out new messaging against a competitor. Naturally, you don’t want your work to go to waste, so, let’s say you wanted to track (a) how well new competitive differentiation messaging is being adopted [adoption] and (b) how well it is working [effectiveness]. If you have a call recording technology in place, you could even look up a phrase like the competitor’s name, and listen to all of those snippets to find examples of something like a competitive differentiator. In theory, after watching all the snippets, you’d have a pretty solid view of how and where that competitive differentiator came up across your buyer personas & funnel. With that, you’d have an understanding of how well the new messaging was getting adopted, and could focus on the bucket with the worst win rate to start iterating on improvements.
Ideal conversation: prospect tells you about competitor, and some context, all in the same place.
But for product marketers, understanding that task is an impossible task given today's tooling. Conversational recording tools may let you search for that competitive name but without an enormous time investment spent listening, it’s impossible to identify whether it’s contextually relevant.
Real conversations: prospects give you context in bits and pieces, often spanning different calls.
Messaging effectiveness should be attached to the context of the prospects, like her pain points or his business use case. Reps should pick up on these cues based on the questions prospects ask or how prospects describe their pains, but it can be hard to do it on the fly. As a result, we see PMMs getting the feedback of “the new messaging works worse than the old”, when really, it’s often like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by deploying the messaging in places not appropriate.
And, to make matters worse, before we can even look at messaging effectiveness, we need to make sure messaging adoption is a statistic we can count on. By adoption, we mean that whenever messaging is deployed, it’s tracked by a system; doesn’t matter whether that system is a marketer watching hours of recorded calls and tallying things in an Excel spreadsheet or an automated mechanism.
Tracking adoption should be easy: all we have to do is train our reps, certify them in a pitch process, and then in their calls, just search for
Messaging Statement in call transcripts. With that, we’ll have a good notion of how our messaging is getting adopted, and can start tracking effectiveness from there. 😅
Unfortunately, tracking adoption typically only makes it to the pitch certification process. Tracking adoption through the field becomes difficult as noise begins to pour in. Sales teams vary their pitch delivery differently from their certification pitch. Sellers are participants in a conversation and we don’t want them to read off a powerpoint, however this flexibility derails our ability to easily track and search for messaging blurbs. All reps will take their messaging document, tailor it to their style, and be able to - on-demand - tie it closely to the pain points nearest to the prospect’s heart. Messaging might be broken up across minutes of a call (or days between calls), with reps dosing prospects with the only the most relevant details at the right time. As it should be. But sales best practices can lead to a big issue for product marketing - when you’re sitting in front of all those call recordings, ready to start tracking effectiveness of your new message, you realize you don’t know what to type in. So, even just to track adoption, where do you even start?
Tracking adoption is an unsolved problem, with certain tools further off the curve than others 😉. We’ll run through some tips we’ve seen some crafty PMMs use in order to start tracking Adoption, and with these, you can move onto the next section to start drilling into Effectiveness.
It can be super difficult to deploy messaging all at once, which is why the most strategists we’ve talked to never do it. They start small - often with a varied set of seasoned reps - and are slow to increase the messaging pilot size until they’re sure. Starting small will help you build connections with reps you’re working with, which is critical, since (especially in the beginning), it can seem like they’re helping you more the other way around.
And, if you already have a call recording solution, now’s the time to use it. Start by seeing if you can get some time in front of reps pitching it yourself, and record the calls to see if you can start to pick up on non-verbal cues and improvements on delivery when playing it back.
Once it’s truly in your reps’ hands, start by watching as many of their calls as you can, and try to gauge two things:
If you’re using a tool with call recording transcripts, see if you can get easily transcribed phrases to be said at relevant times to ensure you don’t miss a relevant snippet. For example, the folks at Chili Piper always say “that’s the magic of Chili” whenever they have a great customer story, which automatically gets added to a folder any time the phrase is said. You can use the same technology to track your messaging rollout by picking your own phrase. Make sure to pick a relatively unique & easy-to-say phrase, otherwise, you’ll run into false positives or errors with transcription. Buzzle works around this by learning the variations of your messaging on the fly, but in the beginning, a unique phrase will work just fine.
At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team, so any initiative you are driving needs to have buy in from other stakeholders. Keep close contact with your sales managers, and give them the tools they need to ensure the messaging is getting adopted.
As your messaging pilot grows, build scorecards for managers to quantify delivery, receptiveness, and other high-level metrics relevant to the messaging.
The fastest way to get buy in is to show people where the effect to bottom line is. Wherever possible, make sure to show them that it’s worth it; a “this helps boost win rates X% in deals like these” can go a long way here. You can build the conversational web based on pain point trackers built from your existing personas, build another tracker around your messaging, and show teams the quantifiable difference between using and not using it.
Once adoption is a metric you can count on, we can start taking a look at effectiveness. Effectiveness is a good way to start debugging when you (or, your field teams) start saying the messaging isn’t landing, and it’s a good thing to have in your back pocket if initiatives take off.
Every new PMM we’ve chatted with (or old ones, with stories to tell!) have once thought messaging rollouts were single-stage handoffs; but, they tell us, more like than not, you were wrong with your initial hypotheses. That’s why, even before rolling out messaging, knowing what you’d like to test, and where you’d like to be flexible helps (and being transparent about it) helps you and your sales teams understand what the path to success looks like.
In the early parts of a messaging pilot, see if you can schedule in 1-1s for effectiveness feedback, and start tracking what they have to say. These should be set up for them to give you feedback, so be prepared for it to get critical. Set a majority of time to hear what they’ve learned from the field, and collect your notes to start finding trends. In the early stages, effectiveness can still be qualitative, but you should start gathering data quickly by focusing on the easiest things to track: objections, how varied the earliest pitches end up, or even how many prospects ended up confused.
And lastly, remember that all of this can be done async. People are busy, so try to set up specific #messaging-rollout slack channels to create an environment where sales can pass you back new objections, reactions, and wins from their efforts.
If you’ve followed our tips around creating trackers around tracking adoption, you may already be able to track when your messaging is getting used. Messaging effectiveness is around connecting those with context, so try building trackers for that. Things like pain points can be distilled down into a few key variations (someone looking at your tool for streamlining rep operations may phrase it as “takes too much time for reps” or “need faster way”), so see if you can find a few ways people describe their pain points in the wild, and use those to guide how you build context trackers. The highest ROI trackers to build are around prospect pain points and prospect questions, so see if you can get a list of common pain points and questions your reps have found from the field.
While this step may take a lot of work, it’s definitely worth it. If your B2B sales cycle spans multiple calls, you can start using historical data to help reps understand what messaging might be most potent for their upcoming calls, based on what their prospect said in the last one. Showing them how your new messaging will increase their efficiency is the surest way into a rep’s heart, and with so much on their plate already, reps are looking for whatever help they can get (as long as the advice works).
Unfortunately, the methods we describe here are pretty manual. Tools today only allow you to search for phrases in call transcripts, which can be an impossible since often times, pain points are described over minutes, not just in a single, cleanly-separated sentence. Buzzle’s AutoVOC technology handles persona-pain point mapping for you, finding all the variations of how people describe particular pain points, competitive objections, or clarifying questions about your messaging and value props. Buzzle’s Reports help you take these persona maps and quantify your messaging effectiveness against them directly, allowing you to filter and track effectiveness with so many more dimensions than just CRM data.
But, whether you use our tools or not, it’s important to track your metrics. Showing revenue-generating ROI might be what’s standing in your way to drive bigger initiatives, lead bigger teams, and start driving strategy the way you imagine it. Tracking adoption and effectiveness are some of the best metrics to track, as you’ll not only be able drive faster, more consistent messaging updates, but you’ll have yet another meaningful datapoint when it comes to showing the value your team is driving for the business.
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