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When you are compiling a message that you plan to put in the marketplace (eg: an advert, brochure, website etc.), it is important to give some thought to who it is you are talking to and what your competitors are saying in their communications. There are other things you can consider as well, but these are the ones I will focus on for this article.

Who you are talking to:

It is common practice to think in generalities, rather than spending time breaking your market into groups to which you can then direct specific messages.

For example, you have a product but it is used in different markets. In the first group, the decision makers could be older women buying in their personal capacities and in the second, they could be either men or women – but they are also people who are decision makers within companies and are buying the product for the business rather than themselves. Put like this, it seems obvious that you would frame your communication differently to these two groups, but when it comes to putting presentations, adverts, brochures etc. together, many companies think of their customers as a homogenous mass and produce a “1 size fits all” communication.

If you don’t take the time to check if you should be breaking down your customers (and prospects) into groups and then consider your product benefits from their differing perspectives, your ability to communicate impactfully will be reduced. Customers will be left trying to work out what part of the communication is relevant to them. You need to do two separate communications.

What are your competitors saying?

When I have asked this question, it is not uncommon for the answer to be, “I have no idea what my competitors do” or “I don’t want to copy them.” The point of having a deeper understanding of what your competitors are saying is that it allows you to avoid sounding just like them.

Each industry has a vocabulary and the route of least resistance is to speak broadly and then use the generally accepted terms for the industry, eg: financial service companies offer `peace of mind’, hospitality establishments offer `five-star service’.

The problem with this approach is that when the customer reads up on a number of companies – YOU ALL SOUND THE SAME so the marketing material is not helping the person make the choice best suited to their needs and you can waste resources on prospects who are not really interested in your product.

Be sure to look beyond the “what”. It is not just about what you offer, it’s about the way a customer feels when they do business with you and it is about sharing a value system. So compare yourself to your key competitors (the ones you know people get alternate quotes from) on a full range of attributes before you determine what it is that makes you different. While you may want to include some broader information (this can include the `what’ and may overlap with competitors) in a supportive role, you should lead with a message that is distinctive and encapsulates who you are and how you are different to what else is on the market.

By looking at who you are directing your communication at and emphasising how your product is different, you will be starting the process of positioning your product and this should assist prospects in having a better understanding of who you are and whether you are the company they want to do business with. They will have other factors to consider, not just the price on a quote.

If you want to build a stronger relationship with the market you are working in you need to take the time to get to know and understand it. You will then be able to create clear and relevant communications.

By: Karren Hodgkins

Managing Director / Brand Strategist