It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It
“Words matter very much Ms. Barnes, you should care more about them given your profession.” –Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey of House of Cards)
In the profession of digital marketing, our words matter very much. Words are the pinnacle point of persuasion that drive our consumers to either take an action or ignore our advances. Therefore, our pitches, or messages, warrant much more attention and affection than currently rewarded to them.
As marketers, our typical approach to crafting the “perfect pitch” is a series of random attempts at driving customers to an intended action, endeavoring to tap into their intent and continue the relationship that has already been established. We experiment with a series of variables in our message testing practices to judge whether one word or phrase works better than the other, such as “50% off” instead of “half off,” or “shop today” instead of “sales ends today,” or “You’ll enjoy this” versus “Dear valued customer.” While testing is good, it doesn’t achieve perfection and here’s why:
The Randomness of Creativity
Human generated messages are created randomly… no offense. Let’s take the Mad Men for example… their greatest moments of creative brilliance are conceived in the late whiskey filled hours of a company rendezvous. Understanding that not every digital campaign needs to be the next “Just Do It,” each is another opportunity for success, or for your next sale. These opportunities, although seemingly less powerful for a business, are the driving force for sustainable revenue. Due to the randomness by which your pitches are created, they begin with guesswork and are inherently limited.
The Astronomical Combinations of Message Possibilities
Let’s deconstruct a typical message to allow for its reconstruction to give context to the possibilities of messages that are left untapped by traditional copywriting practices:
- First, there is an emotional variable that taps into the neurological part of a consumer’s intent to drive an intended action
- Second, a product description that describes the actual product or service that you are looking to sell
- Next, a call-to-action directing the consumer on how/where/when to take that intended action
- And finally there are the stylistic components such as positioning, bolding or bulleting
Now, let’s take into consideration just 3 alternate ways to speak about each variable, a small fraction of what could potentially be considered as viable in a marketing message:
- 3 different emotional variables (“Because you’re a valued customer, Don’t Miss Out, Lucky You!)
- 3 different product descriptions for an offer (Sale, ½ Off, 50% Off),
- 3 different calls-to-action (Shop now, Click Here, Buy Today)
- 3 different positioning options
- and 3 different stylistic configurations (Bold, italic, and regular)
Even with this limited example, that leaves us 243 message options for one short-form message, a scope that I know you are NOT testing for. Now consider a long-form message where there are multiple opportunities to explore not just 3, but thousands of variables. The possibilities are endless (or almost endless). Therefore, when only considering version A and version B, the chances of arriving at the perfect pitch are slim to none.
Message Prediction on Past Campaign Success is Real-Time Failure
If you consider yourself a sophisticated marketer, especially as it pertains to creating the perfect pitch, you are probably using past campaigns to predict future success. In essence, you use the learnings of how words and phrases have worked successfully in the past to create better performing messages in the future. What you are failing to take into consideration is that the success or failure of past campaigns is dependent on a multitude of reasons outside of the pitch itself. There are outside influences that affect someone’s engagement with a message, from time of day, to competitors’ sales, to current news. These outside influences will, and do, dictate how current campaigns resonate with your customers in real-time and are therefore not particularly valid insights into how a current or future campaign will perform.
Now, on a positive note, there are adjustments that can be made to the practice of perfecting your pitch that will expose opportunities for improvement. Crafting a better pitch is an ongoing process. Here is a suggestion… test, explore, and learn. Testing will expose the elasticity of your messages (the differences in engagement you see by changing your messaging) and thus expose the margin of revenue you are risking by not perfecting your pitch. Explore semantically distant variables. As I wrote earlier, the possibilities are massive, and by exploring semantic extremes (“don’t miss out” versus “congratulations valued customer”) you are better able to hone in on the types of words and phrases that drive your customers to act. Lastly, learn. While the “perfect pitch” may be elusive, continuing to learn how your customers react to message variations will create stronger more effective communications that, in turn, translate to more money for you!