July 7, 2016

How to Influence Customer Need Recognition

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Marketers are locked in an eternal battle against apathy. To get people to buy something, you must first convince them they need what your company sells, and that they should care about what you’re saying.

In academic terminology, this process refers to influencing customer need recognition. Modern buyers may travel increasingly convoluted paths to becoming a customer, but the cause and effect between recognizing a need and making a purchase has remained constant.

ALSO READ: Remember: B2B Leads Are People, Too

For demand generation marketers, convincing your audience they need your product is vital. That means designing an powerful value proposition and testing it until you’ve found the offer that resonates most with your target audience.

The Importance of Conveying Value

Need recognition occurs when someone perceives a gap between their current circumstance and an ideal or desired circumstance (click to tweet).People need to understand they have a problem before they begin searching for an answer.

Designing a compelling value proposition (or improving your current model) is without a doubt the most important step a marketer can take toward influencing need recognition, increasing conversions, and ultimately, making more money for your company.

If this sounds like Marketing 101, that’s because it is. MECLABS’ Director of Editorial Content Daniel Burstein says, “Marketing is essentially communicating value to the customer in the most efficient and effective way possible so they will want to take an action.”

And yet, marketers consistently forget the basics and resort to jargon rather than articulating why their product has worth. Home pages are littered with confusing, vague phrases that perplex more than they convince.

Phrases like “Information is Empowering” and “Aligning Accounts With Relationship Data” are prime examples of value propositions that don’t promise any decipherable value.

Contrast those with the power of Contently’s value prop:

Contently's value proposition is crystal clear

Though Contently only uses three words, the power of their offer is hard to deny. Businesses the world over are struggling to turn a profit from content marketing, so Contently promises their audience an ideal scenario — content that works.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Writing a strong value proposition can seem like an impossible task. You need to describe all the value your product offers in just a few words, and you need to do it without using jargon or hyperbole.

That’s not the easiest undertaking, but if you follow a couple of rules, you can create something effective.

First and foremost, avoid making obnoxious claims like “the best way to ____” or “the most powerful ____ in the universe.” Describing something this way can have a chilling effect on your conversions — i.e., people won’t believe you, and they’ll leave your site.

Second, avoid tacking on the phrase “made simple.” Even if your audience truly needs something to be less complex, just saying “made simple” after a functional description of your product is neither persuasive nor clear.

For example, when the value props “Simple Fix for a Blown Head Gasket” and “Repairs Blown Head Gasket in Just One Hour” were tested against one another, the second realized a 58 percent increase in conversions.

How to Write Your Value Proposition

Joanne Wiebe of Copy Hackers lists five key components of every value prop:

  1. It states what’s unique or different about you
  2. The thing that’s unique or different is desirable to your prospect
  3. It is specific, not a watered down summary
  4. It is succinct
  5. It is more likely to be remembered than forgotten

If you can’t get past number one, it might be time to re-examine your business model. But the challenge is more often articulating value. 

Number two assumes that you’ve come up with a decent idea for a business, so it’s really number three and four that most marketers should focus on.

Both of these pointers focus on clarity. That’s because clarity is fundamental to convincing people to choose your company over competitors. Copywriters and conversion experts often say “clarity trumps persuasion.”

Unbounce’s value proposition is a great example:

Unbounce

The biggest words on the page leave no doubt about what people will get when they use Unbounce.

Of course, this wasn’t Unbounce’s first try. Once you have a defined value prop, it’s important to test it until you find a significantly higher-performing version. At that point, your marketing won’t be based on intuition, but rather on actual feedback from your audience.

* * *

Strengthening and testing your value proposition is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to influence your customer’s need recognition. A clear, compelling value proposition increases the chance that your prospects will see the utility of your product or service. 

This type of message testing is a core tenet of business communication, but is too often lost in the maelstrom of contemporary marketing.

Despite the fervor around organic social reach and quality scores for PPC ads, an age old truth remains: no one will buy your product if they don’t understand how it helps them.