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The marketing messaging framework used to deeply understand your ICP

Stewart Hillhouse
Posted by Stewart Hillhouse|Published on August 08, 2022
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When marketers are defining their ideal customer persona (ICP), a major mistake we often see is they over-index on who their ICPs are, and don’t spend enough time figuring out why they actually buy. 

They spend all their time focus on on going after the right audience, but never take the time to figure out how to convert them. 

This shortcoming can be seen when a buyer sees a highly optimized paid search result mapped to relevant keywords. But when they click through, they’re shown a landing page that’s not relevant to the ad messaging that initially resonated with them. 

It’s not enough to only characterize your ICP using externally available data, like number of employees, industry vertical, or annual revenue. That will only get your message in front of a relevant audience, but won’t help much with actually converting them into customers.

In this post, Emma Travis, Director of Research at the conversion rate optimization agency Speero, shares the marketing messaging framework that she and her team follow to unearth deep insights about your ICP that can help increase conversion rates across your website.

This post is a summary from a workshop that Emma gave at The Second Lever: How resilient companies build profitable growth engines.

The full workshop recording can be watched here

How to create marketing messaging that will resonate with your ICP

Emma and her team at Speero use a marketing messaging framework they call ResearchXL to get a holistic understanding of what’s going on in the heads of their target customer. 

“Whenever we take on a new client, we use ResearchXL to get a 360 degree view of how their customers think. We then use those insights for our conversion rate experiments.”

Here’s what the framework looks like in its entirety, before we go into details about three in particular: CRM Data AnalysisSales Team Interviews, and Copy Testing.

Ideal customer persona ResearchXL

Using CRM data for messaging insights

Every B2B business already has a huge library of untapped customer insights right under their nose: your customer relationship management tool (CRM). Every sales person keeps meticulous records in the CRM about the health of each deal. But once a deal is closed, these notes are rarely re-visited. 

Emma suggests starting with analyzing the data within your CRM first because it will offer some surprising insights that were unearthed during the sales process of your existing customers. 

The question becomes how do you extract all the juicy insights from Salesforce or Hubspot? The answer? By following the SPICED Framework:

Situation Pain Impact Compelling event Decision criteria

Let's take a closer look at each of these criteria for deeply understanding our ICP.

Situation

Insight to extract: Identify who the customer is and what they need from you. Why this insight is important: If a situation shows up repeatedly in your existing customers, there’s a good likelihood that a trigger moment like that is a strong identifier of a good ICP match. Understanding what they need from you will ensure that there’s an alignment with what you say in your messaging and the actual value your product is able to deliver to that ICP.

Pain

Insight to extract: What are the internal and external challenges that the prospect felt that moved them to find a solution? Why this insight is important: This is where most of your messaging insights will come from. These pain points can then be translated into content and messaging to help your ICP conquer this challenge and point them towards your product as a solution.

Impact

Insight to extract: How do your existing customers describe the impact that your product has had on them? What is the outcome of solving their pain? Why this insight is important: Quantifying how your product can help your ICP will be crucial in connecting the dots between the features of your product and the outcomes they will generate. It’s very important that you align on the language that each ICP uses to describe the impact, because each will vary slightly.

For example, a VP of Marketing might want the impact of a tool to be measured in new revenue generated, while a Content Manager might measure their success in new leads generated through the website. Being able to articulate this clearly will prove to be very important deeper in the buying journey.

Compelling Event

Insight to extract: What caused the urgency or necessity of finding a solution to this pain right now? Why this insight is important: It’s very possible for a prospect to feel a pain-point, but to not do anything to try to fix it because there’s no real urgency. In order for a deal to move forwards at a reasonable pace, the buyer needs to have a sense of urgency, otherwise the deal will go cold and an opportunity will be lost.

Decision Criteria

Insight to extract: How will the final decision be made? Who is involved in that decision? Why this this insight is important: By looking at previous deals, you’ll be able to identify key moments in the cycle when decisions were made. Knowing this ahead of time will give you the opportunity to prepare content to educate and prepare the prospect and others involved in the deal for pitfalls.

By following the SPICED framework to extract messaging insights from a number of deals, you’ll now have a messaging matrix that you can refer to when testing messaging on your website. Collect your learnings in a simple spreadsheet like the one below.

SPICED Marketing Messaging Framework

Rather than always going back to the drawing board to find something new to test, you can systematically go through the insights gleaned from the SPICED framework and swap in relevant insights for that audience. 

But CRM insights is only one source of data already available at your fingertips. Next we’re going to dive into sales team interviews to gather qualitative data about our target customers.

Using sales team interviews for deeper customer insights

The calls your sales team has with prospects daily is a treasure trove of messaging insights that you can pull from to create messaging for your marketing. 

There are two ways to effectively capture these insights:

Method 1: Interview members of your sales team

It’s probably a good idea to talk with your sales team regularly, so they shouldn’t give you any pushback for booking a time on their calendar for a chat. 

To get the most out of a 30 minute call, ask them to prepare some insights from their last 3 close wins, and last 3 close lost deals. Go through the Spices framework and record what they mention.

For the positive signals (that led to a close win), bring that messaging closer to the front of your website. 

For negative signals (that led to a close loss), incorporate those topics into your educational content to help your prospects know what to expect. 

Speero has put together a spreadsheet that will help you to codify the learnings from those calls – access it for free here

Once the content is created, be sure to promote it internally to your team. Your sales team will love you for taking their ideas and turning them into sales-enablement content. 

Method 2: Search your database of sales call recordings

If you use a call transcription tool like Gong or Chorus, then you’ve got access to hundreds of hours of recorded conversations with prospects. 

To quickly search through that library, take some of the negative and positive keywords identified in the Spices framework from the CRM exercise, and search for them. 

For example, if they said "our CMO needs to sign off on this deal before it can move forward", search for "CMO" in the database to see how often it gets mentioned. Rewind 30 seconds from the time they mentioned that keyword to see the full context. 

CMO mentions in Gong sales calls

If it occurs numerous times in close loss calls, then there's a high likelihood that you'll need to create some more messaging targeted at the CMO persona. 

These soundbites are amazing for swiping copy examples from to incorporate in your web experiments. 

Using copy testing to validate your marketing messaging

Now that you’ve collected a bunch of messaging insights from your existing database and customers, now comes time to validate that messaging with a real audience. 

Wynter copy testing

The point of copy testing is to understand where the current messaging strategy your website is using falls short. 

For example, maybe your website’s homepage over-indexes on your Enterprise customer base because that’s the market you want to go after. But in tailoring your messaging exclusively to Enterprise prospects, you’re completely alienating your Mid-Market prospects. 

Copy testing will validate which message resonates with each audience, and then website personalization using Mutiny will allow you to get that message in front of the right audience. 

But before you start copy testing, it’s crucial that you’re getting the right feedback from the right people who fit your ICP. Copy testing with the wrong audience will lead to false-negatives that will further muddle your messaging. Services like Wynter can help ensure that the results of these copy tests are accurate and actionable across many dimensions, including:

– What about this messaging resonates? What doesn’t? – Does this copy address the fears, uncertainties, and doubts (FUDs) of your ICP? – Is the copy clear? Is there anywhere that could cause confusion?

With these new insights around how your current messaging is performing, you now have benchmarks to measure your new messaging against. 

Putting it all together: Using ICP research to create high-converting marketing messaging

The reason this marketing messaging framework is so powerful is because it can now be used as a source of truth across all your marketing channels. 

Content is able to narrow in on topics that your target audience needs to be educated on. To take it a step further, you’ll also know exactly what angle to approach the topic so that it will resonate with your target ICP. 

Product pages can be updated using the impact and pain insights to knock the value of your product home (and in words that you already know your ICP cares about). 

Case studies can include a deeper narrative that includes the compelling event and the decision criteria that will feel very familiar to your audience. 

This framework pulls double duty also as a testing checklist. Rather than redoing your entire website because you think there’s a messaging misalignment, you can systematically go through each insight and test it with your target audience to see exactly how it influences conversion rates. 

Full workshop recording

Watch the full workshop below. More takeaways and highlights to help get your marketing on the path to profitability can be found here

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