The average American adult is exposed to roughly 12,000 messages a day – or four million a year. To put this statistic in perspective, in 1984, the number of daily message intake was roughly 1,500. That’s a 1,000 percent increase. We are overwhelmed by advertisements and email campaigns, and it’s only going to get noisier as companies push out effective messaging.
Now, imagine that you’re standing in the middle of Times Square. No, you’re not an extra in a horror movie. You’re standing in THE perfect storm of advertising, surrounded by roughly 500 ads vying for your attention. If you’re paying close attention, you may see half, but you’ll only remember only a handful. What we focus on speaks to and connects with our core wants, desires and values. In other words, we connect with brands that speak our language.
It’s also important to remember that as a nation, our attention span is decreasing every decade. In 2000, the attention span of the average American adult was 12 seconds. Today, it’s eight seconds. The average attention of a goldfish is nine seconds.
Creating effective messaging
If you’re an entrepreneur, a startup founder or a business owner looking to grow your company, you know the value of building a brand that everyone recognizes. But how do you make sure that your ideal customers can find you? If no one knows you exist, how can they buy your services? How do you cut through the noise? It starts with clear and effective messaging.
Is anyone listening?
Too often, I hear founders say that worry they’ll leave a potential customer out when visitors land on their homepage. So, they try to talk to everyone and end up creating generic messaging that speaks to no one.
The first question I ask a founder is: What’s your conversion rate from web visitors to prospects? When the answer is none, it’s time to look at how users experience your website.
Think of your website as your home. Your URL is your address, and your homepage is your front door. It should invite your ideal prospects to explore your site and start a conversation with you. When you understand what keeps your ideal customer up at night, you can tailor your messaging to speak directly to that customer’s pain point. Do you know what problem you are solving for your ideal customer? Are you sure it’s one they truly care about?
Right product, wrong customer
If you’re a startup, have you identified your early adopters (your future customers)? Have you made sure you’re solving a problem they struggle with and are willing to pay for? Is it time to pivot? In my book, Ready, Launch, Brand, I tell the story of Bubble Wrap, which was invented in 1957 by Alfred W. Fielding and Marc Chavannes. Today, very few people know that it was originally intended to be used as wallpaper. No surprise that their invention was not received with open arms by 1950s homeowners and interior designers. The founders knew they had a great product but quickly realized that they had the wrong customer base and looked for another market. In the process, Fielding and Chavannes changed the course of shipping, and Bubble Wrap was born.
Do you get me?
Messaging is not about you. It’s about your customer and what they care about. Your homepage should help visitors understand what you do. Talking about your latest hire or how much your employees love your company is perceived as noise. It’s good information to include in the about section, but it won’t motivate anyone to click further when they’ve just entered your site. Remember that the more visitors click, the more they engage with your content. In our highly digitized world, we now have tools to help us learn which pages get the most engagement. That’s a great way to map out a visitor’s journey to see where they go and how much time they spend there.
Your navigation bar is like a map. It’s important to know where the user experience should begin. I recently changed my navigation bar to begin with how to “Elevate Your Brand.” It answers the question I ask my homepage: how do we cut through the noise? “Speaking” is next because that’s the other arm of my practice, then “press” because it goes to credibility. My “about” page used to be the first stop on my visitor’s map. It’s now at the end, right before the “contact” page. Once you’ve learned about the brand, you’re ready to learn about the person.
Three key rules of effective messaging:
1. Focus on them, not you. Your homepage content should focus on the one thing you do that solves a real problem that your ideal customer is struggling with. The subliminal message is “I get you, and I can help”.
2. Show me. Don’t tell me. Resist the urge to tell users how great your products or services are. Instead, use testimonials to show visitors what it’s like to work with you.
3. Always include a call to action. The time for a CTA button is when you have someone’s attention. Use them wisely and sparingly. Visitors can click on a CTA to book time with you in a few seconds. You can also use it to provide a value-add download. In turn, that will help you build an email list and a community of brand enthusiasts.
Can you find me?
There’s been a 24 percent uptick of new companies that have launched since 2020. 70 percent of those startups will fail between year two and year five. In an increasingly noisy world, standing out is more difficult than ever. We know that standing out is key to breaking through the noise. Your messaging should help your ideal customers find you, remember you and refer you.
Take the time to learn who you are as a brand, what makes you different from your competition and identify the customers who need what you offer. Then, build effective messaging around that customer and communicate it succinctly and consistently across all digital platforms. Your company’s growth and success depend on it.
Read the last Ready, Launch, Brand column on finding your hidden superpower and how women entrepreneurs undervalue their gifts.