Language That Captures Your Market’s Attention

Mark Donnigan

Every day we wake up to alarms from our smartphones, tell Alexa to start our playlist, and check our emails with our tablets and laptops. Yet, despite all these technological advances, the way we process messages and stimuli is rooted in our brain and how it works to help us acquire the things we need. Although our needs are different today from those of our early ancestors, the process by which we identify relevance remains the same. And that’s why understanding the fine art of languaging is critical for capturing the attention of your market.

You have built a great product or solution, but customers are not flocking to get it. So what do you do? You get customer insights, and now you have an inkling of what your target market wants. But now what? You could add new features to your product and spend a lot of time and money, or you can iterate on your messaging. 

It’s easy to argue that improving your product to make it more useful and relevant to the target market you are pursuing makes the most sense. I agree. But as a startup, you need customers right now to create revenue – you most likely do not have months or quarters to wait for these product improvements to ship. 

By focusing on messaging, you can get the customers that see a need for your product right now. This brings us back to the topic of how we assess relevance.

Getting Your Audience’s Attention

When we want to see if something is relevant or meaningful to us, first we need to pay attention by studying all available information. This is where we sift through all of it and choose what holds the most value for us. As a new company trying to introduce a product to potential customers, it is your job to catch and hold these prospects’ attention. You cannot do that with vague messages, empty slogans, or words your audience does not understand!

Humans can choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Psychologists call this “attentional control.” In my previous articles and interviews, I have always said that B2B is really – H2H or “human to human.” We are all emotional beings. We are not machines, and this unique ability to filter incoming information through rational and emotional filters is the barrier we must cross to move our prospects and customers (the market) to our way of thinking. 

Imagine going to the mall to buy a hard drive for your computer. You know exactly what you are going to do once you get there. This is called ‘goal-directed’ because we are applying ‘top-down’ focus, which is one component of attentional control. On the other hand, if you are going to the mall to just look around for something interesting or something you might need, that form of attention is called ‘stimulus-driven’ or ‘bottoms-up’ focus. 

Now apply these two facets of attention to your messaging. Are you targeting customers who know exactly what they want? Or do you feel your product addresses a need your customers haven’t realized yet? Knowing these two forms of attention can help you craft a message that will resonate with both types of prospects.

One of the key marketing assets your startup has is its website. And you have to realize that buyers will most often not have the time to scour through all your website’s content. Most likely, they will be bouncing around and scanning your website for relevant information that will help them solve a problem or address an unmet need. This is your first chance to capture their attention! 

The temptation is to highlight all the cool things your product can do and how much work you put into it, but don’t fall for that trap. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t mention those things, but they must take a back seat to the all-important message – how you can solve an existing problem your prospects are having. 

Whether you’re solving an existing need better than what’s in the market or introducing a new solution that no one has ever offered, your primary message must be the benefits your customers get when they sign up with you. Take them on a journey. Demonstrate where they are now (Point A) and show them that by using your product or solution, they will reach success (Point B).

For example, if you’re offering a new video compression technology that’s faster and uses a different approach far removed from today’s defacto standards, a good hook would be to highlight how using your video technology, the customer can publish more videos or finish their workloads faster whereby delighting more of their end customers – you should not focus on the technology per se. 

We want to get them excited about what it would mean for us to solve their problem so that they respond to your call to action and keep the conversation going. You can do three things: gain more insight about your customer, introduce your product further, and build trust. An ongoing dialogue with your prospects also helps make them more familiar with what you are offering and keeps you in their consciousness as a potential provider. And you can do all these by using words that matter to your audience and getting their attention.

But how do you choose the words? In my previous article, I mentioned the value of empathy and how you should walk in your customer’s shoes. You need to know what is going through their heads to get their attention. Likely, they are not thinking about product features or extravagant marketing buzzwords. Instead, you will probably find their hopes, anxieties, and unfulfilled dreams. 

As a marketer, you should tap into these basic human aspirations and use words that resonate with the emotion to capture their attention. They are looking for something valuable, and you have to let them know that you can provide what they are looking for, using words that they understand. One caveat, though, is always be truthful about what you can deliver. Yes, you want them to pay attention, but never do so at the expense of hype that could be found to be overblown. Here’s a short guide to aid you in crafting your messages.

      1. Identify the pain points or unmet needs in the ecosystem that you are targeting. 

        Consider: What are the major issues plaguing your potential customers? What do they complain about? What are they discussing at trade shows, conferences, or in online forums? For example, one of the areas of concern in the video streaming market is the increased complexity of video technology standards, which means even more computing power is needed to run the software to benefit from these new advanced algorithms. An example message could start: “If I were a startup founder in the video space, I would…”

      2. Analyze how your product or solution addresses your customers’ needs.

        Ask carefully: How does my product address this need? What are its strengths concerning this problem? What possible drawbacks can customers face if they use my product? I would ask all these questions so I can draft a compelling argument for them to try out my solution. In my example, we might say, “Though the increased computing that is available through the cloud opens up excellent scaling opportunities, more advanced video algorithms seem to soak up these additional cycles beyond the rate of improvement the new standards deliver. Our product solves this issue, unlocking…”

      3. Communicate clearly what you can do for them.

        Be specific. Once you know the problem, draft a message that clearly states how you can solve it. State the benefits they get when they use your product. Be very specific. Note that the “how” is presented on a separate page or document. When trying to capture your customer’s attention, be direct and only state what you will do for them. In succeeding communications, you can expound on the “how” and other information.

I hope it’s clear through this article that attention is a super valuable resource. Today’s world is noisy, with many things vying for your prospect’s time and attention, so make sure you stand out with your words (language). Here’s further information on how category plays a critical role today.

Listen to this interview to learn why you need to lead with value and what not to do when positioning your product.


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