Tamsen Webster is SVP of executive communications at Oratium, where she draws from a wide variety of tools and experiences in change management, communications, and marketing to help people and brands create messages that drive business results.

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She is also executive producer for TEDxCambridge, where she selects the talks that will go on the TEDx stage and coaches speakers in preparation of their 20 minutes in the limelight.

Recently, Tamsen presented at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum in Boston, and her presentation—How to Use Messaging to Build a Truly Differentiated Brand—really got people thinking about how their communications could be more effective.

I invited Tamsen to Marketing Smarts to discuss why so much sales and marketing communication misses the mark, and how to create more effective messages that resonate with audiences and inspire them to complete calls to action.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Your marketing and sales communications need to turn people into believers (03:17): "As marketers, we tend to fill any collateral that we can with information about our brand, about the company, about products and services. We really, really focus on what we want people to know. And we hope that by doing that, people will magically do what we want them to do. The problem is there's a really important piece that comes in between 'know' and 'do' in human beings, and that's 'believe.' People have to believe things to be true before they will know, and most marketing and sales messaging doesn't capture or activate those beliefs... They just skip that step...

"Each one of us is 'sender-centric' to the core. We're all about who we ourselves are, and we see the world through our own eyes. We're going to tune out anything that isn't directly relevant to us. It doesn't really matter how much knowledge we put in front of a potential customer if they're not of the believe that they need that, or that they have a problem, or that the problem is solvable, or that the problem is more serious than they think, or that there is a good solution to the problem, none of it's going to matter. So, we're wasting a lot of time and energy. "

Demonstrate how communication is (or isn't) working currently (06:58): "Step 1 is showing them their own experience from the other side. The thing is, we can laugh when we see somebody else do it. And oftentimes, that's a great introductory way of saying, 'oh, haha, look what they're doing! Oh, shoot, that's what WE'RE doing.' Once you explain to people, 'think through this; think through how you yourself make a decision.' How do you feel when you first meet somebody and they spend the first 10 minutes talking about themselves? Is that something that's pleasant to you? Is that something that makes you want to know more about that person? NO.

"Frankly, what isn't going to work at a cocktail party is also not going to work in a sales presentation or sales conversation or a marketing conversation, no matter how it goes. People are people...and it doesn't matter in what function they're operating... They're wired the same way. They are wired to look at the world through their own eyes, and...they make irrational, emotional decisions based on their own personal drivers, period.

"Once you can get people to understand that...they're much more open to saying 'oh, OK, this is not just me, this is everybody, and...no other company is really doing it this more aligned way,' so they can then start to see the opportunity in doing it differently."

To create a communication that works, ask yourself four framing questions (09:14):

  1. Who are you talking to? (Audience)
    "You cannot get to a messaging strategy before you have an audience strategy."
  2. What do you want them to do? (Action)
    "What is it that you want them to do, specifically, as an immediate result of that communication.... The instinct we have to resist is to say 'I want them to read this and buy,' or 'I want them to have this conversation and buy.' If you slow people down and say 'that's not how YOU do it, is it?' We have to be much more specific about the outcome of any communication is. Do I want someone to learn more? Do I want them to click through? Do I want them to schedule another meeting? Do i want them to change an opinion?"
  3. What do they need to believe in order to act? (Belief)
    "There are some basic archetypal beliefs that are usually in play. Things like 'the problem is more serious than I thought it was.' 'It's actually possible to solve this problem that I have.' 'This solution that you're asking me...to take will solve the problem.' That's a belief. Another belief is that this solution you're suggesting to me is superior than other solutions. Particularly important in sales is the idea that it's worth it for me to take this change."
  4. What do they need to know in order to believe? (Knowledge)
    "There's this fascinating thing with how the human brain works—we have to have context in order to remember, in order to comprehend. And until that initial context is established, nothing else makes sense. So you can start a communication with saying 'here's who we are, and here's where we're located, and here's our approach, and here's our methodology.' And maybe you'll crack through with that, but the likelihood is you won't, because how many employees you have in the Boston area may be completely immaterial based on what it is that you're claiming to do."

"What's fascinating about...these four questions is that you can use them to determine what's the best way to structure a piece of marketing collateral through to what's the best way to position a sales conversation, even to what's the best way to put together a keynote or a conference breakout session? These questions are so important.

To learn more about Tamsen, visit Oratium.comTamsenWebster.com, or follow her on Twitter: @tamadear.

Tamsen shared many more helpful and interesting insights, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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