​Why Manufacturers Need to Rethink Digital Product Messaging

May 4, 2014
Fishing Reel

"This reel is top of the line. It has seven ball bearings, smooth roller-springs, 45lbs of drag and easy access to gearing under the spool," the salesperson beamed, reciting his 52nd pitch of the day to yet another bewildered customer. I watched this speech countless times over three days from my booth at the Rosemont Convention Center's annual fishing expo. The man force-fed potential buyers with gear ratios and line capacities. Yet, despite his enthusiasm, I never witnessed him sell the product (a very expensive fishing reel).

His flaw was one common in selling and marketing technical or niche products: conveying the intricacies of product design, but forgetting to tell the customer, "How does this improve my life?"

It's a forgivable oversight. Long development cycles with countless hours spent researching materials, design and cost, makes marketers and salespeople want to show off their shiny new toy. With B2B brands, especially manufacturers, this desire is amplified.

A new launch is often years in the making and represents significant investments by every department. However, the end user isn’t an employee. They don’t care about the R&D hours, prototypes, or market-share. They are not emotionally invested in your product simply because it’s new.

Now, revisit the reel salesman. He was in a situation where customers are looking to buy and had a captive, live audience. Online, where most pre-purchase research and consideration occurs, the buyer would have simply clicked away. This increases the need to avoid too much detail when creating written copy for your product’s webpage. Following a few guidelines can help create better sales-oriented web content.

1. Develop an initial statement by answering, “Why, How or What?”

Every product begins with a simple question, “How do we fix this problem (time constraints, inefficiencies) in our market?”

The answer is what customers should see first.

A phenomenal example of this is CISCO. Prospective buyers have hundreds of products to choose from on their website with thousands of specification and technical requirements. However, at the top of each product page, lies a short statement – “Simplify Network Management” in this example.

CISCO doesn’t mention a particular product, they just encourage consumers to “learn more” about simplifying their lives.

2. Frame features and benefits through this initial statement.

In the CISCO example, “simplicity” is the number one selling point. When a customer “learns more” they are brought to a benefits section that continues this theme. Words like “efficiency”, “proactive” and “integration” steer disconnected benefits towards this common goal.

Consistent messaging provides a roadmap to the customer, constantly reminding them of the product’s purpose no matter how in-depth they get.

3. Create an information funnel

The worst way to do a puzzle is opening the box, dumping all the pieces on the table and going for it. Yet, this is exactly what many B2B manufactures expect their customers do to. Brochures, user manuals, sell sheets, and FAQs are strewn throughout websites with little context or consistency.

Just because you have literature doesn’t mean it needs to be shoved in front of your customers. Give them a few bullet points and a clear path to explore. Want to watch a video? Click here. See a comparison chart to our competitor? Download this PDF. And leave bread crumbs along the way so that they can dig deeper without getting lost.

4. Encourage meaningful interaction

Ultimately the goal of any website is to drive revenue, but the customer should feel like they are driving the sales process. The easiest way to do this is to create calls to action (CTA) that are directly related to content on the page. A “talk to a sales rep” button is great on a contact page, but can be intimidating to a customer looking to just get a little more information about a product.

“Request a demonstration”, “Get a product tour”, “Have a question about this product” are all suggestions that allow consumers to reach out without fear of stepping into the middle of a hard sell.