October 13, 2022
Messaging

How to improve messaging resonance with qualitative measurement

More resonant messaging transforms marketing results, and you can reach it through qualitative testing. Find out how to boost the impact your messaging has in our guide.

Total global spend on advertising is set to top $1 trillion for the first time in 2024. Businesses are vying for the attention of their audience everywhere you look. 

An advertising landscape this saturated necessitates new approaches by businesses to maintain success. Marketers need to refocus their priorities. What matters is optimizing sales and marketing messages for resonance. 

Resonant messaging cuts through the noise, grabs attention, and leaves a lasting impression on the target audience. However, it’s not easy to chieve without data.

In this article, we’ll explain why resonance should be every marketer’s top priority. We’ll also provide a simple guide to using qualitative testing for more impactful messaging.

Why most marketing messaging fails to resonate

The average American sees over 4,000 ads per day. Each one comes from a business trying to stand out among a sea of competition and distractions. 

But the vastness of advertising makes that goal difficult to achieve. Nielsen found that just 25% of consumers exposed to an ad remember both the ad and the brand the day after seeing it.

Only ads that can cut through the noise have any impact. This development changes the formula marketers need to follow to get results. 

Reach—how many people an advert is exposed to—was an important leading indicator of the effectiveness of a campaign. Now, it’s practically a vanity metric. If 75% of people who see your advert have no memory of it the next day, reach should no longer be your focus. 

Effective marketing should instead focus on resonance. This is the factor that transforms an ad from noise to signal in the eyes or ears of your target audience. 

Anything that doesn’t resonate enough to leave a lasting impression of your brand or product on your audience is wasted budget.

Optimizing for messaging resonance will transform your marketing

Resonance in marketing refers to the intensity of a customer’s psychological connection with a brand. The scale of modern advertising makes it more important now than ever. 

When people encounter brands that resonate with them, they’ll remember them more. They’re also likely to prefer them over competitors.

Building resonance with your audience involves many factors. Messaging is disproportionately important. 

Messaging resonance is what bridges the gap between reach and reaction. It’s the sometimes nebulous quality that makes messaging effective, memorable, and compelling. The more resonant a message is with the receiving audience, the more likely they are to take action.

Focusing on resonance when creating messaging puts you at an advantage against businesses who prioritize reach. If you pull it off, you’ll get much more out of the reach you do generate.

The 5 most important qualities of resonant messaging

It’s easier to craft resonant messaging when you understand its key components. 

Clear

Clarity is the most fundamental aspect of any message. If a message can’t be understood, it won’t be appealing or impactful. This factor is particularly relevant when messaging needs to hit fast and hard to capture attention before it wavers.

In a Conductor study analyzing headlines, they found that the most concise headline out of five options was by far the most preferred by the test group. 

Screenshot of Conductor Study about headline preferences and clarity
Clearer headlines are more effective

The study highlights the importance of avoiding ambiguity in messaging. You can see the effects that following these principles has by paying attention to the messaging successful brands use.

Xero exemplifies the approach well with their short and succinct homepage H1.

Screenshot of Xero Homepage
Xero’s simple and clear headline resonates with their audience

This headline is deceptively simple. It says exactly what Xero is and references a benefit that meets the target audience’s needs. 

Xero could have written a funnier, cleverer, or more shocking headline to stand out from competitors. In the process, they would have sacrificed clarity and conciseness. Instead, they left no chance for the reader to leave without absorbing the message.

Benefit-focused

Read Montague, a professor of neuroscience, explored the value of benefit-driven messaging in his publication, Why Choose This Book?  

His thesis is that “certain messages… come to act like rewards.” The most impactful messages trick the mind into predicting the beneficial outcome on offer. Montague posits that they can trigger the emotional center of the brain and create a subconscious association between the message itself and the reward it describes. 

It’s clear that the messages most able to do this are ones that focus on the benefits, rather than the features, of a product. This explains why fast-food marketers make liberal use of flavor adjectives and car manufacturers focus on the driving experience in their marketing. Eliciting emotion creates resonance more effectively than listing ingredients or specifications.

This concept is applied by the best SaaS brands. Mailchimp in particular effectively “sells the benefit” in their homepage headline.

Screenshot of MailChimp Homepage
Mailchimp’s homepage copy sells the benefits, not just features of their platform

Mailchimp knows that their audience doesn’t want an email marketing platform. They want a bigger mailing list and more revenue. To a marketer tasked with meeting KPIs, this headline resonates much more than an alternative focused on features could.

Engaging

A study by King’s College London found that 49% of people think their attention span is shorter than it used to be. That means marketers have less time than ever to hook their audience. 

Clarity and conciseness both contribute to this goal, but how engaging the message is makes the difference.

How engaging a message is depends on various factors including the subject, tone, and the medium of delivery. However, how the message is presented is one of the most important factors across most mediums. 

Graphical presentation was one of the most-discussed factors in a study of what website elements most engage users. It’s a critical component in delivering messages clearly and effectively.

SurveyMonkey’s homepage header demonstrates one method of achieving engagement through graphics. 

Screenshot of SurveyMonkey’s homepage
Engaging graphics bring the SurveyMonkey website’s messaging to life

The revolving messages are both eye-grabbing and built for resonance. The dynamic motion of the header captures attention. The subject of the questions and the first-person positioning targets broad user intents. The result is a homepage that engages users more than its competitors’.

Comprehensive

The quantity of information on a website is a leading factor in sales performance and customer satisfaction. Too little information about products can drive 30% of cart abandonments and 40% of returns, according to Syndigo.

This statistic is an insight into how important comprehensiveness is in messaging. It’s applicable far beyond the realm of product pages. For SaaS businesses, it’s crucial on primary landing pages, such as the homepage. 

Developing more comprehensive messaging on your main landing pages gives users fewer reasons to visit a competitor’s site. However, seeking thoroughness is not the same thing as writing to meet an arbitrary word count. 

Tailoring messaging around common pain points and answering objections before they arise are ways to increase comprehensiveness without resorting to filler.

Breathe HR’s homepage demonstrates what effect comprehensive messaging can achieve. Above the fold, the messaging is focused on being clear, benefit-driven, and engaging.

Screenshot of Breathe HR’s homepage
Breathe HR’s above-the-fold content is clear and concise

Immediately below the fold, they expand on the information their audience might need. 

Screenshot of Breathe HR’s Dashboard
Their below-the-fold content focuses on being comprehensive

A list of use cases serves as the perfect resonance-building tool. Users who need the product will see their use case on the list and immediately know that Breathe HR is suitable.

Expert

Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer study found that 6 in 10 people default to distrust when presented with new information. That’s why demonstrated expertise is the fifth component of resonant messaging. 

It’s particularly important in sectors with complex or technical products. Audiences in these sectors need reassurance of competency, and are unlikely to trust or resonate with a brand that doesn’t prove it. 

There are lots of ways to build a sense of expertise into messaging. Many of them are demonstrated by LoadView on their homepage.

Screenshot of LoadView’s homepage
LoadView’s homepage demonstrate’s expertise by using social proof

The headline they use is clear and to-the-point, and it’s immediately followed by a paragraph that summarizes the product in detail. The rest of the messaging above-the-fold is dedicated to demonstrating expertise. 

An element showcasing the logos of notable businesses that use the tool acts as social proof. The features list reads like a developer’s testing checklist. It positions LoadView as experts through the use of sector-specific terms. 

LoadView avoids generic or over-simplified language, making their copy  less interpretable by non-experts but more resonant with the target audience.

Finally, there is an element dedicated to technologies supported by the tool. This further qualifies the product as a suitable solution for developers.

4 steps to reliably create messaging that resonates

Follow these four steps to craft messaging that resonates with your audience:

Research and create your ICP

Extensive research into your ideal customer profile (ICP) is the only way to understand what your messaging needs to resonate. 

Before drafting messaging, build your knowledge of each facet of your audience. This includes their needs, preferences, and professional experience level. 

Creating ICPs based on solid data generated through primary research is the best way to do this. Use tools like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to get quantitative insights and use them to build profiles.

Draft messaging

Using your ICPs as a guide, you can begin to draft messaging that is driven by the data you’ve collected. 

As you draft, refer to the five main components that contribute to resonance. Clarity, a focus on benefits, an engaging quality, comprehensiveness, and expertise should all be front-of-mind while writing. 

Beware of common traps that can compromise the effectiveness of messages, like writing to personal preference. It doesn’t matter how much your messaging resonates internally. It’s only necessary that it resonates with your audience.

Run qualitative message testing

Testing your messaging is a critical but severely underutilized step in achieving resonance. Without in-depth testing using an audience that simulates your ICP, it’s impossible to know how well your messaging will perform. Testing before you invest preventss your limited marketing budget being wasted on running messaging that misses the mark.

There are many ways to do message testing, including the popular option of A/B testing. However, most of them only deliver binary insights. They can tell you which out of a set of messaging options is best but not why, or how to improve it. 

Panel-based qualitative message testing is unlike the other options for a range of reasons. Two stand out:

  • You can customize your testing panel, making sure the feedback is relevant to your ICP; 
  • The feedback you receive is detailed, providing the exact insights you need to make needle-moving edits.

No other form of testing allows you to get answers to niche questions like:

  • How well does the headline explain what the product is?
  • How clearly does the introductory paragraph explain the key product features?
  • How easy is the pricing structure to understand?

That makes panel-based message testing indispensable in improving the resonance of your messaging. Qualitative insights can be difficult to interpret, but highly valuable in guiding edits for resonance.

Interpret and apply the insights

All that’s left is to take the output from your tests, apply the insights in messaging redrafts, and then deploy them. How simple it is to interpret the feedback depends on how granular your message testing questions were.. 

Qualitative insights can’t be tallied, like quantitative data. Instead, it can be useful to spend time absorbing the responses and forming an idea of the direction they collectively point towards.

Once you have redrafted your messaging to suit your ICP, it can be deployed. At this point, you can use A/B or preference testing to further enhance the resonance, or keep an eye on performance and wait for results.

Make your messaging more resonant, the data-driven way

Marketing is becoming more data-driven by the year. Data collection, lead attribution, and performance analysis are all common. Using panel-based testing is how you apply the same data-driven principles to your messaging process.

Understanding how resonant your messaging is before deployment is a benefit that can make all the difference in its success. In increasingly crowded markets like B2B SaaS, this can be an invaluable edge against competitors.

Know exactly what your buyers want and improve your messaging

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