What is message testing?

Messaging is the most important part of your marketing. Message testing tells you how your messaging and copy resonate with the target audience.

10 years ago, average website usability was poor. Few companies were doing user testing. You could read about it in nerdy blogs. Now, everyone's doing it. Average website usability has much improved.

Today, few companies are doing message testing. 10 years from now, everyone will be doing it.

What is message testing?

Message testing checks how your messaging is resonating with the target customer. It's a form of qualitative research.

With message testing you can check how your web page, outbound email or sales pitch (whatever the medium) lands on people that represent your ideal customer. What do they find clear or unclear, what's boring or interesting, what resonates or turns them off.

In B2B message testing that would mean putting your messaging in front of people with a particular job title who work at a particular industry in a company of particular size. For consumer products, you might use other relevant targeting attributes (level of education, income, gender, interests, age, etc).

What do you use message testing for?

If you want to learn the problems your customers have, conduct jobs-to-be-done research. To discover usability issues, run user testing. To learn how to improve your product, do user research.

To land more customers, conduct message testing to improve your marketing. The most important part of your value proposition is the offer itself, but work hard to find the best way to convey the message.It's impossible to know in advance what will work the best - hence testing.

Trying to improve your go-to-market messaging without message testing looks something like this:

You wouldn't pitch your target customers in a way that doesn't work, would you?

The reality is that 30-50% of your messaging is not resonating with the audience + some of it actually turns them off.

You just don't know. Do message testing and find out which parts suck.

The purpose of a business is to make a customer, and you do that through communication. You're messaging something to the customer through whatever medium. The problem with communication of course is the illusion that it happens.

If you tweak your messaging and increase signups, you still have 2 problems:

1) you don't know 'why', all you have is guesses,

2) it takes way too long to learn that way (long  feedback loops).

Someone signing up for your thing after consuming your messaging is the effect.

You can't impact the effect directly. Instead, you need to work on the cause. To understand what makes messaging work, you need to distill it down to components: clarity, relevance, value, differentiation, and brand.

All of these need to be presented in the right information hierarchy - the most important bit first, then the second most important bit, and so on. Through message testing here you will learn how your messaging does in these 5 areas.

How does message testing work?

What is effective messaging? It's when it resonates with the target buyer. And that's what you want to check with message testing: how it lands on the people you're trying to influence.

You need to get your web page or pitch (whatever the medium) in front of the target buyers (have to recruit a panel, 15 people is a good panel size for qual) and ask them research questions. Don't ask them if they'd buy, people are horrible at predicting their own behavior.

oing research on a 1:1 basis is very high quality, but slow and expensive. Doing it via surveys is cheap, fast, and can be high quality if the selected panel is excellent.But the purchase is a symptom - so to improve your messaging, you focus on leading indicators.

There are 5 key heuristics you need to measure:

  1. Clarity: do they get it? After reading everything, what's still unclear? What questions do they have? A confused mind doesn't buy.
  2. Relevance: does it align with their priorities and challenges at hand? If the message is not about what's important to them right now, it won't work.
  3. Value: do they want it? Effective message increases user motivation to take action. Don't just describe things and hope for intrinsic motivation. Make a case of how your thing adds the value they seek.
  4. Differentiation: why choose you? Is it clear why go with your offer instead of competing solutions? Don't talk about yourself as if you're the only one doing what you're doing.
  5. Brand. Are you coming across the way you want to come across.

For each heuristic, do a likert-scale (1...5) as well as qualitative, open-ended questions. Ideally, you do this section by section, so you know exactly where the problems are, and you can fix them. Open-ended questions to ask:

  • What's your first reaction when you read this?
  • What specifically is unclear?
  • How exactly does it (or not) align with your priorities?
  • What makes you want a demo with them (or not)?
  • How does this seem different or better than other options out there?

How long does message testing take? When you do this as a project manually, and it'll typically take a week or two. (Or if you don't want the hassle, can get the answers with a couple of clicks and ~24 hrs with Wynter).

Why does messaging matter?

Companies often struggle with making it obvious how awesome they are. Convincing customers to buy is testing not only how a product solves a customer’s pain, but also how its value is communicated. Product/market fit does not exist without message/customer fit.

Most people have no idea how hard it is to get their messaging right. If you never conduct message testing, you'll never find out about all the friction in your copy.

People think their product messaging is totally solid - until they test their messaging with their ICPs and find out it has 99 problems.

What creates good messaging?

Your marketing and product messaging exists to communicate something to the customer. Yet so many companies are not testing how the message is received by the intended recipient. Is it clear, relevant, compelling, and differentiated?

Effective messaging is effective marketing.

If your mom doesn’t understand what problem your startup solves then likely potential customers don’t either. Keep your messaging simple and clear.

To win at messaging, you need 3 capabilities:1) know what the people you're selling to want via qual research2) crafting effective messaging 3) know how what you're saying is landing on them through message testingAll of this in the context of saturated markets.

How is message testing different from A/B testing?

The word 'testing' in message testing is like 'testing' in user testing. You check in how your messaging lands on the intended recepients.

A/B testing is not the same as message testing. A/B testing is a measurement methodology. It does not tell you what the problem with your messaging is, or what the customers really care about, or how they think about the problems you solve.

Message testing gives you rich qualitative data on where your messaging falls flat, and what parts resonate with the target customer. Armed with this data, you can improve it.

That's why message testing is actually the better way to go for B2B.


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