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Why Your GTM Messaging Fails (and How to Fix It)

When demand gen, product marketing, and sales are on the same page, they’re like a go-to-market (GTM) supergroup — together, they can smash revenue goals like they’re selling out stadiums. But if your messaging is wrong, they’re singing offkey.

Your GTM message is the story you tell about the problem your prospects face and how your product helps them solve it in hopes that they’ll buy your solution. All too often, it falls flat:

  • Sales is frustrated because messaging doesn’t resonate with customers.
  • Product marketing is frustrated that sales isn’t using the message they created.
  • Demand gen works from a subpar story that brings in subpar leads.

We want these teams to sing in beautiful three-part harmony with messaging that everyone can get behind, especially your customers. I called on three of our GTM heroes at UserEvidence:

Together, the four of us uncovered what goes wrong with messaging and what you can do to create a message that’s music to your prospects’ (and your team’s) ears.

Why your GTM messaging doesn’t resonate with buyers

If your messaging falls flat, it’s not because you woke up one morning and the market had changed overnight. You can trace the problem back to the creation process. Let’s break down how GTM messaging development goes south.

A siloed start

The best messaging begins with collaboration. Product marketers need input and outside perspectives from their broader team but don’t always seek it out.

“Unfortunately, a lot of product marketers start alone in the dark in their little bubble and try to come up with messaging on their own,” Jason explains. “I’ve been there, done that. You waste all kinds of time, and it never works out.”

Too much outside influence

While a lack of internal input is a recipe for failed messaging, taking too much guidance from external sources is also bad news. Jason says that merely looking at your competition is one of the worst places to start.

Considering your competitors when building your messaging helps you figure out where to differentiate or what elements toinclude. But external sources shouldn’t be your starting point or primary input, and you definitely shouldn’t try to mimic them.

Focusing on product over problem

Too many companies aggressively push their product as the solution without proving they actually understand the problem their potential customers face.

Jen Allen-Knuth
Founder, DemandJen
“Most marketing messages are fighting the wrong fight. It’s a fight of ‘We’re better,’ when in reality, sellers are up against, ‘Is this a problem even worth prioritizing to solve right now?’”

Jen saw this done right years ago when she was the buyer for her first B2B solution, Chili Piper. (Fun fact: Jason and Kaylee also worked there together.) Rather than the product itself, the way Chili Piper talked about the exact problem her team faced was what turned Jen into a champion.

“I had faith that if someone knew that problem well enough, they probably had a good enough solution worth bringing to the table,” Jen explains.

Lack of sales buy-in

It’s a tale as old as time: Sales doesn’t use the messaging marketing created because the marketing team failed to get buy-in from sales upfront. If reps can’t use your GTM messaging on real calls with prospects, they won’t use it.

You can also miss the mark if you’re crafting your message based on the CEO’s and investors’ vision — which often focuses on a future that’s far ahead of where buyers currently are.

In past roles, I’ve built messaging based on the C-suite’s goals instead of sales’ needs. By the time I handed the message to the reps, it was completely out of touch so they didn’t bother using it.

Failure to beat the status quo

We hear it all the time: “The status quo is your biggest competitor” — 40-60% of deals end in no decision because the messaging fails to convince them to make a change at all.

“Until we can get a prospect to believe that staying the same is inherently way more costly and risky than changing, we don’t even have a sale to make. That’s the first fight I have to win,” Jen explains. Messaging that doesn’t make that case fails time after time.

How to give your GTM messaging a makeover

Now that we know the symptoms of an ailing GTM message, let’s uncover the cure. Here are five strategies to help you create messaging that clicks and sticks with your prospects.

Start with input from your team

Internal alignment is an essential ingredient of messaging that your sales team will actually use. Marketers, this means stepping out of the silo to get input from your team as soon as you start message development.

Jason Oakley
Founder, Productive PMM
“If you’re not getting the sales team involved in the process early, you’re setting yourself up for a lot more pain and headache than you want.”

When I retooled our GTM messaging here at UserEvidence, I didn’t work in a Google Doc by myself. Instead, I:

  • Talked to our CEO, Evan
  • Met with the sales team multiple times
  • Listened to Gong recordings of customer calls

I did all of that long before I put my hands on the keyboard to do anything messaging-related.

When you seek input and anchor your message around what customers are struggling with today, sales won’t just be excited to help you develop it. They’ll be eager to use it when all is said and done.

Empower buyers to spot their own issues

Instead of leading with what’s great about your solution, show buyers the problem they’re facing. Your message should equip sales to reveal red flags that signal prospects’ current state is too painful or risky to continue as-is.

When Jen sold the Challenger sales training methodology, she didn’t lead conversations with “Here’s why we’re the best training option out there, and you should start today.” She started with a small validation like, “I bet your sellers are having a hard time convincing someone to buy X.” She’d usually get a yes.

Then she’d invite them to pull five closed-lost opportunities, review each of those calls, and connect with her again the next week. She’d also predict what they were going to hear on those calls, showing that she understood the pain.

“None of that is about my solution. It was giving sellers a way to give the prospect an opportunity to self-diagnose. ‘Sh*t, I have this problem,’” Jen explains.

A message that aims to help prospects uncover their problem takes some of the control out of marketing’s hands. But that’s okay. Let sales prove the problem first so that the product-focused messaging can help close the sale when prospects are ready for it.

Sync demand gen with product marketing to set up sales for success

The relationship between product marketing and demand gen is broken in a lot of companies.

Kaylee didn’t know just howbroken until she started at Chili Piper and saw what that engine could look like. She and Jason built a bridge between their two teams, sharing feedback and insights that might be useful to the other person.

Kaylee Edmondson
Founder of DemandLoops
“The connection between demand gen and product marketing was not obvious to me before. But my success in driving pipeline at a company depends on the messaging.”

When there’s a messaging issue, the sales leader is the best person to raise the alarm and rally the troops, so sales, demand gen, and product marketing can function as a three-pronged stool:

  • Demand gen pulls the numbers from what they’re testing in the market
  • Product marketing crafts the narrative based on what sales hears from prospects
  • The sales leader drives excitement and buy-in from sellers to use the vetted messaging

“That’s when the magic happens,” Kaylee explains. “Otherwise, you’re going to be pulling teeth all day to convince salespeople that you know more about how to sell this thing than they do. It’s never going to happen.”

Speaking of sales…

Prioritize a tight sales-marketing feedback loop

Strong messaging is united messaging, which means marketing and sales need to be on the same page. Start by rallying support from the sales and revenue leader — first, for the idea that the message needs to change and then for the message itself.

During Jason’s time at Uberflip, a new VP of Sales named Benny quickly gained the trust and credibility of the sales team: “He always had their best interests at heart.” So when Benny advocated for new messaging, Jason worked closely with him on the development and rollout.

Benny’s support meant that everyone listened — his excitement trickled down to the rest of the sales team. That’s the power of sales leadership buy-in for your GTM messaging.

Marketing needs to stay in tune with sales, not just when messaging changes but on an ongoing basis — and that means listening to sales calls. These conversations give demand gen and product marketing valuable intel on how the market’s shifted and how your message is landing.

“It’s important that you have so many stakeholders around the table listening and consuming that feedback — and then testing and applying it in the market,” Kaylee explains.

Create “anti-status quo” content and test it

Before you tout your product’s features and benefits, your message has to connect to your buyer’s problems with the status quo and paint a picture of the future. As Jen says, “Knowing everything about your product is only useful if your prospects value the need to buy your product.”

To get out of “no decision” jail, you have to convince your prospects to leave the status quo and make a change. Your messaging has to show you understand:

  • The buyer’s journey
  • The problem your product solves
  • The value your product brings

When marketing knows those things about their customers inside and out, they won’t create contextless messaging sales can’t use. Marketing will see the fight sales is actually in and build messaging that compels buyers from the status quo.

From there, it’s testing time. Talk to your top sellers who are ahead of the goal or on track to reach it—these are the folks who have the least to lose. Ask them to test the new messaging in the field with real prospects so they can bring back proof that it can work for the rest of the sales team.

Get in tune with your buyers by way of your team

GTM messaging is most powerful when product marketing, demand gen, and sales link arms to tell a story that makes customers feel known and heard. Everyone in your organization will want to share that kind of message.

When your whole team’s sharing the right message in every conversation across every channel, it’s like a song your customers want to hear on repeat.

Dive into the rest of our conversation by checking out the full episode of the Proof Point podcast, and subscribe to stay tuned in.

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