Clear Messaging: It’s Not About Your Vorsprung Durch Technik, You Know

In fact, it’s not about you at all. It’s about your clients.

When people first come to you they’re often looking for help with something with that age-old marketing mantra in mind:

WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

That’s not to say you shouldn’t talk about what you do, what makes you different, your credentials and authority. But you don’t make it all about you right from the beginning.

Clear messaging is more effective

When someone lands on your website, they’re looking for someone to solve a problem. And the best way to show how you can help them is by communicating your core service through clear messaging. Show them that you truly understand their problem and offer the solution they’re looking for.

OBJECTION 1: But we have a complicated business and we want to tell people about everything we do.

You may want to but that may not be the best way to clearly communicate what you do.

What do you know Amazon for? Selling products, right? But there’s also:

Amazon Prime, Prime Music, Amazon Video, Kindle, Kindle Fire, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Appstore, Amazon Local, Amazon Wireless, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Publishing, Amazon Go, Amazon Dash…

They have loads of different offerings but they don’t try to tell you everything about them all at once, they focus on a key message.

The logo is clever, it’s a smile from a to z, which works for everything they do. But go to their website and you know immediately you’re on the world’s biggest e-commerce site.

OBJECTION 2: We don’t want to be boring.

A clear message doesn’t have to be boring! It just means keep it simple and focused on your client.

I recently read an article by someone bemoaning SaaS websites: “They’re so dull, they should be more exciting”.

Some aren’t thrilling but if I click on a site like Zoom, all I want to know is what Zoom does and how it will benefit me, with a couple of obvious options to choose from ideally with eye-catching call to action (CTA) buttons.

Horses for courses

Like everything in life, it’s more nuanced than that. Some products and services are complicated and need explaining, but that can still be done really clearly.

What works for one service, business or sector won’t necessarily work for another, which is why the starting point should always be YOUR audience not what everyone else is doing. And you can always test your copy and CTA buttons to your heart’s content.

How do we know which service to focus on?

If you run a complicated business with lots of offerings, choose one that you’d like to focus on, the one that makes the biggest profit, the one you’d most like to grow, the one you’re known for or the one you want to be known for.

Here’s a quick exercise to help you get some clarity on what you offer (adapted from StoryBrand):

Question 1: Who do you help?

Answer: YOUR TARGET MARKET (be as specific as possible)

Question 2: What do you achieve?


Question 3: How do you do it?


For example:

We help start-ups to reach new markets through digital marketing.

We help busy professionals to have more free time through tailored training programmes.

We help large businesses to be more profitable with real-time sales data.

The more specific you are in defining your target market, the more success you’ll have in reaching them.

Getting specific:

  • speaks directly to your target market
  • homes in on the people who connect with what you’re saying (and are most likely to become customers)
  • cuts out the people who won’t be the right fit
  • shows you as an expert in that area
  • doesn’t stop anyone else from contacting you!

When your plumber comes round you don’t want them to offer to fix your car for you and you don’t expect your financial adviser to understand your situation if their other clients are Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

Getting specific can feel like you’re cutting out potential work but it will actually have the opposite effect and bring more people in. If other people approach you, you can still work for them but by being specific, you’ll bring in more of the people you really want to work with.

And to do that you have to get clear in your messaging.

A confused mind doesn’t buy

Too much copy, too many options, overwhelming design, pop-ups firing off all over the place. Too many choices make people click away. They won’t spend hours unpicking convoluted messages or applying advanced calculus to work out the best deal for them. They’ll go and have a lie-down!

clear messaging

  1. People have a problem, need or desire.
  2. They seek out options to address it.
  3. They choose one.


And they don’t choose the one that tries to outwit them (five ways to keep your copywriting simple), uses confusing language (there’s scientific proof that short words are more effective than long ones), overwhelms them with options or otherwise uses more of their precious time than they need to – we are all cognitive misers.

Our brains try to expend as little energy as possible solving problems. If you want to know more about this, ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less’ by Barry Schwartz is an interesting read.

Less is more

If you sell products, you might find this well-known experiment interesting too. Iyengar and Lepper (2000) tested shoppers to see how much jam they’d buy depending on how many options were on offer.

They set up two different tasting booths on consecutive Saturdays at a grocery store in California known for offering a huge selection of goods (it sells 250 types of mustard and 75 different olive oils) so the people who go there are used to having lots of choice.

On one Saturday there were 6 jam flavours on offer, on the other 24.

Here are their results:


40% of people stopped to taste

1.38 average number of flavours tasted

30% of people bought


60% of people stopped to taste

1.5 average number of flavours tasted

3% of people bought


That’s a pretty big difference. But you don’t need an academic paper to tell you too much choice is a bad thing.

I know that when I’m faced with lots of choices I use some way of cutting down on the mental work I need to do to make a decision (called heuristics in psychology), whether I’m choosing a breakfast cereal, a new computer or a restaurant to go to on Friday night.

There’s a reason why you’re often offered three options when you sign up to a new service – more than that and it’s confusing, fewer and it doesn’t feel like there’s a real choice, so three is the perfect number. And most of us go for the middle option every time!


rule of three pricing options
Mailchimp’s pricing options

When it comes to marketing, simplicity is key. First off, readers want to know what’s in it for them? If you didn’t do that quick exercise above before, it might help to go back to it now to get clear on who you help and how you help them.

Then try to communicate that clearly by focusing on one service, and when you do present readers with options, try to keep the choice straightforward. You can always test different pages and see how many enquiries/conversions you get. And if you need help with it, you know who to call!


P.S. If you’re interested in the psychology behind buying decisions you might like to come along to the Copywriting Conference in London in October where I’m running a workshop about applying behavioural insights to copywriting, I’d love to see you there.

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