This 1 Question Will Tell You if You Need to Pivot Your Messaging

People and businesses often approach me because their messaging just isn't converting. They provide a great service, product, or insights; but it's like pulling teeth to expand their audience and get new clients interested. (Fun fact: I handle marketing for a local dental office, and there's a good chance pulling teeth is less stressful than lead generation and growing your audience.)

Clearly, if you're not getting results, you know you need to make a change. But how do you know if your messaging is the right place to start? Ask yourself:

Am I clearly sharing what I'm selling?

First things first, it's essential that you don't shortchange yourself by saying, "Yes, of course," and clicking out of this article. To truly diagnose if this might be a key issue, read through these mistakes I see all the time:

1. Sharing What You Did Instead of What You Want to Be Hired For

Because I made the leap from freelance writer and editor to communications strategy and marketing, I'm often approached by people looking to execute the same transition. One of the first things I ask them to do is show me their website. Nine times out of 10, it's a blog or portfolio. Their thinking is: This lends credibility.

It does, but it also tells anyone visiting your website that you are a writer. If you want to sell your services as a content marketer, you need to make sure that is the impression someone gets what they come to your website. Drop your blog down or move it to an internal page, and create a homepage that emphasizes your content marketing philosophy and experience. 

If you're not positioning yourself as what you'd like to be hired for, why would a prospective client? Make sure you're putting your most relevant skills and offerings front and center, and leave the supporting evidence for supporting pages.

2. Assuming It’s Obvious (and Not Saying It at All)

Many people assume that if you work an occupation that was represented in the board game LIFE, you don't have to explain what you do. Beyond that, people often imagine that unless you work a technical, jargon-heavy role, everyone you meet has a basic understanding of what you can do and the value you can add.

Stop right there.

Have you ever met a client that, once you described the breadth of your services says something along the lines of: "Oh, I had no idea you helped with that," or "I hadn't even thought about [part of your value add] or [purchasing more than one service from you]."?

It's not enough to say you are a trusted wealth advisor: What do you actually do for people?

Instead of starting from the assumption your prospective client has an understanding of how you can help and diving right in, walk back to the very beginning of the problem they have and the solution(s) you provide.

3. Overcomplicating Your Language 

clear message is more impressive than a large vocabulary. Don't get me wrong: I love words and the exact, right one can help a message soar. 

But with that said, SAT words and flowery language often get people into trouble. First, there's the issue of using the word so infrequently that you accidentally choose one that sounds very similar but means something entirely different. (I can't tell you how often I see this in Instagram captions!) This automatically distracts from the clarity of your overall message, because the reader ends up giving themselves a mental vocabulary quiz instead of thinking about what you wrote.

Even worse, I've seen companies express their mission in such bold, grandiose, philosophical terms that (a) it was entirely unclear what they did, and (b) it made them look inauthentic and out of touch. If you provide a useful, everyday service and your messaging is essentially: "We will change the world"; then again, people have zero idea what you actually do (and no reason to buy it), and when they find out the service you provide, they may be turned off by how you chose to frame it.


The good news is: There is a solution for all of these common pitfalls. Once you know you're making one of these common mistakes, you can go about fixing it. You'll realize that differentiating yourself and clearly conveying what you do aren't incompatible. Rather, they work hand in hand, and this realization will take your messaging to the next level. 

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Sara McCord is the founder of Sara McCord Communications. My FREE content strategy calendar drops this Friday July 26: Sign up here to be one of the first people to get it!