2022 Report: Top 6 Ad Messaging Struggles That Lose You Money

PUBLISHED 17 February 2021 | UPDATED 30 January 2022
The pandemic pushing more businesses to go online. That’s why it’s important more than ever to get your ad messaging right in order to get noticed.

After all, how else will you be able to stand out?

As today’s entrepreneurs make the move to the digital arena, it’s understandable that there would be struggles along the way.  Especially when it comes to nailing one’s ad messaging.

So I went ahead and asked 358 business owners what the most difficult part is when it comes to crafting their messaging…

The result?

Ten (10) data points, seven charts, and four experts sharing their best advice on how to make sure your product and brand messaging stands out and resonates with your target audience!

Running Ads is Still Seen as a Way to Market Success

Many business owners still believe that running ads works for them. In fact, about 44% reported experience “compelling results” with running a brand or product ad.

What “results” connote, of course, are subject to the interpretation of each test taker as said variable hasn’t been discussed in detail in the survey.

Reports of Strong Results Varies by Industry

Among the list of our respondents, 34% in the coaching/consulting industry report getting strong results. About 21% in e-commerce,  28% in the tech/SaaS field and 17% in other fields also reported getting the same.

Majority of Business Owners Who Reported Getting the Strongest Results Have at Least 3 out of 4 of the Following Factors

Among the 44% business owners who have reported getting the strongest results, 28% report having all of the following attributes in their ads while 19% report having at least three of the following:

  • Evident target market
  • What makes them different from their competitors
  • Why that difference matters
  • What specific problem their business or product solves

The Top Struggle When It Comes to Crafting Ad Messaging is “Not Being Able to Translate Ideas Into Words”

About 35% of respondents report that their main struggle when crafting their ad copy isn’t being able to translate their ideas into words.

While 26% state that they don’t know where to start or write and 19% don’t know how to write effectively. 

Around 12% report not being able to nail their desired tone or voice and 8% stated other reasons not stated within the list.

62% would prefer to outsource writing their ad copy if money wasn’t an option

On a related follow-up question, respondents who answered yes were asked how much are they willing to spend.

43% answered below $1000, 36% answered between $1000 and $3000, 12% between $3001 to $5000 while 9% answered $5000 and up.

52% said yes to having hired someone at least once to work on their ad copy

The related follow-up question, respondents who answered yes were asked how much they spent for the said hire.

49% answered below $1000, 33% answered between $1000 and $3000, 11% between $3001 to $5000 while 7% answered $5000 and up.

Target Market vs. Niche/Specialty in Product & Ad Messaging 

About 37% reported only including the target market in their product ad’s message while 30% claim to include both their target market and specialty. 

On the other hand, 22% report only including their specialty with no specific target market or industry. While 9% report not including any of the two.

To be clear, target market is a group of prospects that a business best serves. After all, including your target industry isn’t the only way to go when looking to attract prospective customers. 

When it comes to your niche or specialty. It can refer to the type of service/product you do or the problem you help solve.

Types of Target Market Focus in Detail

We also asked our respondents what aspect of target market they focus on in their message and here’s what we found out:

• There are about 12% who say they focus on a combination of industries

• 22% state that they focus on broad category that could encompass several different industries. 

• Around 26% say they focus on a specific audience inside an organization. (e.g. CEOs, marketing executives)

• 20% state they focus on “knowing their customers.” For example, they used to work in the education field and now target e-learning companies.

• About 14% say they include “having a product/service with a specific or special focus” in their message. For example, offering only a conversion rate optimization services.

• While 6% don’t have anything in detail about their target market.

Broad vs. Narrow Target Market

Majority of respondents who reported the strongest results from their product messaging classified their target market as “slightly narrow” (36%) with 21% stating theirs as broad, 29% as slightly broad and 14% stating theirs as slightly narrow.

Experts on How Businesses Can Nail Their Ad Messaging

Neil Patel,

“The easiest way for business owners to nail their messaging is through testing and experimentation. See, what works for one business may not work for yours.

So, the only way to nail your messaging is usually through testing.

Now over the years, I’ve found that when you talk to your customers and potential customers and find out what issues they have with your current messaging or what “objections” they may have… it will give you ideas on what you need to incorporate.”

Andy Crestodina,

Some companies get it wrong by trying to make it too clever and too short. Like “Pioneering excellence” or “Humanizing technology.”

No one really knows what these things mean. They don’t pass the backyard BBQ test. If I met you at a BBQ and asked you what you do, how would you summarize it in just a few words? Would it be obvious to me what you mean?

If you told me you “humanize technology” I’d have no idea what you mean. Usually, the key is to know what category or industry you’re in and state in simply.

Of course, you want to differentiate your brand, but the homepage headline isn’t the place to do it. This is the place to tell people that they’re in the right place.

The job of the messaging (and the website, and all of the marketing) is to move the audience closer to the goal, and eventually convert them into a lead or a customer. Motivation and clarity move them closer. Friction and confusion move them away…

Talia Wolf,

The key to creating a messaging strategy that converts is ensuring that it focuses on your prospect, throughout the ENTIRE customer journey.

When a prospect first lands into your funnel, take the immediate conversation away from your solution (e.g the technology, the features or your pricing) and focus on their desired outcome:

By saying yes to your solution, what are they actually saying yes to in their lives? Their work? What obstacle or pain have they decided to rid themselves of and what are they going to achieve?

This messaging, about the prospect’s emotional outcomes, pains solved and achievements is what makes successful landing pages, websites and entire funnels.

Josh Garofalo,

SaaS companies (all companies, really) miss the boat when it comes to their messaging for a number of reasons:

  • They lack a unique or compelling value/sales proposition
  • They fail to consider context (Who/what are you competing with? What is your ideal prospect’s stage of awareness?)
  • Speaking of “ideal prospect” — who are they? You can’t write compelling copy if you don’t know who you’re writing for.
  • The messaging is internally driven. Worse, it’s internally driven by committee. This results in copy which reads like a manifesto and alienates the people you are trying to sell to.
  • They hold black and white positions on copywriting hot topics such as long copy vs. short, the use of jargon, and so on.

Now that you’ve read the common pitfalls, it’s not hard to imagine the path to compelling copy, right?

Offer something unique and valuable, or, at the very least, position your commoditized product in such a way that it seems unique and different.

Talk to your customers to discover who you’re truly up against. You might be surprised to find the competitors which are most like you never even come up. Most SaaS companies are up against alternative ways of solving the same problems.

Determining Your Ideal Prospect

Define who your ideal prospect is in excruciating detail and focus every fiber of your existence on speaking to, building for, and serving this audience. Branch out when growth slows. Too many cast their nets too wide too soon.

Stop writing copy behind closed doors. Mad Men isn’t real. You get your angles, hooks, headlines, and words directly from your best customers’ mouths. Survey them. Interview them. Understand their before, during, after journey is as much detail as possible.

Drop the black and white stance on topics such as copy length and ideal reading level. These are all tools you have at your disposal and it’s on you (or the copywriter you hire) to know when and how to use them.

One last thing…

Talk to your customers. I can’t emphasize this enough. And talk to them consistently — not just when you’re working on a project. Survey them, get on calls to check in, mine your sales notes and customer support/success chat logs for nuggets. The work never ends.

f-shaped reading pattern

What an Effective Ad Copy is Made Of

From the above data points, we can see that respondents who reported the strongest results from their messaging have all or at least three of the following factors clear:

  • Their target market
  • Their differentiating factor from their competitors
  • Why that difference matters
  • What problem their business or product solves

And more than the above dimensions, having a slight narrow target market is your best bet at getting compelling results from your product messaging.

Survey Methodology

The respondents to this survey are self-described entrepreneurs in the consulting/coaching, SaaS/tech, and e-commerce industries, with other fields making up a small percentage.

Survey respondents are located all around the globe but about 52% indicate that they’re from US and haven’t been incentivized to take it.

Responses were gathered from July to November 2020 and was distributed through social media and my existing email list.

Data was captured using Google Forms outlined with 8 questions.