Column | Relevance
[Translate to EN:] bp Kolumne Relevanz

Why relevance is actually quite easy!

By: Michael Arnold

Our “Relevance Principle” has many facets - the following presents our attempt to explain one of these - to be continued.

Please imagine the following for a moment. You run a thriving surfboard business in Hawaii. The unique property of your boards is a patented fin design, which was specifically designed for the Hawaiian waves by your ancestors.  Anyone who is anyone and has the respective spare cash has this type of board. They are virtually immune against cheap imports as your boards cannot be copied - so far, so good!

The counterpart of well done is well thought through
Due to the high price of your hand-made boards, your potential target group is quite limited, however, and the market is quite saturated. Thus, you are considering how you could generate new business. So you decide to also sell high-quality winter tires in addition to surfboards as of now, for a quick market analysis revealed that there is no corresponding dealer in Hawaii but a vast amount of car owners. You therefore develop a sophisticated, multi-level mailing concept in collaboration with the hottest surfboard designers and accompany the whole project full blast across all media channels including a Facebook campaign, an automated lead management tool and large-surface billboards with a link to a complete, responsively programmed landing page with a web shop - so far, so logical!

18°C – even at nigh
Now no one will be too surprised, that this story will likely not have a happy end. After all, the temperature rarely drops below 18°C on this island, even at night and in the coldest month of February. So your new offer is not relevant to Hawaiians in any way, which finally leads us to our topic.

My story might sound ridiculous and banal at first. Of course nobody would want to sell winter tires in Hawaii. Nevertheless, countless discussions have shown that numerous individuals responsible for B2B would fundamentally have no issue with selling winter tires in Hawaii, to stay with the analogy. Translated to our business, that simply means that not a lot of attention is paid to the definition of the communicated message. In fact, a briefing with ten USPs (even just the plural “s” at the end should make people suspicious - unique isn’t unique for nothing) really shows that not a lot of thought has gone into who is to be targeted and what relevance this product’s benefit really has for the target group. Instead, loud assertions are made left and right that the product developers insist on listing countless features, without really considering who really needs or is interested in these. In the end, everyone is confused as to why only so few customers are won over, for not even the best product can be sold if the communicated message bears no relevance for the potential buyer - assuming a good product with a real use, of course.

Step 1: Get out of the ivory tower 
The first step towards efficient communication is to develop and communicate messages that are relevant to the addressed target group. To do so, the effort must be made to leave one’s own position and to assume the user’s role - while not always easy, it is absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately that is not all. After all, we are no longer speaking, actually we almost never do, of a “target group”, but rather of a buying center, the buying cycle and customer journey - as in different persons/ positions that are involved in the purchase process in different phases and locations and thus need to be addressed. It is not particularly difficult to understand that the needs and wishes of a CEO can absolutely differ from those of the production head or the buyer. But in this case, too, the point is to communicate and address people individually in a relevant and differentiated manner. To do so, especially detailed information is needed about the persons or at least the positions, that are to be addressed, their role in the decision-making process as well as potential touchpoints, in which we can contact these persons.

Step 2: Differentiation instead of scattergun approach
The lead management topic comes into play here. For only if I know and partition my leads - i.e. contacts - will a successful placement of messages that are relevant to them become feasible.  And thus intelligent communications service providers are needed here at the latest, who manage to orchestrate brand and/or product messages in a way for common themes to nicely complement one another under one shared, communicative umbrella. So if we now know who we need to talk to in order to sell our products and which information regarding our offer is of interest to these people, all that matters is providing a differentiated message to the market and the individual.  The days of uniform scattergun communication are now, at the latest, a thing of the past.

No matter whether you turn to your customers using a well-maintained CRM system, a sophisticated lead management method or simply with a bit of healthy common sense to choose your media and channels, success will be the result. For relevance generates precisely the things that we wish to achieve in our customers - lasting attention and real interest.  

Scrutiny as an opportunity
In our opinion, there is no silver bullet in developing “your” path - i.e. the communications process - that suits your company and your customer group. Requirements and preconditions are so diverse, that each company has to develop their own path - sales channels and structures are different, markets and market access can differ, budgets and responsibilities are differently distributed and, not least, the understanding of an idea in the company can take many forms ...  There are plenty of reasons for a custom approach.

While the effort for this individual process design should not be underestimated in that context, it does have a very positive, additional effect for the companies that pursue this path. A structured look at the established process with the support of an external communications consultant can often reveal untapped synergies and eliminate inefficient processes.  Admittedly, that usually does not take place without generating some friction. Not for nothing are internal change-processes especially cumbersome and old habits particularly resilient.

Back to relevance
To come back to the story from the start and, in our view, indispensable relevance, here is one more tip. Don’t let the presumed complexity of the topic jar you. What matters in the end, is that you convince your customers. The relevance principle should be the target of all your communication efforts, for then all your media, messages and information will also be received by the customer. And if your sales team then consistently also processes your collected contact further according to the relevance principle, the figures will be right in the end, I am sure of it.

And now we will open a travel agency in Hawaii that only offers flights to regions with eternal ice - since that will definitely be relevant there with all that heat and we can finally get rid of those winter tires.

Do you see things differently – or exactly the same? We look forward to your hearing your opinion – just send a short email to the author: arnold(at)