Explained: Verbal Design for Data-Driven Marketers



Verbal Design and “Data-Driven” is the Secret to Eliminate Squishy Marketing. Now that we let the cat out of the bag, will you put these concepts into play?

Marketing teams of all sizes want to invest more time and money in content, which means more ads, videos, podcasts, webinars, and downloads. Thus, verbal design is equally important to its visual design counterpart. However, as marketing becomes more complex, can the gatekeepers of words and language connect brands to humans without a data-driven backbone? Not likely.

As modern marketing teams adopt a verbal messaging strategy (especially in the B2B environment), they’ll need more than intuition and gut feeling to guide the business’s use of language. Instead, data must support frameworks for multichannel and omnichannel content management, from strategy to creation and measurement.

Shouldn’t you remain one step ahead by thinking like a designer and acting like a data-driven marketer today?

What is Verbal Design?

Let’s start with what verbal design is not: the thing copywriters and content writers do all day. Sure, verbal design bleeds into the written words of a campaign or post. Even so, the most-advanced copywriter isn’t necessarily a verbal designer.

Verbal design is the art (creative) and science (data) of making words stand out to a specific recipient, regardless of the touchpoint, channel, or medium. When used repeatedly over time, the verbal design creates one cohesive language unique to a brand. Thus, we think of designing words as a discipline or practice.

Tone and style are two crucial elements of verbal design. Sorta like a brand’s ID card. More important, though, is how these elements influence brand perception across all channels, including digital, virtual, and traditional. The ultimate goal of verbal design is to tell the same story everywhere and hearing recipients receive the messaging the way you intended. All of the words a person reads throughout their customer journey add up to one memorable story, and that story narrates their experience.

Additionally, verbal design is a framework for how to use words within a company—a way of thinking about intentional communication at scale. It reinforces a brand’s essence and the intended experience across all content. So, it’s safe to say a verbal designer thinks up language (in the form of words) to create connections with people. When done well, the link means something different compared to another brand.

How to be “Data-Driven”

Being data-driven means making decisions based on information rather than your gut. Generally, access to information and the ability to analyze it improves with maturity. For example, marketer A uses data to gather insights about their target customer, while marketer B explores the insights to make well-informed decisions and validate beliefs.

Data-driven is the newest approach to how you can treat marketing strategy. A data-driven marketer (a.k.a. a marketing engineer) is more scientific than creative. Defining KPIs to monitor, measure, experiment, and modify a hypothesis based on new data is part of the process.

We have information at scale now, so you can make decisions using aggressive research, 80% driven by numbers in many cases. For example, the data-driven approach says I have a fixed budget, a fixed amount of time, fixed manpower, and a fixed number of products. A marketer must juggle these factors at once. Analyze what’s available, your audience, product performance, and other business-related numbers to do it efficiently.

Data-driven marketing allows you to be matter of fact, less speculative, and more strategic. Processes, operations, and decision-making are supported by computers and software. Creativity and observation can influence ideation, but technology guides you to the most effective outcome or solution.

Is your curious marketer brain asking questions about how data and being “data-driven” relate? Check out our podcast episode with Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, and Chief Troublemaker at The Content Marketing Institute.

Defining data in marketing

When we say “data,” we’re referring to the information gathered based on incoming signals you get from your outgoing marketing efforts. Think website, social media, and lead generation to name a few. The data is also called sales data, competitive intelligence, market research, customer data, and metrics. 

Signals are the outcome of a given interaction between the brand and customer. A response (or no response) and engagement are primary examples. Sometimes the signals are complex, consisting of purchase or intent information. Most importantly, the incoming signals help marketers evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign or project.

Finally, data-driven means responding to signals in a mathematical way, rather than gut feeling. Only so many people are ready to purchase your product in a market today, so incoming signals help determine how to best reach the necessary customer base and if adjustments must be made for the desired results.

Integrating the Data-Driven Mindset and Verbal Design

Modern marketing lives at the intersection of humans, technology, and data. And the modern marketer understands each, balancing the demands of sales and marketing departments to deliver logical solutions, usually in the form of content. Think podcasts, SMS, blogs, PDFs, social content, etc. All of which require the strategic use of words and language to communicate meaning, differentiation, connection, and, if all goes well, brand.

There has never been a better time to integrate verbal design with the data-driven mindset. Words are more than look and feel; they impact how people engage with all content, including making them feel or think in a specific way. R/GA said it eloquently, “Verbal Design is the one part of a brand’s expression that is always there.”

You can send a message out to see if it resonates with the people you want to reach and quickly get a signal back on whether or not they’re consuming or converting. You can answer the question “Is it working?” digitally with a one-to-one relationship. The secret to doing it well is trusting your data to influence the best language for both the brand and the group of people you want to influence.

The end of “squishy” marketing

It’s unavoidable for a data as a service (DaaS) company to discuss the ideal situation for data-driven marketers. However, we can agree the end goal is to find a person who wants to buy the thing you’re selling, either right now or three months in the future. Data-driven verbal design can affect purchase behavior throughout the buyer’s journey, though, making it enjoyable! Not less painful, but enjoyable. No more “squishy” marketing.

The promise of digital is specific and relevant marketing across all channels at once—omnichannel! All of the squishiness around marketing—too many irrelevant ads, emails, and messages—doesn’t have to be a consequence of putting your content into the world.

Verbal and language elements, designed after interpreting incoming signals, can make digital channels and digital marketing so good you don’t see it as an interruption. How often have you watched an ad and thought, “well, there’s time I’ll never get back”? Instead, you’d rather see an ad when you need a thing, and you go buy that thing. Blissful, isn’t it?

The integration of verbal design and the data-driven mindset represents the thoughtfulness customers expect from a brand that “gets them”—the real them. Being data-driven represents the thinking and process necessary to reach customers in the right place at the right time. Good verbal design rewards your prospects with an enjoyable experience and feeling of unity . So, modern marketing needs both design and data to be memorable.

Before you Go

Think of “just do it.” Nike has programmed the world to think a specific way every time their band is seen or mentioned. When their inspiring and motivational visuals fall away, the language is still there—in the right place and at the right time. It’s like they always have novelists and marketers creating content together.

But you don’t need to be Nike to get started with data-driven verbal design. Instead, adapt your creative and scientific process to overlap. Let one influence the other and keep the cycling going. Make people feel and think wherever the brand exists with intentional language, and pull the marketing parts together based on what the data tells you.

Want to think like a data-driven marketer? How about sharing your brand’s thoughtful messaging with the right people in the right place?

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