Marketing Messenger/ Branding & Communications

Do You Want To Be A Malcolm Or A Morton? 3 Tips For Creating Million-Dollar Messaging


by Tim Riesterer
Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer
Corporate Visions Inc.

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Are you familiar with the concept of “the tipping point”? If so, who do you think coined the concept?

a) Benjamin Franklin
b) Morton Grodzins
c) Malcolm Gladwell

If you said C, then you’d be incorrect. Gladwell is the author of the best-selling novel The Tipping Point, which explores this concept, but the first person to develop the idea–according to written record–is Morton Grodzins, an unknown political science professor. Grodzins developed this concept more than 40 years before Gladwell even published his book.

You might be wondering to yourself, How did Gladwell make millions of dollars from this concept, while Grodzins remains unknown? The answer simple: Gladwell messaged it best. He understood how to take very technical and academic concepts and put them in terms that everyone could appreciate.

So what can you, as a marketer, learn from Gladwell? Messaging that makes concepts relatable for the masses will help you rise above your competition and appeal directly, unchallenged, to your prospects and customers.

Once you have determined your company’s distinct strengths–buried in your company are ideas, offerings, concepts, and capabilities that are of great value to your customers, but need to be messaged properly–follow these three tips to create your own million-dollar messaging:

1. Live in your customers’ world: The single greatest differentiator between a successful company and an unsuccessful one is the story it tells during the buying cycle. All too often, when talking with customers, you want to dive in and tell them why your product/solution is great. But the truth is, all they care about is how it might improve their day-to-day lives. An engaging story that will move your customers to a purchase decision is one that lives in their world, speaking to their pains, challenges, and fears–not your product/solution and why it is exceptional.

2. Avoid content overload: To help your customers make a decision, you need to do more than overload them with data sheets and other information. Create distinct and engaging content that appeals to the decision-making part of the brain to help move customers off of the status quo. Your story must show them the impact that current trends, issues, challenges, and changes will have on their businesses and desired outcomes. It also needs to illustrate how you can help them avoid the risks and make the most of their opportunities.

Look at Gladwell: He didn’t just report on Grodzins’ discovery. No, he looked at the tipping point from every angle, and then made it relatable to you and me. He took an esoteric concept and made it pragmatic and applicable for our lives–and that’s precisely why he was so successful.

3. Aim at the right target: Your fiercest competitor isn’t another company–it’s the status quo. So as you’re building your messaging content, keep in mind that it needs to defeat these root cause of the status-quo barrier:

-- Attention economy: As they say, time is money. Today, time is more valuable than ever, and getting people’s attention can sometimes be near impossible. When you do get face time with a customer, you can’t afford to be timid or to play the 20-questions game. You need to take advantage and tell them something they don’t already know about a problem they might not be aware they have. Don’t be afraid to be provocative.

-- Change burden: How much do customers hate change? So much that they’re often willing to live with their less-than-ideal solutions because they see the pain of changing as being worse. To break through the status-quo barrier, you’ll need to show how the pain of not changing is worse than the pain of doing things differently.

-- Risk aversion: It’s a fact that people respond better and faster to threats than to the potential for gain. This is why your stories about your solution’s features/benefits and your ROI calculations fail to break through the status-quo barrier. Instead, show your customers where their current solution is leading them: down the wrong path. They must see their status quo as “unsafe” before they will move away from it.

-- Entrenched competition: Sure, incumbency has its advantages. Established solutions are safe and comfortable. But you can uproot them if your messaging clearly shows the contrast between your approach and the status quo.

At the end of the day, the difference between the best messaging and ho-hum messaging is the difference between making millions of dollars and toiling in obscurity, as evidenced by Malcolm Gladwell and Morton Grodzins. So before you create your next campaign, or before you create another piece of content, ask yourself this: Do you want to be a Malcolm or a Morton?

About Tim Riesterer

A marketing and sales industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Tim Riesterer is the chief strategy and marketing officer for Corporate Visions Inc., a leading sales and marketing messaging company that works with B2B companies. Tim is also a recognized thought leader, practitioner, and author. His books, “Customer Message Management” and “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale,” focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. For easily integrated marketing and sales tips, visit