Steep Digital Marketing Blog

Creating Resonance: The Marketing Triangle (with a twist)


Creating Resonance: The Marketing Triangle (with a twist)

The word resonance evokes a vivid picture in my mind. A few years ago, I was backpacking in the Gore Range of the Colorado Rockies when my brother and I happened upon a glacier lake surrounded by steep jagged cliffs. We quickly unpacked our fly rods and started casting in hopes to land some brook trout for dinner. The first time I got a nibble on my line, I jerked my rod to set the hook only to see my line shoot out of the water and fly into the woods behind me. After some searching, we found not only my tangled line, but also a tiny little trout (about the size of my index finger) hanging from the line high in a tree. What ensued was what I can only describe as a belly laugh, two grown men yacking in the hilarity of what had just happened.But something else happened too. As we laughed and laughed, the sounds of our hilarity echoed off the lucid blue water and off the surrounding cliff walls creating a haunting and persistent echo.

This is what the word resonance reminds me of. A single sound on that placid alpine lake turned into far more – the convergence of sound, water and stone amplified and replicated that laughter over and over and over again.

Resonance is a powerful tool in marketing. When the conditions are right a single message sent to the right person in the right context can create a powerful effect. Marketers in the past have called this The Marketing Triangle or The Triangle of Results, and in this post, I’ll walk you through the concept with my own little twist to help you understand how matching our market, message, medium and magnet can amplify the effects of our marketing messages. Let’s dive into the marketing trifecta and see how we can apply it to digital advertising.


Everything in marketing starts with your target audience. We’ve all heard public speaking coaches say, “know your audience,” and it’s the starting point of communicating in a powerful way. You see, who you are talking to defines how you talk to them. Imagine you’re explaining how to use a new feature on your smartphone to your co-worker. You might say something brief like “go to Settings, click General, choose Background App Refresh, and choose which apps remain running when they aren’t open.” Now imagine you’re explaining this to your 85-year-old grandmother who just got her first smartphone. I’m not even going to try to explain what that might sound like (because I want to keep this post shorter than the 2.5 hours it might take to explain it), but you get the idea. Explaining the same thing to different audiences requires you to take a totally different approach.

If you’re a financial advisor who wants to host a seminar on tax-saving strategies for a room full of middle-American Baby Boomers, you’re going to have to write content that specifically addresses what your audience cares about and what they do and do not understand. Far too often we litter our messages with “financialisms” or jargon; words that we use commonly, but the average consumer won’t understand or connect with. Right off the bat, these messages fail to reach our prospects because they are not written in a way that your target market can relate to.

A good example of this might be the difference between these two phrases:

“See how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) may allow you to reduce taxes on qualified accounts.”
“Discover how 2018 Tax Reform could save you on retirement taxes if you own an IRA or 401k.”

Both sentences are talking about the same thing, but one of them is approachable, readable and understandable whereas the other sounds like a footnote in an accounting textbook. Chances are high that your ideal client will be motivated by one and intimidated by the other. The starting point of clear marketing communication begins with understanding who you are marketing to.


In its simplest form, your message is the “what” of your advertisement. In our previous example we used tax saving strategies as an example, so in the context of this discussion tax would be the message we’re delivering. But it goes much deeper than this. Messaging is only effective when we talk about our chosen topic in a way that our market cares about. It’s all about choosing how to frame the discussion in a context that’s meaningful to our market and leads them in the direction we want them to move towards.

When we write copy at Steep, we use a simple T-Chart to categorize different content approaches in an effort to go beyond the surface message and into a deeper and more meaningful discussion centered around why people should care about our what.

Confused? Let me show you.

Here’s a chart that shows what people want to move AWAY from on the left an what they want to move TOWARDS on the right. Additionally, there’s a vertical line that shows the time element with IMMEDIATE at the top and FUTURE on the bottom. Using this chart, we’re able to divide messaging ideas into 4 different categories that we call fears, frustrations, wants and desires.

Frustrations: What people want to move away from now
Wants: What people want to move towards now
Fears: What people want to move away from in the future
Desires: What people want to move toward in the future

Here’s an example of each of these categories in the context of our tax discussion aimed at affluent baby boomers:

Frustrations: Not understanding the immediate impact of the new tax reform laws
Wants: Save money on taxes this year
Fears: Making poor tax decisions that leave them without enough income later in retirement
Desires: Being able to have the retirement of their dreams, spend time with loved ones and leave a legacy for their grandchildren

ALL of these have their place in marketing, but you can clearly see with this example how the same topic can be framed up in different contexts for a specific purpose. Immediate concerns like wants and frustrations are driven by impulse and curiosity whereas long term concerns like fears and desires are wispy-eyed dreams or deep-rooted anxieties about a faraway future. Filling in this chart with the hot buttons you know to be true about your audience is one of the simplest and most effective ways to put a razor’s edge on your message. The right message directed to the right market is the starting point of resonance.


We’ve never had as many choices as we do right now when it comes to where we display our advertising and content. The traditional media outlets like radio, television and print are being challenged by search engines and social media leaving us dozens of options when investing advertising dollars.

Here are two reasons I believe selecting the right media is a critical part of delivering effective advertising messages. 2017 was a historic year. Yes, there was the epic solar eclipse, and yes it was the year of the fidget spinner, but that’s not what I’m referring to.

2017 was the first year that advertisers worldwide spent more money on digital advertising than they did on television.

In advertising, attention is the most prized commodity that we fight for; this massive transfer from traditional media to online sources demonstrates that advertisers by the millions are flocking to people’s computers and phones to capitalize on this shift in attention.

The second reason choosing your medium is critical in today’s marketing environment is that consumers have differing expectations depending on what traffic source they originate from when they discover you. Let’s use Google and Facebook as an example of this. Google is primarily a search engine that serves ads to people based on their outbound search queries. So if I am in the market for a digital camera, and I search google for “Best Digital SLR” I KNOW that I’m positioning myself for a product-direct advertisement. Almost instantly my screen is filled with shiny lenses and hefty price tags from advertisers hocking their hardware.

Let’s put this in the social context of Facebook to see how that experience could be very different. I’m a snowboarding nut, and I love everything from waist deep powder to watching hooligan shredders dropping untouched Alaskan couloirs. One particularly great follow on Facebook is Teton Gravity Research. I recently discovered that one of my marketing buddies is good friends with one of the videographers for TGR, so naturally I began Facebook stalking him. Just 10 minutes into this serendipitous snooping I had learned about the cameras he uses to capture epic mountain adventures and began drooling over his six-figure equipment.

Here’s the thing – in both cases I encountered products related to my interest, but I had a totally different way of getting to that product and, as a result, I had different expectations for what that product could do for me simply because I got to them in different ways. Facebook is not primarily an e-commerce platform. Sure, there are people making fortunes selling physical goods on Facebook, but because of its social context it’s totally different than a search engine. No one wakes up in the morning and starts scrolls through their newsfeed desperately hoping that a financial advisor will invite them to a workshop, but when we advertise on social we’re able to serve marketing messages to people in a non-salesy context where consumers can discover us in a “neutral” format. This TOTALLY changes people’s expectations when we position ourselves as educators on a social platform! As we consider who we’re marketing to and what we are marketing it’s critical to understand the nuances of where we are marketing as well.


The final corner of the marketing triangle is really not a corner at all. I guess I could change this to be “The Marketing Square,” so we have a shape with 4 corners, but it just doesn’t sound as cool…

This final element is what I call the magnet. The cornerstone of every advertisement is the offer; it’s the way we position our product to make it stand out. Sure, we could have a menu of our services with price tags next to them and hope that people see the value of them and respond, but that rarely works. Instead we’re tasked with creating an appealing framework for our product or services that makes people want to buy from us.

At Steep, we’ve made a name for ourselves as marketing some of the highest quality workshop marketing campaigns at prices 256% lower than direct mail and less than half of other digital competitors. We bundle our services, advertising cost, landing page development, hyper-focused targeting model, an automated confirmation funnel and consulting all in one low price point with a guarantee that we’ll perform to your expectations. THAT’S our offer. At the end of the day we run ads and get conversions for seminar events, but by packaging our services in a unique and approachable way we do our very best to offer advisors an appealing marketing package that’s easy to access.

As an advisor, you do the very same thing. Rather than just telling people you manage money and ask them to come meet in your office, you offer valuable information in a comfortable and educational context at no cost to the consumer. The framework of this offer is your magnet, and it’s one of the most critical parts of creating marketing messages that resonate with prospects. Because the magnet has so much to do with getting people to act, we’ve outlined Best Practices that we know will make your magnet easy to respond to. Choosing the right venue, using specific weekdays, hosting events in the evening, creating a credible bio with contact information and your company branding, and even making confirmation calls from your office are proven to create superior results because it makes your magnet (your event) appealing to consumers.


Remember that story of me catching the embarrassingly small trout? I want you to imagine my school-girl laughter bouncing off the rock faces and water, amplifying my immature sense of humor. Maybe I was laughing louder that day than I was when I pranked one of our digital marketers at the office last week, but maybe I wasn’t. Maybe the presence of elements around me that intensified those sounds is what made it carry so far. Marketing is the exact same way. The convergence of the right message, tailor fit to the right market, delivered through the right medium and wrapped up in the right magnet creates resonance that reverberates and delivers massive impact – the match.

Mad props to Dan Kennedy and Nicholas Kusmich for their work on The Marketing Triangle and Hot-button T-Chart.

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