The success of your marketing strategy and activities depends on clear, precise messaging. It’s simply not enough to raise awareness about your brand. Impactful messaging must inspire action. It must differentiate you from the competition and demonstrate a relevant, solutions-based response to your select audience.
Yet even before the foundational work of message crafting begins, some clear-eyed assessment is in order. It does no good to start down a path only to discover (at great expense and loss of time) that the message you’ve developed does not resonate with customers or aptly define your company. Consider these topline tips as a prelude to impactful message development:
1. Know Yourself
Take a hard look at your operation and ask, “What do we do really well?” What benefit do you provide your customers – real or perceived? Maybe you have the hottest new technology in town. Or perhaps your CEO enjoys a certain celebrity status in the industry. Your brand influence will emerge from strengths that are found in six broad, customer-facing categories:
- Market impact
- Market position
- Financial performance
Define your strengths in each of the categories where you excel, then develop the messaging that plays to those strengths.
2. Talk To Your Customers
You may think you know who you are, but what do your customers think? The messaging you believe is on point may have missed the mark, but you won’t know for certain unless you ask. Take time to engage in conversation with customers. Find out what they think your messaging is. Better yet, find out how they are responding to your messaging.
Before recalibrating your messaging strategy, audit 10-12 representative members of your customer base. You can do this yourself, though working with a third-party agency often results in more candid responses.
Customers tend to hold back real impressions and criticisms when talking to a company directly but are more forthcoming when speaking with a third party. The audit process can result in new input and ideas important to customers that can then be leveraged for a more precise marketing message and strategy.
3. Evaluate the Competition
No company operates in a competitive vacuum. Messaging wouldn’t be as vital as it is if it wasn’t for competitors who are trying to make an impression on customers just as you are. So take some time to undertake a comprehensive review of competitive messaging and products. Some of this analysis can come from your customer surveys when you ask questions about why they selected your company over the competition.
But many insights will come through a review of competitor websites, press coverage and, in some markets, industry or financial analyst reports. The combination of customer input and web research will help you understand how well the competition’s messaging is aligned with their product offerings and plans.
4. Identify Your True North
Equipped with a clear understanding of yourself, your customers’ impressions, and your real competition, you can better pinpoint your true north. What direction will your strategic messaging take? Understanding the message drivers that set you apart from the competition is critical to turning your research into provocative messaging. What you should be looking for from that research are the brand influences and messages that are both important to your customer base and highly differentiated from your that of your competitors.
This prioritizing exercise will help overcome potential issues. For example, you may find too much overlap between your messages and those coming from the competition. If so, maybe you recalibrate to better emphasize the products or services that make you unique. Or perhaps you’ve discovered your biggest challenge is industry noise—you’ve got the most advanced technology, but you don’t have the customer’s ear. In that case, you need to find a way to rise above the din and make your messaging more relevant. Relevant content connects a brand to what is top-of-mind for consumers when they receive that content. It can be as sophisticated as engaging in cultural moments when they occur or as simple as selling snow tires when it’s snowing.
Where to next: The outcome of this topline exercise should be a blueprint for the why of messaging. It should lead to a strategic document that combines key message points with benefit statements and proof points. The internal marketing team and/or marketing agency can use this document as inspiration for the development and execution of a well-honed program. Likewise, management can refer to it when evaluating the efficacy of marketing actions and deciding on a direction forward.
The David James Agency works with B2B companies on all aspects of B2B message development and can help you determine the true north for your messaging.