If positioning is the internal North Star in defining the target customer and the unique value your product provides, messaging is how positioning statements are manifested in the world. It’s the foundation for how you communicate your product and positioning to the marketplace. Expressed consistently to your target audience, it’s the actual content delivered to the customer.
Messaging is about communicating the value of your company and product to the customer. If done well, messaging can reduce the duration of sales cycles, lead to higher prospect-to-customer conversions, and improve a number of lagging indicators of success, including revenue.
In communicating value, start by getting clarity on the exact target customer profile and the value they expect from your product. Creating messaging is really about creating a value communication framework. Start by understanding your customers and their needs, mapping value to the right persona, and creating statements of value.
Understanding Customer Needs
Leverage the personas you’ve created. When looking for interviewees, non-traditional routes can reveal more about whether value expectations are being met. Speak with sales representatives and shadow prospect calls, absolutely, but also interview prospects who you lost in the sales cycle. Try to identify the profile of the prospect, what problems they were looking to solve, other stakeholders involved in their buying process, and their main dealbreaker. What were they looking for in a solution and why didn’t they choose you?
In addition to understanding scenarios where there were gaps between expectation and product, identify and interview customers who are happy with your product. Find 7-10 current customers. This includes those who recently onboarded as well as those who have been fans for more than a year (or a relatively long time). Try to discover why they chose you, how they use the product, and what aspects of the product give them significant value.
In the process of defining value for your core target audience, don’t forget about other stakeholders in the buying process and the value they expect.
Consider a feature flagging software product that allows companies to A/B test individual features with their users. Though the economic buyer or decision-maker in this example is the VP of Engineering, the influencer is the VP of Product Management, and the users are software engineers. While the VP of Engineering may see the principal value from the product as the ability to reduce bug fixes and engineering costs, the VP of Product Management may see the key value as the ability to get real-time metrics when releasing individual features to unique customer segments. Since each person evaluates the buying decision differently, the value must be clearly communicated by taking into consideration every persona the product affects.
This company has three buying personas:
- VP of Engineering (The Economic Buyer)
- VP of Product Management (The Influencer)
- Software Engineer (The User)
Now that you’ve identified the buying personas or the key individuals who influence or make the purchase decision, we need to map value elements to each persona. From the feedback you collected from existing customers, prospects, and your sales organization, assign 2-3 value elements to each persona.
The VP of Engineering cares about software quality and wants a faster software development cycle. Meanwhile, the VP of Product Management is looking for the product to understand app usage better so they can retain more users. She’s also looking to make product roadmap decisions and increase customer satisfaction. The software engineer wants to be able to release software quicker and more easily.
Creating Value Statements
For the economic buyer, the VP of Engineering, a rough outline of a message map becomes clear:
Title: VP of Engineering
Role in the Decision: Economic Buyer
Value Elements: (1) Increase software quality (2) Speed up the development cycle
Now that you’ve identified the persona and the value element that corresponds to them, we need to expand on it. Create a value statement for each element. In order to do that, make a claim and support it with product information but don’t lose focus on the value element itself. A simple question to ask yourself as you expand value elements and create messaging: What is this individual’s desired outcome when using my product?
Value Element: Increase software quality
Message: Get visibility into problematic features through real-time alerts when user application sessions stall.
A Messaging Map
A messaging map serves as a framework to articulate and support the overall positioning statement. Let’s look at a building access control product that allows employees to enter their workplace without the need for a physical badge. The following message map provides three statements of values, or pillars, that support the overarching value proposition. Pillar 1—Simple: Smile to Unlock—is about the idea that our product, FaceMap, is simple to use and improves productivity. Pillar 3 describes how FaceMap protects an entire workflow from end to end, reducing the chance of unauthorized access and risk to the organization. The purpose of each pillar is to support an attribute of the value proposition in an organized way.
Similar to how each pillar explores and supports a concept of the overarching value proposition, each pillar is founded on three supporting messages. For example, for Pillar 1, I might support the claim of operational simplicity by stating that “FaceMap badges in employees in 0.6 seconds—faster than any other building access control method.” I’ll provide eight additional supporting points, three for every pillar. The result: a succinct and persuasive foundation for your product’s story.
A message map is a framework for articulating your core value proposition and supporting your statements in an organized way. As a result, your messages are in the context of conveying a larger story and are backed by tangible claims. Saying your product here is simple is not unfounded. You’re able to back that claim with differentiated product details that allow you to be persuasive.
Attributes of Effective Messaging
Effective messaging is simple, crisp, and differentiated. When evaluating your messages, see if they are:
- Memorable. Not banal as to be forgotten soon after.
- Attractive. Just as the message shouldn’t slip away, effective messaging should pull in people and grab attention.
- Differentiated. Say something that others aren’t. Be unique.
- Tangible. There’s more noise than ever fighting for a finite amount of attention. Convey a tangible and useful message.
- Consistent. Align with the overall message and your brand identity.
- Actionable. Invoke a sense of urgency and have a specific goal in mind.
- Targeted. Reaffirming the notion that marketing does not equal indiscriminate broadcasting, create messaging that is targeted to the right audience: a specific persona, geography, and domain.