MENUMENU

How to Develop Strategic Marketing Communication Plan

strategic-messaging-feature
Share :

This is an article that covers all the vital information regarding strategic marketing communication plan. The aim of the article and what we hope to achieve is to explain why it is crucial for companies to understand how important strategic messaging and positioning is. We will also discuss important and beneficial practical as well as actionable approaches that will help you in designing strategic messaging and product positioning.

Over the years, classic marketing concepts, as well as strategies, have been forgotten or sidelined making them making them seem impracticable. Even so, their relevance and applicability in today’s world is vital and especially for companies that are selling tech products as well as software. Times have changed without a doubt but what remains is that the fundamental principles of positioning and marketing that applied over 50 years ago to other kinds of companies apply to software companies today. The products in the SaaS categories keep growing rapidly every day. The more they grow, the more positioning and strategic messaging increase in importance.

DEFINITION OF STRATEGIC MARKETING COMMUNICATION PLAN, STRATEGIC MESSAGING, AND POSITIONING

As noticed, numerous related buzzwords are used, and one can have a hard time understanding how a term is used, its definition, and what the word stands for. Notice the terms “Strategic communication” and “strategic messaging”; these terms can be used interchangeably as you will notice as you continue to read.

For a long time, before I gained the understanding of the subject matter, I desperately searched for a place to start my research on the subject matter. I figured my way, and I hope that this article will shed light on anyone who is interested in learning more about strategic communication and positioning.

I have written two articles; one on lead scoring and another on tracking customer acquisition and they are very informative and insightful. Even so, they will be outdated in a few years because of changes in trends. However, the processes and strategy for messaging and communication will stand the test of time and so will this article. In the midst of all the changes that we may go through, you can trust that these will remain for a very long time.

You can share the experiences you have had concerning the subject at hand freely as well as any resources that may be of great help.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. PART 1: Why care about strategic messaging and positioning (i.e.MARKETING COMMUNICATION PLAN)
  2. PART 2: Is your messaging effective?
  3. PART 3: What is strategic messaging?
  4. PART 4: What is positioning?
  5. PART 5: How to design strategic messaging
  6. PART 6: How to implement new messaging in organizations
  7. Conclusion

part-1-strategic-messaging

Many tech companies often overlook strategic messaging and planning yet a bad messaging will always have a huge and negative impact. It makes it very difficult to give a precise ROI for the implementation or changes in the way we talk about a product or a company of interest.

For one to build a great company, messaging will play a vital role. Every business that is started has a vision and a purpose for its development. These two lead the business to manufacture products that will solve the pains of targeted customers or create a customer base that is attracted to the product. Peter Drucker stated that “there is only one valid definition of business purpose; to create a customer.” In creating customers, one communicates the values and the vision of the company to the target customers. This is a place where strategic messaging will come in handy as it helps in this communication. Typically, customers do not simply buy products, but they first evaluate the value or utility of the product before they buy into your vision.

Any organization that exists always communicates and they always use messaging and positioning. Every organization always communicates their vision and the value of their product. However, what makes everything different is whether or not the messaging and positioning is effective.

Before we delve more into the definition, evaluation, and designing of your strategic messaging, it is vital that we look at key internal and external areas in your organization where strategic messaging will be impactful.

Product/Market-fit translates to Message/Customer-fit Click To Tweet

Everyone is aware of what product/market fit is all about. It revolves around getting high demands for the product you are offering in a bigger market or one that is growing. What many people tend to forget is that to get to product/market fit, one needs to get to message/customer fit. For new products, when trying to convince the customers to purchase it, you are testing two things; how the product will solve their pain and how the value of the product is communicated.

Product/market fit = Message/customer fit

For any company to get high demand levels for their products, it must solve the real pains of their target customer as well as find a practical and results-oriented approach for communicating the value of the product. Product/market fit and message/customer fit are dependent on each other as one cannot exist without the other. Therefore, there will always be a need for the right message to reach the right customers and in the right market so that the existence of the startup can be validated.

Company/market fit combines product/pain/problem fit as well as message/customer fit, and it stands out for being a better framework for any organization to use. By talking about product/market fit only, we constantly overlook strategic messaging which is vital to the whole process.

Pain/product fit + customer/message fit = company/market fit

Company/market fit will prove to be almost impossible to achieve in the absence of clear strategic messaging. It is important to get the right message just as it is to get the right product. Other than having a product that satisfies the needs of the market as well as the pains of the customers, an excellent structure for the organization and a vision are also required to meet a specific need in the market. When talking about company/market fit, we will have covered these two.

To put what Peter Drucker said in the simplest way possible, it all comes down to the management of an organization to look for, develop, and test an organization to affirm that it fits a particular task. Everything does not revolve around finding the right organization. In organizing business, you can have a right or wrong way. Even so, there is a right organization that is better placed at handling a certain problem or meeting certain market needs.

Fundraising and Investor Decks

Every organization will always have to tap into the benefits of strategic messaging to have successful and excellent fundraising outcomes. The investor deck will typically define a problem, vision, value proposition, positioning, target, customer, and the market opportunity for the organization. For the organization to successfully plant their message, an interesting story must be in place to catch the people’s attention. To have a highly effective and fruit-bearing investor deck, the strategic message must be packaged in a catchy story.

To create a pitch deck, you can use the very many accessible and excellent resources available.

LEARN MORE: Read the article by TechCrunch titled, “Lessons From A Study of Perfect Pitch Decks.” 

SALES

When talking about designing Lead Nurturing, Lead Scoring, and Drip Email Campaigns, you realize a great importance is placed on identifying a prospects PAIN as well as the FIT in a sales process. The FIT is akin to the profile of the target customer while the PAIN (also the problem) is akin to how the prospects will view the value of the product. The customer profiles, as well as the values, are vital to strategic messaging and they are irreplaceable.

In the sales cycle, note that complications will arise when you sell the product to the multiple stakeholders that were part of the decision-making process, and this will prolong the process. Also, all of your target customers will typically have a pain that is specific to them, and they will be trying to get certain values from your product. This means that you should give strategic messaging utmost attention when there are numerous stakeholders because different personas will have to be addressed by different messages in the buying process.

B2B Sales Cycle

Typically, the prospects you have will form their perceptions about the product as well as its value long before the qualification call or demo. They will build their perceptions from the content of your website, the materials you are using to communicate such as PR, ads, cold sales emails, articles, and blogs. If the prospects have wrong expectations or misinterpret the value of the product, you can rest be assured that you will work extra hard to change the perception formed.

At any given time, when the perceived value of the prospects is far from the real value that you want your product to convey, the chances of losing the deal is high. Any organization will put in a lot of effort to create a perception of the product in the minds of the prospects. However, more effort will be required to change an already formed perception. It is nearly an impossible thing to unconvinced people of a matter.

MORE INFORMATION: Additional facts aren’t very helpful in changing people’s beliefs and perceptions once they’ve been formed

By now you must have already realized that it is nearly impossible to change the perceptions of a prospect when it is inaccurate. You have also realized that it will make it very difficult to sell the product.

If you look at companies that have a wonderful sales organization, you will realize that they are not without excellently created sales playbooks. Typically, in sales playbooks, you will get information concerning sales pitches, competitive landscapes, the process for addressing differentiating questions, profiles for target customers, the product offerings, and descriptions, and the success stories from customers. With strategic messaging, you will have better tools as weapons to be used by your sales team to drive sales.

To wrap it up, for the sales organization to have consistent and well-established communications, an effective strategic messaging must be in place.

MARKETING

Marketing is all about controlling the perceptions about the product and changing the behavior of the product. This forms the simplest and most accurate definition of the term.  The activities involved in marketing, as well as every aspect, are meant to control perception, change behavior, or do both. It is hard to think of an activity that does not fit the stated goals. A question to ask yourself is this; can a prospect’s behavior be changed without changing their perception first?

Here are a few examples. Awareness content gives more information to the prospects as well as customers on the trends that are arising on the industry as well as other important issues. The aim of this is to gain control over the perceptions that your target audience will form basing on what they pay attention to.  When you choose to run a paid acquisition campaign, you will be initiating action by the prospect which can eventually lead to a conversion which is a behavioral change. Typically, purchasing and using a product by a customer calls for a behavioral change.

inbound-marketing-stages

To control the perception, companies have used and still use strategic messaging. The marketing team is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the message that is used by a company is uniform across the marketing channels, assets, and communications present.

RECRUITING

Recruiting primarily involves selling the visions and values of the organization. Every CEO and the founders of an organization must keep on recruiting at all times. Most of their efforts should be focused on this to get optimum results. Strategic messaging will help you create a perfectly organized vision and values by enabling you to create a powerful and impactful message and story. You will be able to create a simple message and story that will hook those who resonate with your values and those who draw their inspiration from your values.

Messaging will always be very impactful. It will impact how you communicate with your team internally and how you communicate with the marketplace and the audience externally.  We have looked at a few vital examples, but the list can grow longer and longer if we were to include more examples. Let us now look at whether or not the messaging is effective, or it needs to be revamped.

part-2-strategic-messaging

It is never an easy task to identify whether or not the messaging is effective. Many organizations will collect and analyze all the metrics they can imagine to determine this. But how do you know that the messaging is productive? When the prospects are too confused and are wondering about your organization’s offerings, you will not have confidence in saying that the sales process is prolonged by X%. Even so, you can analyze the messaging you use using a qualitative means explained here.

Consistency is a vital attribute for strategic messaging. Any messaging that is simple and highly consistent will always be effective and fruitful. Therefore, the best and simplest way to know whether the messaging is effective is by looking at the consistency of how the organization talks about the product and comparing it with how the customers talk about it.

Effective messaging = simple + consistent

  • Do the members of the organization have a unity of speech when they talk about the value of the product?
  • Do the prospects and customers have a clear understanding of the value and utility provided by the product?

Below are a few questions for your team members, and once they have answered, you can compare the answers. This exercise is very simple, and they do not take up a lot of time. The insight gotten from this will help you get a deeper understanding of the health of the messaging. You will be able to spot problems and uproot them before they take root in your organization.

INTERNAL EVALUATION

This exercise will only take 20 minutes, and it will give you insight into what your team members say about the company as well as the product. Gather your sales rep, marketing, and product people (everyone who is part of the company) in a conference room and administer the following questions to them. They should provide written answers, and no consultations are allowed.

  • Company pitch in one sentence (what do we do?)
  • Problem pitch in one sentence (what problem do we solve?)
  • Competitive pitch in one sentence (how do we differ from our competitors?)
  • Values we provide; a maximum of three bullet points (why should anyone buy our products?)
  • The vision of the company (why we do what we do?)

These questions are simple and very basic. No one should have a problem answering the questions. In just 20 minutes you should be done. The best results you can hope for from this exercise are for their answers to be fairly consistent. If this is the case, move on to the clients. From the clients, you will get information about the value and utility of the product according to the clients. This will ensure that in as much as the messaging is consistent among the team members, it also resonates well with the clients.

If the answers received from different teams or the people of a certain team vary, as they often do, you will have to evaluate your messaging and take it more seriously.

At a particular point and time, I was conduction a one-on-one interview with the salespeople of a certain company. I was awakened to a rude shock when I realized that every answer I got differed from one interview to another concerning the product pitches and company description were very different. The pitches would differ from one sales rep to the next, and it is a sad fact, that almost all sales reps had their own different sales deck. I went an extra length and showed the live sales calls they engaged in with customers as well as what they said. From this, we realized their sales pitches were far apart from the other person’s sales pitches that you would have thought the pitches were for unrelated products.

Let us leave that aside and proceed with the thought that your internal message is fairly consistent. The next step for you to take is to interview a few of the customers you have and compare their perception of the product as well as the company. At the back of your mind, you should always be conscious of the fact that strategic messaging and positioning revolves around your customer’s perceptions of the product.

EXTERNAL EVALUATION

You can proceed with external evaluation in two ways

  1. Customer reviews
  2. Carrying out a survey

Typically, the two ways will give you results. Even so, surveys are often quicker and very easy while interviews are highly reliable. If your team members were convinced of doing a review of the messaging after the internal evaluation, then there is no need for an external evaluation.

When you start to design a new messaging, make sure that you talk to the customers as well as prospects. It will be hectic to the customers to be interviewed during an external evaluation and the designing process; it is double work.

To have a clear understanding of what the clients think of the product, ask them the following questions.

  • What made you purchase the product?
  • What problems do you want to resolve with the product?
  • How do you put to use this product?
  • What is your favorite quality/feature of this product?
  • What is the least favorite feature/quality?

When the customers give you the answers to why they like or dislike the product always ask a follow-up question like “why?” the point of focus is not on the feature mentioned but how it affects their daily activities as well as the value and utility it offers them.

Once the external interview is done, compare the answers from your team members with the responses from the customers you interviewed. You will be shocked to realize that the internal messaging and the customer perceptions are worlds apart.

As it stands, it is nearly impossible to calculate the ROI of an impactful strategic messaging. Even so, we must realize that messaging plays a vital role in the business and makes the most impact. In the sections below, we will delve deeper into strategic messaging and position. We will also get a deeper insight as to why they are very important to your business as well as how to design an effective strategic messaging.

part-3-strategic-messaging

Strategic messaging is a form of communication that is value-based, and companies use it for every interaction they have with stakeholders. These are employees, partners, investors, customers, and prospects. It will typically create awareness of the value of the product among the prospects and define the solution that it offers to a certain problem.

In our earlier discussion, we learned that marketing is all about controlling the customer’s perceptions of a product and their behavior. For this to be done effectively, strategic messaging is crucial.

The goal of marketing = controlling perception + changing behavior Click To Tweet

In the simplest explanation, strategic messaging is the extension of the vision of the company and the vision starts with answering the question “why?” “Start with Why” is a book that was popularized by Simon Sinek and the content of the book revolves around the idea that a company needs to answer the “why?” question for it to be successful. It needs to give reasons as to why it exists. The “why” question that drives the vision will birth the “how” question. The organization should mention how it does what it does. After answering the “why” and the “how” questions, the next question will be “what?” This means that the organization should mention what it does as well as what products and services it offers the prospects.

Learn more: Watch the TED talk presented by Simon Sinek to refresh your mind on The Golden Circle idea. 

 

The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek

The framework given is also applicable to strategic messaging. By answering the “why” question, the organization will communicate its vision and unveil itself using the tagline, the vision statement, a tagline, or a brief description of the company. The answer to the “how” question is communicated through the proposition of the value, the description of the problem, and the product position as seen through the eyes of the clients. The “what” question is communicated through the description of the products and services, the features, the case studies, and other content related to the product and marketing.

The Golden Circle of Strategic Communication

Effective and thorough messaging can be likened to an excellently developed story. Less emphasis is placed on what happens as compared to whom it happens to, why it happens, and how it happens. (8) Strategic communication/ strategic communication will encircle the why, how, and what aspects of a company.

During your designing process for the strategic designing, you have to always start with the why. It can create deep emotional ties with your target audience. This will be advantageous to you because when emotions are involved, they precede one’s judgment and consequently their reaction.

All the communication that the organization is involved in from the message found on the homepage to the one found on the ‘About’ section of the press release, the paid acquisition campaigns, sales decks, and content strategy should be in line with the framework of the organization’s strategic messaging.

3.1. THE BIGGEST STRATEGIC MESSAGING MISTAKE OR WHY MOST COMPANIES ARE FAILING IN DESIGNING STRATEGIC MESSAGING (MARKETING COMMUNICATION PLAN)

In a little while, we will look at real-world examples of how one can create a strategic messaging map. But before we get to that, let us look at why some messages are effective while others are not.

Messages must be consistent

When there is great consistency, the chances for miscommunications are drastically reduced. Because of the consistency, they messages also tend to stick in the minds of the people thus making it memorable. The effectiveness of a message is tied to the consistency, and this is the reason why advertisements always work. They always repeat the same message throughout.

Brevity and simplicity makes the message clearer

For effectiveness to be realized, avoid any jargons and use simple day-to-day words that are short. There will be a place for you to use longer product copy or content but not where strategic messaging is applicable.

Typically, the human consciousness is made up of thoughts, feelings, and sensations that we are awakened to at any particular place and a particular moment. These form a limited representation of the reality. More often than not, we are incapable of paying attention to every single detail. Therefore, the brain will pick the words and an implied meaning and form a particular summarized thought for that moment.

When one tries to include more details and information, the human unconscious process will take only the words that seem relevant at that moment and leave everything else outside. Therefore, never assume that it is best to put all the information for the target audience because they will sift through the information and pick what is brief and relevant to them at that brief moment. It can even be two to four words. When you add irrelevant information, the judgment and learning will be interfered with (5).

Do not assume anything, always define

Never be under the assumption that your audience always has an understanding of the words used for communications. Many companies are enclosed in their bubble, and the employees will use the same terms in their midst. However, their meanings of the words will change from one company to another. Every term that is used internally should be defined so that the meaning can cut across everyone. Whenever necessary, you should also define the terms of outbound communication. You will be surprised to know that even a simple and common term like ‘analytics’ can have varying meanings and interpretations.

A common mistake that most startups make is creating positioning and messaging based their internal expertise and features of the product. This drives the founders to come up with product descriptions that are full of industry jargons, technical details that are complicated, or buzzwords.

Many people do not have an understanding of what makes AI different from machine learning, but these terms are being used everywhere with an assumption that everyone knows their meaning and difference. When you use terms like ‘cloud-based’ and ‘big data,’ are you sure that your clients know their meaning?

Do not use superlatives and buzzwords

Every company needs to understand that superlatives are a big turn-off. Seize from using superlatives and buzzwords like “state of the art,” “world class,” “best in class,” and so on.

If you can, stick to one message and do not change it

This is greatly founded on consistency. Avoid changing the framework of the strategic messaging every so often; as often as between six and twelve months. Once in a while, you can play around with the idea of changing the messaging but if the changes are going to impact the brand in every aspect, approach the matter with a lot of care.  It is a difficult thing to change your product’s perception as well as that of the company. Therefore, always purpose to position the strategic message for the organization for a long-term effect.

Note: As much as you hold the vision, the customers will always hold their perception

part-4-strategic-marketing-communication-plan

In communicating the “How” of the company where the company communicates its vision as well as the value, there are always numerous pieces that play vital roles. However, many companies in the Tech industry forget about positioning.

The book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” written by Al Ries, “the father of brand position”, gives a perfectly clear description of the basic positioning approach and shows that it is not a process of creating a new thing that is also different but manipulating that which already exists in the mind so as to keep the connection ties that already exists. “The aim is positioning the product in the prospect’s minds.” (1)

This is why many startups will typically represent their ventures using terms like “Uber for X” or “Airbnb for Y.” Our span of attentiveness is very limited, and no investor should overlook this factor. Every founder needs to explain their venture briefly so that the investors and prospects can have an easy time understanding what the company does and decide whether they are want to learn more about the company.

“The best approach in over-communicated society is the oversimplified message.” – Al Ries.

Positioning will not give a detailed explanation of what the product will do as well as how it will do it; it is not about the product. Rather, it is about the prospect’s perception of the product and that of the customer, or the investor. Understand that the problems that surround positioning have their answers outside the product and the company. The answers are in the mind of the prospects. Therefore, the description and positioning of the product should be determined and guided by the customers and prospects. It should not be guided by the features of the product or internal expertise.

Looking at our example, many investors know of the business model of running an Uber company. Therefore, when the founder or an Uber company describes their business as “Uber for laundry,” it will resonate well with potential investors. Here, there is a clear connection between the Uber business model and the business at hand which in this case is a laundry business. In the mind of the investors, Uber is already positioned. Therefore, all that will happen is to connect a new idea to an already formed perception, and this makes the hearer of the message understand it without needing much mental energy.

Positioning can, therefore, be viewed as a concept that has been simplified and translates a message that has been oversimplified to make way into the mind of a prospect so that it can create a specific perception concerning the product.

Politics use a lot of positioning techniques. For every political race, an opponent will position themselves on the opposite side whether of the issue or the solution. Let us look at an example with two positions; the “pro-choice” versus “pro-life.” Which is the better positioned? In pro-choice stands for the position of supporting choice or being against anti-choice and pro-life is the position of supporting life or being against anti-life. Our perception is that life is more important than choices and thus, we subconsciously perceive that pro-life stand is better than its alternative.

A perfect example of position is Slack. Slack was positioned as an anti-email app from the time it was created and not an enterprise tool for communication. The founder of Slack,   Stewart Butterfield, believes that Slack will not replace emailing practices. But because of its excellence and perfect positioning, it has caused people in tech to talk about it and pick sides. When you have come up with a positioning and every major publication has headlines like “How E-Mail Killer Slack Will Change the Future of Work,” then you know, without a doubt, that it is working.

In positioning, we have different techniques that are used. It can be against a competitor, a follower, a market leader, the users, the features or attributes of the product, and so on. There are times when you can create the best perception of a product using a word or a phrase. If we are to delve deeper into explaining positioning, we will need another article or a book. But in the meantime, at the reference section, we have wonderful and insightful books relating to positioning that you can read.

part-5-strategic-messaging

Here, we are under the assumption that you have defined the organization’s “why” vision statement. The next step will be the designing process for strategic messaging, and it is broken down into numerous series of discovery-validation loops of feedback.

The first step involves picking a set of tools that you will consistently use throughout the process. You will then need to pick the profile for the consumer target as well as a framework for the strategic messaging. Having a target consumer framework helps in ensuring that initial discovery interviews are recorded in a perfectly structured and consistent way. (This will be discussed in deeper details later.)

From the initial discovery interviews, you will come up with highly detailed profiles for customer target and include values that resonate well with the target customer profiles you choose for the buying process. From here, everything else will revolve around adjusting the value statements, and you can only do this by validating the assumptions you have through carrying out other interviews. When and only when the value statements are perfected, then you can proceed to design higher level messaging like the positioning statement, a description of 25 words, and a tagline.

5.1. PICK THE TARGET CUSTOMER AND MESSAGING FRAMEWORK

You must have in place a framework to consistently use during interviews before you proceed with discovery interviews. This framework comprises of an Excel table or a word document which will be used to summarize the interviews.

When you read my article on lead scoring and Lead nurturing, you will notice that I have described how FIT and PAIN frameworks apply to the profile of the target customer. We will now break down the characteristics that make FIT/PAIN of the target customer.

Target Customer Profile Card

By searching the internet, you will find numerous value messaging maps, and you should know that there are no wrong or right frameworks. Even so, you must purpose to find the one that is a perfect fit and is beneficial for your company’s purpose. Alternatively, you can edit an existing one.  I looked at some ideas and picked a few of them that I used to create my version of value messaging map which is beneficial and fits SaaS companies that have numerous target customers involved in the buying process.

Strategic Messaging Map – Download Google Template

Below is an image of how a complete Strategic messaging map looks like. Place great importance on how you fill it because it matters. Later on, we will come back to this but in the meantime; we will look at the items present in the strategic messaging map.  (See the table below)

marketing-communication-plan-table

5.2. DISCOVERY

The whole idea of carrying out the discovery process is to come up with a highly detailed profile or the target customer. We do this by collecting information concerning the customers and prospects you have. Develop a list containing questions for the people you will be interviewing so that you can be assured of quality feedback.

Interview sales reps

For this, you can pick around 5-10 sales reps who are the best. This number will vary depending on how big or small the company is. Typically, the sales reps will use any means to close deals, and great sales reps are always conscious of the prospect’s problems. Ask them to do the following.

  • Identify a target customer
  • Give information about the easiest deals they closed
  • Provide information about the biggest deals they ever closed
  • Give information about the toughest deal they ever closed
  • Include information a prospect they have lost recently and the reasons that led to it
  • Give information about the pain that most customers have
  • Offer information about the questions they ask the prospects to identify their pain
  • Give information about the customers they have the best relationship with (you will interview these customers later)

Tip: Make it a one-on-one interview. This will help you avoid collective thinking of the sales reps as well as any influence the group leader may have on the team members.

Interview the product owner and some customer success managers

While interviewing sales reps is beneficial and is a must, it is equally important to interview the owners of the products and the managers in charge of customer success to get a fresh perspective. Come up with questions that will give you insight on what the customers say about the product and what the team says about the product to the customers. Let the questions be open-ended and ensure that you record the responses.

Listen to the prospects (shadow sales calls)

The fastest and easiest way to get closer to the target customers is by shadowing the sales calls with prospects. Typically, prospects have had minimal interaction with the company and the product, and the initial perception they had is not changed or influenced. From the questions they ask and the objections they present, you will get a deeper insight into what their perceptions are of the company and the product. Be very keen on noting down the words they choose to use. This will help improve the messaging as you can use their words in messaging and this will resonate well with them. By doing this, you will be focusing on the important points.

Compare the feedback you will get from shadowing sales calls with prospects and what you will get from one-on-one interviews with sales reps. You will be shocked that the two may differ.

NOTE: I advocate for shadowing sales calls with prospects for every employee that is we to the company regardless of the title that they carry around. By shadowing calls, you will learn a lot about the product as well as how the customers perceive it.

Interview the last 5-10 prospects who were lost

There will always be prospects that were a perfect fit for your target customer profile but were lost. Ask the sales reps to give you a list of these prospects (around 20 prospects). Send these prospects emails requesting them to grant you an interview of about 10-15 minutes so that you can understand what triggered them to shun the product. After the interview, reward them with a $20 Amazon or Starbucks gift card as an appreciation for their time.

The purpose of interviewing lost perspectives is so that you can know why they turned down the product. You will realize that maybe they were not the perfect fit or that the pain solved by your product is not as big as they would like it to be. You may also discover that the price of the product is what drove them away or a competitor product solved their pains much better. While talking to them, ask for information about the buying process as well as who took part in the decision-making. Also, ask about what the deal breaker was for them.

Interview 5-10 newer customers

Since they are new to the company, their experience during the buying process as well as the interactions they had with your team members is still fresh. For this group, ask the very questions you asked the prospects that were lost. Ask them about:

  • Their thoughts on the product
  • The problem they wanted to solve with the product
  • Their biggest challenges

NOTE: The most crucial question you must ask is their biggest challenges. In the discovery process, you must ask the prospects, recent customers, and renewed customers (frequent customers who have been there for over one year) this question. If you realize that the product does not resolve top three pains of the customers, know that it is of no significant value. It becomes a nice product to have but not a product one must have. This means that if they have to cut down their budget, your product will be cut-off.

Interview the renewed customers

For a company that has been in existence for over a year, then the company has renewed customers. Interview a small number of these customers who have been with you for over a year. You will understand why the always use your product, how often they use it, and what their favorite feature or quality is.

Interview the experts/analysts in the industry

If you are the founder of a big organization and it fits perfectly in an industry that is well established, you should seek knowledge and wisdom of running the business from Forrester and Gartner researchers. As you interview the researchers and the analysts, take what they teach you with a pinch of salt. The research companies that we have will typically release a maximum of two reports in a single year concerning a specific industry. The market is always changing and at a very fast rate. Therefore, by the time any report is released, it is already out of date. Another thing that you should also know is that these big research firms will prepare reports based on what they find out from large organizations. Therefore, these reports are geared towards larger companies.

In as much as you may consult big researchers or analysts, you should not yield into the temptation of creating a message that is based on these researchers’ and analysts’ findings. People will tend to fall for the temptation of doing this and making messaging based on the analyst’s findings because it seems like an easy solution. However, this always backfires because the messaging will not resonate well with the buyers.

You can also conduct interviews outside the company by targeting individuals who fall squarely within your defined target customer profile. This individual should not be a customer but must be a person who is considered to be an expert n the industry. Schedule time meetings, typically between 10-15 minutes with a few industry experts who are linked to the company or product.

Review competitive messaging and resources from a 3rd party

Always have a list of your competitors who you are striving to outdo with your product. Review their messaging and create a detailed record of what they say about their products as well as the company. You can use Quora which is an underrated resource used by enterprise companies. If you are dealing with a technical product, take a look at StackOverflow. Identify a community that has your target customer and goes through the discussions as well as the topics posted. Take note of the most commonly raised questions and use it to your advantage.

Are you an early stage startup?

In case you are feeling stranded because you do not have a sales team in place yet or you do not have customers you can interview as of now let alone those that have been there for over a year, do not worry. Here is what an early stage startup can do to cover for the lack of the mentioned aspects. Put all your focus and effort into interviewing the prospects. Create a list that consists of every company or person who may be interested in what you are offering or the business idea you have. With this list in place, find ways to secure interviews with these people.

During the interview focus on their challenges as well as the words they use. Have a recording of the interviews and make position the interview as discovery. Make it all about the prospects; learn about them and their challenges. Do not make it a sales pitch. If you have the product with you, do not be tempted to make a sales pitch because it can be a turn-off to the prospect being interviewed. The main thought at this time is to learn more about your target customers so that you can develop an effective and relatable strategic messaging; it is not the time to sell the product yet.

As you go about your process, ensure that you keep watching out for people in your target audience who can mentor or advise your sales team. An advisor that perfectly fits in your defined target customer is an asset to you.

The most time-consuming step when developing a strategic messaging up is the discovery process. Even so, it is the most important step. The strategic message must always resonate with the prospects and customers. The easiest way to ensure this is the case is by speaking to them directly and asking the right questions. Always keep the records you create in this process because they will come in handy when trying to identify emerging patterns. You can now embark on filling the target customer profile as well as the values that are aligned with the profiles.

5.3. BUILD TARGET CUSTOME PROFILE

From the discovery interview, you will have a lot of notes. Let us now look at the themes that are common. Check for any feedback from the interviews that are overlapping. Ensure that the feedback from the customers and prospects are put above those from the team members.

For some reason, I find it very convenient to record interviews after they have occurred. I also fill my questionnaire and record unusual and weird ideas. In as much as they may be random opinions, they can give deeper insight into matters. What may be a little tricky is identifying which is which. For this case, record them and in the interviews to follow, you should try to validate them. In the interviews that will follow, all you need to do is to present an idea to the people and listen to their responses.

For example:

Sometime back I interviewed a sales rep, and he revealed to me that the customers had a difficult time understanding what we meant by ‘analytics’ in our product description process. This was very striking because this term was vital for our customer communications. The mistake here was that the company never took the initiative to find out whether or not the prospects understood what was implied by this term. During the next interview with a different sales rep, I asked about his experience with customers when he used ‘analytics’ during the selling process. I wanted to know whether they had ever asked provocative questions when the term was used and whether or not the term ever let to confusion. This process was very insightful as I learned that if we were to use the term, we had to make the meaning clear.

When you have varied, and multiple target customers, all of the term must be included in the strategic messaging map. You should complete the target customer, a profile for all the personas that will be involved in the buying process.

5.4. Identify value categories for every target customer profile

To have come this far, it means that your value map has the business functions of the target customers and it should be inclusive of their titles as well as the role they play in the buying process. After this, you should create a summary of the feedback you got from discovery interviews and select the value categories that are crucial. Create different categories for the feedback from discovery interviews and then select the core value categories. Note that these are not values.

  • Great quality
  • Excellent customer service
  • Low price
  • Easy integration

At this point, only identify the value category and do not describe it. As you go through the notes you made from the discovery interviews; you identify your priorities. Identify what a specific target customer cares about;  what they want from your solution; and what they need.

Below is an example of the value categories you can come up with for different target customers.

  1. Economic Buyer: CMO/CDO/Line of Business
  • Value 1: revenue/engagement/retention
  • Value 2: customer satisfaction
  • Value 3: product roadmap decision
  1. End-user/Decision maker: Engineering
  • Value 1: faster development cycles
  • Value 2: App Quality and performance
  1. Influencer/Tech Evaluator: IT Operations
  • Value 1: visibility
  • Value 2: Mean-time-to-resolution

5.5. CREATE A DETAILED SUMMARY OF EACH VALUE CATEGORY

Here, we have to get deeply immersed in the details of the value proposition. You should fill the value statements in the strategic messaging map. In describing the product’s value, do it bases on the customer’s perception. Typically, the customers will be less concerned about the product being an award-winning product, a patent-pending product, or a state of the art product. All they are concerned about is what the product will do for them. Tell them what they will get from the product.

Always use conversational tone and style

Having a conversational role-playing technique is very important in your communications. Take a minute and imagine that someone asked you to tell them about what you do to earn a living. This type of conversation is more detailed.

Assuming you start off with a “why” question, the conversation can go in the following way:

  • Why should I purchase the product?
  • This product will provide your apps user engagement as it will correlate the metrics of behavior and operation
  • Lovely! But how is this possible?
  • Many engagement loss issues are as a result of the app crashing and issues with performance such as network coverage.

It is easy to imagine this conversation happening. As you may have noticed, there are short statements, and they help create clearer first impressions of the “what” and “how” or the company.

For one to be able to write simple, brief, and descriptive value statements, it will require many interactions. When you have created a value statement, create around 25 to 40 different variations of the same. Use different words and phrases, synonyms, and more techniques to see what you will come up with. This way, you will have numerous options to use. Most of the value statements you will create will not be functional, and you will be able to tell them apart. Even so, this is a perfect exercise to awaken your creativity.

Assign to every value, a product feature

In assigning a product feature to a specific value, you will be engaging in a very insightful exercise. In the process, you will be improving your product so that it can be of greater value to the customers. Many organizations forget about this as well as who benefits from it.

Bullet points will help you in deconstructing value statements

Always practice the act of unpacking the value statements using bullet points so that you can know the meaning of each value. We can have limited value categories, but we can never be limited in the number of variations we have of the value description. For instance, you can either choose to say “proactively monitor the transaction success to minimize revenue risk” or you can say “proactively monitor and optimize transaction success to increase revenue.”

Note: sometimes it can be hard to do an A/B test while developing a strategic messaging. Even so, there are places where the A/B testing will be applicable, and it will come in handy. For instance, you can test small words as well as synonyms by running a Google AdWords campaign to see which one earns you more clicks. For example, you can test:

  • Minimize revenue risk
  • Decrease revenue loss

Proof points and metrics will help customers to measure the progress towards a perceived value

Typically, proof points will help an organization in understanding what the customers will measure to evaluate the product’s benefits to them as well as how they will do it. While the sales reps engage the prospects in initial conversations, they should keep an eye open on these. When you get insight into how the prospects measure their goals, you will be better placed when analyzing and presenting certain ideas. For instance, you can ask the prospects the amount of time their apps experience downtimes, and when they answer you, you can ask them whether they have information about the amount of revenue lost in this time. As you communicate with them, ensure that you have metrics that you can use to make your comparisons and communicate them to your prospective clients or those in companies of the same size.

When you understand how the customers can track their success, you will be able to make excellent content marketing as this directly dependent on the target customer profile or the industry vertical.

5.6. DESIGN TOP TIER MESSAGING

There exists too much information regarding the designing of a top-tier messaging such as slogans, positioning statements, product descriptions. Therefore, I will not deal on this matter for a long time. Even so, I will look at a few crucial items.

Tagline/headline: this is typically a description made of five words that will define the category or the company’s catchphrase. Some examples include:

Metadata.io – Demand generation while on autopilot

Intercom – Platform for Customer Messaging

25-word description statement: this is a description of your company in one sentence. This sentence will first appear on the “About Us” section and the Homepage; it can be partially or fully present. This statement will also be used in every social media profile belonging to the company as well as the PR.

There are those companies that will typically have a 50-word description which is the longer version. It is made up of 1-3 sentences, and it gives more details concerning the values of the company, the target customers as well as the problems it solves.

While developing the word description, you use the tip given to you to use during value statement design. You can come up with 25-40 variations of the sentence description and choose the best. You can use this formula to get variations.

Company {does} (value) to {help} (target customers) with (problem)

Examples:

Marketo is a provider of leading engagement marketing software and solutions that are designed to help the marketers [TARGET CUSTOMER] to develop relationships with their customers that are long-term – from the time of acquisition to advocacy [VALUE]

Zendesk is a company that builds software aimed at providing better customer relationships [PROBEMS]. It offers empowerment for the organizations to improve customer engagement and give them a better understanding of their customers [VALUES].

Intercom is the first company ever to bring messaging products for sales, marketing, and customer service to a single platform ]VALUE]; thus it helps businesses to avoid stiff and spammy status quo [PROBLEM] which will, in turn, help them have real conversations that will lead to real connections.

5.7. REVIEW/GET FEEDBACK/ITERATE

As you develop your strategic messaging map for the first time, it’s most likely that it is not going to come out perfectly. It takes a lot of time to collect enough and high-quality information from the team as well as the stakeholders. In the process, you are going to encounter many people who will feel that their perspectives should be included but your vision should be clear and you should be bold enough to stand up and make difficult choices. At all times, remember to hold one-on-one discussions rather than group discussions. If you are the leader and the one driving this initiative for developing strategic messaging, you should ensure you have a great story in place then bring in the messaging aspect.

As you conduct the discovery interviews, pick up ideas on how to develop the messaging. In this stage of review, you should communicate to the prospects, customers, advisors, industry experts, and investors about the new strategic communication map you have developed.

There are numerous books, seminar exits, and tons of information available concerning the development of a story that the audience will relate to. Development of the story is subject matter that is not included in this article, but we have mentioned books as well as the resources that you can check out in the reference section to get information concerning the same.

Note: For the companies that are designing their strategic messaging, there are numerous consultants at your disposal that will be of great help. The reasons you should consider them include 1. They will evaluate the messaging in place and perceive it from a new angle. 2. They are not connected to the internal politics of the organization. 3. The internal product, as well as the cultural basis, has minimum influence over them.

As you do your strategic messaging designing, note that it cannot be done in a few days. A lot of time is spent on internal as well as external interviews with stakeholders. A lot of time is also needed to fully comprehend your target audience, their pains, their perceptions, and their values.  In the entire process, the discovery process is the most crucial of them all. All the feedback that you will get from the interviews will give you the chance to view the organization with fresh perspectives.

The numerous the number of perspectives, the better your chances of you getting the best strategic messaging because you will have numerous thoughtful and excellent ideas and you will be able to pick the best. Out of all the perspectives you will have, not all of them will be satisfied by the strategic messaging map. Even so, it will be of great benefit and importance to you to analyze these different perspectives as it opens up your mind.

part-6-strategic-marketing-communication-plan

In developing the strategic messaging map, the company is involved in a lot of reviews as well as feedbacks, but when all is said and done, there should be a final, effective and acceptable draft. The members and every team player of the company should be aware of the core message. This includes the executives, their assistants, their juniors, and everyone else within the company. For your new hire onboarding process, messaging must be included and should be one of the vital parts.

With this core message, you should be able to drive every activity in the company and especially the sales and marketing activities.

Update every sales playbook, the sales scripts, and the content for sales enablement

 All companies need to design diagnostic questions, and strategic messaging will be crucial for this. It will help the sales team come up with the right questions that they will ask at the beginning of the sales process. Looking at the example we previously used where we stated that engineering is more concerned about agility (development cycles that are fast), we need to have questions that we can ask the prospects so that we can determine whether this pain is familiar and relatable to them or not. For example, there a table below that shows the value categories, as well as their correspondence to specific questions and this, will help the sales team to identify what a prospect is more concerned about.

Ensure that your content marketing strategy is aligned with new strategic messaging

 In developing strategic messaging, always ensure that it communicates in your buyer’s language and it should provide two crucial elements which will consequently lead to effective content. These two elements include 1. Who is the audience? 2. What are they more concerned about? From the notes that you made from the customer interviews you carried out, you can get great content ideas. To a lot of companies, coming up with topics to write about has become a very difficult task, and this just shows that the team needs to establish closer ties with the customers as well as the prospects.

Looking at the example of the company that we have used in this article, we have three profiles for the personas that are involved in the sales cycle. For these three personas, we noted that they have between 2-3 values. As your team tries to come up with topics to create content, the topics should cover a particular value and particular target customer.

At this time, you do not have to strive to perfect everything because there will be an overlapping of some of the topics. The brighter side to this is that you will be able to keep an organized content strategy and the team will have a clear knowledge of the number of times a particular value is covered as well as the kind of target audience involved. Before you embark on writing any content, go back to the drawing board and look at the kind of audience you are writing for as well as the theme (value) you want to communicate.

In the buying process, the influencers will not have much importance as compared to decision makers and economic buyers. Therefore, as you write, always have in mind the different personas you will be communicating to and create befitting content for all of them. In the table we looked at earlier, it will be a wise decision to have 50% of the content focused on CMO/CDO (economic buyers), 30% to be focused on the engineering, and 20% to be focused on the IT Operations

For the value categories, have a record that will show you how frequent you create content for each value. Focusing on the CMO persona, you will note that this persona has three value categories that the company should develop content for. You can balance this out in the ratio like 3:2:1 which is a content breakdown ratio. If you are to create three stories that are supposed to cover revenue value, two of the stories should cover customer value while the last one should cover the product roadmap value.

When it comes to breaking down the content coverage for the different buying personas as well as the different categories, there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is also no precise science to guide you. All you need to have at the back of your mind is that more focus should be on more content that targets customers with higher influence on the buying decision. Also, remember that higher influence will not always equal higher ranking in the company. You will also have values that will be more important. Therefore, an adjustment of the content marketing strategy will be required.

Tip: In tracking the performance of your content, ensure that the context is based on the target audience and the value categories. As time goes by, you will realize that there will be those values that are performing better and this will give you a better knowledge of what content topics you need to adjust as well as how to adjust the calendar.

Since you have your strategic messaging map, you will find it easy to adapt the content that you have in a way that resonates with the target persona as well as the associated values. When you do this, the content you create will be of better value to the target persona and the decision makers will also understand the value of the product easily.

Everything that revolves around you external and internal communications should now change and conform to the new strategic messaging in place. In this article, we have looked at examples that relate to marketing and sales. Even so, all kinds of communications like PR, marketing campaigns, and webinars need also to be subject to strategic messaging filtering.

In Conclusion…

As much as one needs to put in a lot of effort in designing strategic messaging, it will be worth it at the end of the product. Even though you may not be in a place where you can measure the exact ROI of the strategic messaging, you can rest be assured that is what you imagine and hope it will be. When you have simple and straightforward messages, it will resonate with the prospects that you have, and any chances of friction in sales process will be greatly reduced. Because of strategic messaging, you will have an effective content strategy.

The strategic messaging will help in paying more attention to the target audience as well as their values. We have seen a few examples of how strategic messaging will impact every process of communication that takes place between the company, customers, and the marketplace. Because of the benefits involved with strategic messaging, many big and highly ranked tech companies have prioritized it and put in effort and time to develop the perfect message.

The “why” vision statement which is crucial for any organization starts from its values. Even so, the “how” and the “what” aspects of the organization are driven by the understanding that you have of the target audience. During the discovery process, the interviews conducted are vital for strategic messaging design and they give you greater insight into the target customer’s way of life and life experiences. It will also give you insight into the trends in the industry and ideas for the product.

This article should not be taken as a comprehensive source for getting all information concerning strategic messaging. This is a wide topic, and not everything is covered here. Therefore, check the reference section for books, articles, and people that have more information to offer concerning strategic messaging which may not have been covered here. Also, if you have any additional information in mind that can be of greater help, feel free to share.

Jnana S Rao
Jnana works as a Digital Marketer for Aritic. She has an MBA in Marketing. She is passionate about PPC, Social Media Marketing and designing images for blog posts and advertisements. She is also a Nature lover and Animal Enthusiast. You can follow her on Twitter @JnanaSRao.
You may also like
push notifications
5 Things You Should Know about Drip Push Notifications
BFSI
BFSI Marketers Guide to Integrated Marketing Automation Communication
1 Comment
  • Sharon Ross
    4 weeks ago

    Gaining awareness about strategic communication plan is one of the first steps before implementing anything at all. Your report is educational and I appreciate your blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.