By Matt Stroh, Altus Alliance, and Cara McDonald, Content Matterz

Messaging is the communication that a company uses to convey key values, beliefs, and benefits to its target audience—the prospects, customers, and repeat clients your business wants to reach. Effective messaging helps brands differentiate from competitors and creates a strong, consistent brand identity that resonates.

When defining how you talk about your company, you must find a consistent way to cut through all the noise to reach your target audience with a compelling message. So, what works?

Below, learn how messaging and copy are not the same thing and explore some critical elements to get you started with your own company’s messaging.

A Messaging Framework = A Foundation for your Brand

Establishing messaging for your company will give your organization a roadmap to your most compelling selling points—it’s how you consistently communicate about your business. Many companies utilize an internally-facing messaging framework document that provides key talking points to help your company differentiate from competitors and to quickly cut to the chase of why your product or service is the best choice.

Don’t Copy and Paste: Use Your Messaging Framework as a Guide

You’re not going to take it, and word-for-word, post it on your website.

It IS subtext. It’s the sentiment and knowledge you want your prospects to know about you. Your messaging document might say, “best-in-the-world customer service,” if that is your true differentiator in your market.

However, that’s a little on the nose for your actual marketing copy. So when you give the messaging document to a creative team or agency, they know to emphasize statements and proof that demonstrate the amazingness of your customer service.

Your messaging document will contain these key supporting points and evidence that prove your assertion. Using the above example for “best-in-the-world customer service,” you can demonstrate this concept in your copy through customer service awards, NPS scores, customer testimonials about your customer service, etc.

The point is, it’s not just lip service, these are true differentiating selling points based on facts. Your messaging framework should help you focus your copy to support the brand sentiment you hope to achieve with your communications.

5 Messaging Elements that Promote Cohesion

Messaging involves the language, tone, and voice that a brand uses to communicate with its customers and the public at large, and there are a few essential elements used to create cohesive messaging. Because most companies communicate through various channels such as advertising, social media, website content, and other forms of marketing and communication, it’s important to understand these messaging components to ensure consistency across applications.

1. Know Your Value Proposition

A value proposition is your company’s promise to target customers that convinces them to prefer you over the competition. The challenge is that your message must be relevant, differentiated, and credible, and your product pricing must be right.

The balance between promise and price creates customer preference and loyalty, and loyalty means they buy your product/service. And if their experience is good, they will tell others to do the same.

When considering your value proposition, you want to determine the intersection of your target customer’s needs, your company’s strengths, and the gaps in competitive offerings. It’s about differentiation that you can back up with unique proof points about your product or service.

2. Hit the mark: Understand your target audience

When first embarking on developing a solid value proposition, it’s critical to have a focused understanding of your target audience. Trying to make your offering work for anyone that comes knocking on your door is a common pitfall, and companies that try to sell to everyone too early in their brand awareness inevitably fail.

With today’s critical B2B buyer, your value proposition must resonate to the specific pain and needs of both their company and the individual making the purchase decision. Failure or weak targeting will create undue strain on your sales, marketing, product, development, support teams… OK, your whole organization—ultimately inhibits company growth.

Staying customer-focused means ensuring success with target customers AND repeatedly saying “No!” to prospects that are not a good fit.

The businesses that take the time to invest in true market research to determine exactly who their best, most profitable customers will be, and put a solid go-to-market strategy in place to reach them, will win with market share and long-term revenue growth.

3. Listen up! Then, speak to the needs of your target audience

What does your target audience need? The answer to this question is where the gold lies, and it cannot be answered by only looking internally in your organization.

Talk to clients, ex-clients, and prospects to truly understand their current challenges and how you can (uniquely) solve them. If you have a lot of engaged customers, a qualitative online survey can work very well for delivering a wealth of information, however, the best nuggets of wisdom are unearthed when you take the time to have a conversation.

When talking with your clients, it’s important to discover what they think your strengths are and why they believe in them. The reasons your customers have for believing in your strengths are often rooted in valuable facts about your product or service and the benefits you provide. 

Tips to get you started:

  • Start with customer-facing internal teams to learn themes from current customers and prospects.
  • Develop open-ended questions from these perspectives and past beliefs.
  • Is the response to the question “actionable” in guiding your messaging? If not, lose it.
  • Engage in open conversation with your audience. Be careful not to ‘lead the witness.’
  • Create a messaging framework [sample template] from the learnings based on the current market perspective.
  • Create/update marketing materials consistent with this new voice of the customer (VOC)
  • Train not just your customer/prospect-facing teams, but your whole organization. Consistent messaging = stronger brand, and everyone will either add or detract to that.
  • Perform this process annually (validate and refine).

Ensuring that your value proposition is aligned with the strengths that your customers believe in is essential for crafting meaningful messaging that will, in turn, give your prospective clients permission to believe in it too.

4. Motivation factor. Connect to your target audience at an emotional level

To truly inspire your audience to make a purchase decision and evangelize your offering, you need to motivate them at an emotional level. When conducting your research, many top marketers utilize a means-end decision-making approach, which identifies the target audience’s personal values and the emotional link that ties those values to a specific (purchase) decision.

The process identifies the attributes and benefits of your product or service and connects them to the emotions of your target audience that inspire a purchase decision and, in turn, supports the personal values of the customer. A decision becomes more personally relevant when people perceive that it will help them realize their values.

5. Self assessment: Is your price balanced with your promise?

Earlier, we discussed the importance of nailing your value proposition. This is the promise of what you will deliver. The equally important counterpart to the value proposition is price. The relationship between promise and price, influenced by competition, determines the value you provide your customers.

People don’t buy benefits or brand promise, they buy value. Virtually every purchase you make, you run the calculation of promise versus price and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”, “Will my team and company embrace the solution and realize the value?”, “Is this the best option to achieve our goals?”

It’s worth noting that some people only make purchase decisions based on price; however, their definition of value doesn’t include brand loyalty and thus will likely not be your target (and that’s OK).

Your target audience interacts with your brand and experiences your value proposition (messaging framework), and then they determine the value by answering the following questions:

  • What’s in it for me? (your topline benefit)
  • Why are you better? (than the competition)
  • Why should I believe you? (permissions to believe, based on fact)

When your target audience considers a purchase decision, they will weigh the price against the effort required (what they will need to do to make it useful) and the risk (what could go wrong?). Pricing does need to be adjusted as market/competitive conditions fluctuate, but keeping it balanced with your promise to maintain customer value is key.

Messaging Makes a Difference

As you do the work to formalize a solid messaging framework for your company, keep in mind that it’s not just for your sales and marketing teams. Your messaging framework will clearly define what business you’re in, who your target is, and why they should buy you over the competition.

These elements not only drive external messaging but should also inform decisions made across your organization by every department. When your company is all singing from the same sheet of music, only then can true greatness (revenues and market share) be achieved.

To help get you started, check out our Messaging Framework Template. If you’d like some help with your company’s messaging and/or go-to-market strategy, we’d love to connect.