I am starting a blog series on how to create compelling messaging or positioning for B2B. I am hesitant to indicate how long it will be, as I don’t quite know but I suspect it will be 5 blog posts done over this summer. In the end, I will share a few templates. While I often use the terms messaging and positioning interchangeably, I will stick with the term messaging here.
How do you use messaging?
Messaging provides the cornerstone of every asset and product training your marketing and sales organization implements. Messaging is used to ensure the asset speaks to the buyer and helps to differentiate your solution. When I put it into a document, I call it a message map as it provides navigation to help sell your solution.
It’s something that you can hand to anyone in the marketing organization, contractors or agencies so they know what to talk about as they create assets. Whether it’s a white paper, a blog entry, a cheat sheet/battlecard, or presentation, messaging provides the basis for the document.
Generally, the product marketing department is responsible for the creation of the message map. Still, it’s often a group exercise with product marketing, product management, pre-sales, sales, and executives that contribute to the document.
What does a messaging map contain?
The messaging document is important, and without the right information it’s not going to be very useful. Here are the key elements that a messaging document should contain. You might want to vary this based on your organization and personal style. I went with a larger listing, and indicate what I believe to be optional.
At the top level, the message map should contain a few key things. These help to consume the message map
Solution or product name
Pretty obvious, but you should outline what exactly you are selling here.
Buyer or Persona
We talked about personas on previous blogs (here, here, and here), you should mention who the buyer or persona is! The persona document should guide the development of the messaging map document. Creating messaging that doesn’t map to a persona is an academic exercise. Although this means if you have multiple buyers, then you will likely need multiple message maps.
The positioning statement is the top-line value that the solution offers the buyer. This should be less than 50 words and summarize the key messages outlined in the document. It should be punchy but avoid fluffy generic marketing speak (flexible, faster, solution, etc).
Nonmarketing executives often love taglines, to grab the essence of what your solution does. So this is a short description of what the solution offers, try to keep it under 10 words. I personally find this to be devoid of value, but hey if bosses like it, you should include it.
Three Key Messages
After the top level, you should have three key messages that support the above points. I generally like to go with three messages, as I believe that the number three is something you can efficiently structure documents around. Furthermore, people can keep three things in their brains. Now, I will say that what you will find, especially with product management is they want more. More messages. More features. More.
The reality is it’s much easier to sell something if you can quickly convey the value. Limiting your messages to three will help your reps and marketing departments quickly communicate that value. When you start to have four, five, or seven messages, it gets hard to hold it in your head. I generally will choose this particular hill to die on, as I do think it matters quite a bit.
For each of your three messages, you would want to include the following:
Up to seven words that encapsulate what the value is. So you might say, reduces the total cost of ownership.
Relevance to Persona
You need to make sure you indicate why the persona above would care. This care needs to be outlined in the persona document, or you are doing it wrong! So for total cost of ownership for a CIO, for example, you would want to make sure it’s clear that IT budgets have been recently cut due to Covid-19 downturn.
Here you expand on the message, ideally trying to quantify the benefit. For the total cost of ownership, you might say it’s 10% cheaper than homegrown solutions.
What pain point does this message support? So for a total cost of ownership, the pain point might be a request to do more with less. You could actually enumerate several pain points here.
How does the message address the pain point?
Expand on the value proposition and messaging linking it to what exactly the customer cares about.
Product Features (optional)
What features or functionality offered by the product helps to support this message. This could be several features, but don’t make it a laundry list. This might be a good way to compromise with product management when they want MORE to highlight quite a few features. While this is marked as optional, if you list the features it will help your content producers to insert the relevant points or screenshots.
Product benefits (optional)
What are the benefits of the features? It’s very easy to mix up features and how they benefit a buyer. Make sure these benefits map both to the pain point and also the value proposition. If you can’t outline the benefit, don’t include it.
What proof points, ideally customer references, support this message. If you don’t have customer references, then you could use something like an analyst report. Proof points are mandatory. It’s effortless to make a claim about what a solution does but you have to be able to back it up; otherwise it’s just noise to buyers.
How is your solution different from the competition? You can call out competitors here if you like, but it’s not required. It should absolutely be connected with proof and buyer concerns.
These are the key elements for a message map. In the next blog post, I will discuss how to create your messages.