Does your messaging strategy feel more like an SOS strategy? Is it a strategy built on hope? We have all been there. Your team has developed a messaging strategy. You exit the meeting with a plan to move forward. Yet, as you walk down the hall – you have this feeling of hoping that customers will get your message.
Pinpointing exactly how to communicate your brand message to a target audience can be one of the most perplexing challenges in marketing. In today’s modern digital world, messaging is an important element in motivating a target audience to act. Pre-Internet, marketing communications is where messaging mattered most. The CMO world of multiple channels, social media, content marketing, demand generation, and lead development extends the importance of messaging to a much broader scale.
Okay, now that I have done the sometimes-obligatory business jargon mouthful above – let us make it simple:
How do we say the right things, at the right time, in the right places, and to the right people that gets them to act?
Without having, a clue of how to answer this question leaves us casting messages in a bottle out into the cyber ocean and hoping that someone will get it. How do todays CMO’s develop a communications and messaging strategy in our hyper-connected world? Here are six elements to consider:
- Commit to buyer insight: tapping into beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions that influence buyer behavior is no longer a guessing game. Gaining insight is serious business. I have long been an advocate of qualitative buyer research to uncover insights that can shape strategy. For example, FedEx uncovered customers wanted to not only get their delivery there by 10 am the next day – but they did not want to miss the deadline for pick-ups nor miss Johnny’s little league baseball game that started at 6pm. Communicating and messaging on both of these brand promises became essential.
- Define your target buyer audience: turning buyer insight into buyer personas sets the stage for a communications and messaging strategy. What was true when I first founded buyer persona development back in 2001 is still true today – buyer personas not grounded in buyer research and insights are useless. We are trying to find out what is on the minds of our buyers. Guessing at this is nonsense. Getting at this is hard just as well – commit to the above. Once we have it, we know what beach we want our message in a bottle to wash up on and who we want to find it.
- Define your purpose: what is the purpose of your communications and messaging strategy? Does your strategy involve multiple purposes? For example, is the primary purpose to educate and inform? Is your purpose to build an image and affinity for the brand? Alternatively, is your purpose to generate a call to action such as a free trial, subscription, or a purchase? Have a purpose or multiple purposes.
- Understand your unique positioning: buyer insight and a well-defined target buyer audience combined can lend clues on how to establish a unique position in the marketplace. Can you define a unique distinctive attribute or difference in your products and services that tie to key buyer insights? The term outward-in is in vogue today. It applies here. It does not matter what you and your teams think – it matters what your buyers think is unique.
- Establish a brand promise: your brand, products, and services have to promise something. What is that promise? In the FedEx example above, the brand and services are promising you can get your package there the next day and you do not have to stay late or be late to get it there. Since 1971, Southwest has communicated and messaged on their brand promise of making flying affordable and fun for everyone. Born out of the insight that people believed flying was a luxury for the few and the wealthy. Today, one out of every four domestic passengers flies Southwest.
- Tailor your messaging strategy: the explosion of multiple channels as well as greater understanding of the buyer’s journey means we have to tailor messaging to say the right things, at the right time, in the right places, and to the right people. A far cry from the days of worrying what went into print advertising!
Recently, I met with the head of marketing for a subsidiary of a large multi-billion dollar global entity in the financial services market. What we talked about was how new competitive entrants have entered their market space. While these new entrants may not have all of the capabilities as this global entity, they were clearly gaining traction via strong messaging, unique positioning, and a clear brand promise. What was the difference? They did their homework. Working from unique insights, these competitors were tapping into newly formed beliefs and attitudes resulting from the impact of our evolving digital world. Admittedly, this head of marketing revealed they had spent very little in buyer research over the years and now they had to play catch-up.
The next time you feel like your content marketing and messaging strategy is an SOS strategy – consider these six elements. Make them a part of your communications and messaging plan. To help you, I have created a simple yes or no cheat sheet you can download below. Use it to evaluate your messaging tactics and plans going forward.
Here’s another suggestion. Download the song Message in a Bottle by Sting. Play it on your drive into work as a reminder to get messaging right. And yes – it is okay to sing at the top of your lungs as long as the windows are up.