Get the message?
Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth: #18 Create clear and specific messages targeted to each stakeholder (vendor, employee, shareholder, representative, customer, end user) to help them talk about our company and promote our products and services.
Several years ago I accompanied a client, a well-known leader of one of the nation’s largest organizations, to a national television interview on one of the highest-rated news programs of the day. His organization was high profile and was involved in alleviating a humanitarian crisis.
We’d prepared the leader well, with core messages regarding the organization and specific, targeted message points on the crisis. Surprisingly, this was all to no avail. Throughout a several minute interview, our client wrapped every response around his favorite theme or slogan. It was not only ineffective in communicating the real contributions of the organization to the market, but it damaged the reputation of the organization and its leader.
(To illustrate this without divulging the specifics of an embarrassing moment, this would be like the CEO of Company X, an engine manufacturer, doing an interview after a plane crash involving an aircraft with the company’s engines, with responses like: “Yes, that was a terrible tragedy, but you know ‘Company X is soaring to new heights’ (or fill in a catchy theme/slogan).” Multiple times.)
Yes, slogans are an important part of brand building, but clear and specifically tailored messages are central to fuller and more penetrating communication and engagement.
Fortunately, we’ve seen many positive examples of the power of a well-crafted creative messaging strategy. More recently, we began working with a company in the transportation industry that was struggling to make progress in an industry dominated by two large competitors.
Our client went through the VALCORT process and we helped them clarify their vision, value proposition and the distinct messages needed to differentiate the company from its larger competitors, and to accentuate the unique benefits it could bring to its customers. As the company pushed hard to present its sharper identity in a focused B2B market, it gained new footing and began to carve out a substantial part of the market.
The creative messaging strategy
Central to any marketing strategy is the core message--a clear and memorable explanation of your purpose, position and claims. It is a key component in the presentation your company, product or cause to varied audiences and to the broad, unknown, public.
While we often think of product or corporate slogans as the primary marketing communications component (my client in the story above certainly did), they are the end of the messaging process, not the beginning. Although they are often the most memorable and compelling communication, slogans are based on a creative messaging strategy.
Messages, then, present the clear position, claims and purposes of your company, product or cause. In addition to being an arrow in your communication quiver, message development makes other positive contributions. The process of message-crafting has multiple benefits:
1. Sharp: Establishes your most important claims, differences and points of value
2. Brief: Clarifies thinking and helps you strip your thoughts down to their essence.
3. Memorable: Gives your audience easy, memorable handles that will connect them to the salient points of your product, your company, or your cause.
Three axioms when it comes to communicating your messages effectively: First, have a singular, clear, unwavering core message or set of messages (three seems to be ideal). Second, tailor your core messages for each specific audience, stakeholder or segment—taking care not to alter foundational points of the messages, but applying these to specific groups. And third, tailor for as specific an audience as possible, but assume in the Internet age that everyone will see every message. You put yourself in peril if you assume otherwise.
In all marketing, especially in B2B marketing (a Valcort sweet spot), your message strategy is the foundation for everything you do. It needs to be strong or your marketing efforts will fall apart. Your creative messaging strategy consists of your values statement, your vision statement, your value proposition, and your core and targeted messages.
All of this leads to your creative communications—the most visible and creative elements of your marketing. With the strategy in place, you can seamlessly develop everything from in-depth presentations to pithy slogans and short, catchy benefit claims.
Repeating your message over and over is an important factor in successful marketing. Remember you’ll get tired of your messages strategy long before your target audience may even listen to them. Repetition is how you own a position, and your core messages should remain unchanged for several business cycles, if possible.
To summarize, here are 8 key components of a creative marketing strategy.
- Establish the corporate values that transcend all other considerations
- Establish your accurate and measureable vision—where are you headed and how will you know when you get there?
- Determine the audience profile, frustrations, pain points, greatest needs (we can help you with research)
- Determine your value proposition and key benefits
- Competitive positioning description-- list your key competitors, their key messages, and how you are different from each.
- Write 3-4 core messages
- Use your core messages to develop tailored messages for target groups
- Write your elevator pitch, a 30 second (or shorter) response to the “what do you do” question, which should fall directly out of the value proposition and benefits
- Write a boilerplate description-- a short 2-3 sentence description of who you are and what you do (based on the value proposition, and may be a blending of key messages).
- Roll out the creative elements of the campaign – slogan, advertising copy, sell sheets, etc.
Start now with a blank piece of paper. Write down the three things you want a prospect to know about your business or organization. Read them out loud and think about whether they communicate anything about your vision and your values and whether they set you apart from others in the same line of work. Are they true now, or aspirational? How will what you’ve written make a difference to your prospect; will it address his or her current frustrations?
Rinse and repeat. You’re almost ready for television.
The Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth. Over many years and hundreds of client relationships and strategic marketing opportunities, we have established the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth, best practices that build trust, align values with products and practices, and create organic growth. We are exploring these 35 practices, one at a time, on these pages. Find them all, as they’re introduced, here.