Read an Excerpt
Chapter 8: Messaging
Developing effective messaging is a tricky proposition. Messages are difficult to nail down, challenging to express, and absolutely essential for reaching your customer. Everyone has his or her own idea of the key messages that should be used in a launch. Senior level managers usually want succinct, distilled messages that reflect one or more high-level corporate strategies or competitive advantages. Product managers will most often focus on the product features and functions. And somewhere in between, there is a compromise that will result in the right messages for your target customer.
During the process of developing messages, you need to accomplish the following:
- Identify the key factors that differentiate your company/product from your competition
- Characterize the key product features and functions
- Describe how the product or service solves a business problem for the customer, i.e., benefits
- Incorporate the strategic objectives of the company
Implement your positioning
The process of crafting messages includes gathering all of the essential information you need for message content, formulating messages, getting them reviewed and prioritized, and, finally, compiling them into the messaging section of the marketing plan.
Content of messages
The information you developed when you analyzed your customer and the market, the FAB charts, your positioning statements, and the identified strategic objectives are all sources of content for messages. If the timing works out, you may also have customer quotes from a beta testing program or other types of "live" customer feedback. This information should also be considered as source content for messages.
The basic objectives of your messages are to create awareness and to get customers to buy your product. In order to accomplish this, you need to know enough about the buying behavior of your customers to understand how to get their attention. When you did your customer analysis, you identified the customer's needs and value propositions. It's a good idea to list those customer needs and value propositions when developing the messages, because this information is the most important content for messages. It's how you get potential customers to recognize a need they have and gain an awareness that your product fulfills that need. Here are some examples of customer need phrases that are commonly used to create messages:
- Lower cost
- Higher productivity or efficiency
- Increased competitive advantage
- Faster response time
- Expandability or scalability
- Flexibility; open systems
- No need for customization; plug and play
- Protects investment; leverages existing infrastructure or resources
- Ease of use; user-friendly; no need for training
- Compatibility, connectivity
- Consistency with industry standards; interoperability
- Affordability; low cost of maintenance
- Customer support
The first step in developing message content is to make a list of the primary customer needs met by your product that have value for your customer. The next step is to revisit the FAB chart and list the differentiators for your product. Differentiators are expressed in relative terms, such as:
- Higher quality
- More open
- Multiplatform, multisystem, vendor independent
- Global, worldwide, international
- Any of the "needs" listed in the previous step
When you construct the list, be sure to include the company- level differentiators as well as the product-level differentiators from the FAB chart.
The last step is to list the positioning statements and the strategic objectives that you have identified for your product. At this point you are ready to put it all together and craft a set of messages. The following example will show the whole sequence of steps.
Let's assume that your product is a network router that connects branch offices together, along with any telecommuters who work from home offices. Your product solution provides interoperability across disparate networks, multisite connectivity and greater access for users, and was designed with those specific customer needs in mind. Your nearest competitor has a similar solution, but it's not expandable like your router, and once their product is installed it can't be upgraded. That same competitor has a poor reputation for support services to integrate and install their products. From this example, your customer needs are:
- Multisite connectivity
- Greater access for users
Your differentiators are:
- Better system integration services
Your strategic objective is to promote your system integrator partners more, in order to enter the multisite market. Your positioning statement was:
The new LANFlex system will be used as our first opportunity to enter the branch office market, where ALLCom dominates the market. We will have to emphasize our SI support in order to enter this market.
Here are the messages that can be crafted from the content:
1) We offer state of the art, end to end solutions for network connectivity. 2) With our experienced solutions partners, we can quickly deliver interoperable systems for your short term needs, as well as network enhancement strategies for the future. 3) We can connect your network users, wherever they are located, and grow as your business grows.
In the messaging process, the trick is to distill the content into key words and phrases, and then recombine them into message statements. You can repeat key words and phrases for emphasis...