Self-reflection is never easy whether it’s in business, in life or in marketing. It requires that you take an honest, sometimes unflattering look at your weaknesses and imperfections. Taking some time to contemplate the age old question ‘Who am I?’ can sharpen your business focus, though, and lead to the compelling messaging strategy you need to kick your marketing efforts up a notch.
While it’s sometimes forgotten in the hustle and bustle of marketing, a solid messaging strategy is the most important foundation for success. It can be easy to jump into marketing tactics that seem like they can bring you quick wins (paid advertising, I’m looking at you), but without a powerful and unifying message to back up all of your tactics you’ll wind up with a disjointed message and unsuccessful audience penetration.
Avoiding this blunder is crucial because messaging affects more than just your content assets, such as blogs and web pages. Ineffective messaging means overall ineffective marketing. It affects every aspect of your marketing from design to SEO to sales. In fact, SiriusDecisions found that most influential reason B2B sales teams did not hit their sales quotas was their “inability to communicate value messages”. What this shows is that when it comes down to that final decision to purchase, whether in the B2B or B2C space, you’ll get nowhere without a compelling message.
What is a messaging strategy and why should I have it?
A messaging strategy is the strategic development of your corporation’s story and the alignment of this story across various internal and external media platforms. Investing time and research into developing this is essential because it allows you to send a consistent message to audiences, it influences and aligns content and media production, it differentiates you from competitors, and it defines your value proposition, ensuring that it is present is all marketing and sales materials. Ultimately, when done correctly, a powerful messaging strategy will inspire audience confidence and trust in a brand.
While a messaging strategy is important in all areas of marketing, it is especially so in digital marketing. Studies show that many marketers are looking to increase their digital marketing efforts and budgets in 2016. Take a look at these statistics from The Kapost Blog, which gave a positive outlook of the digital landscape:
- “Digital marketing spend is forecasted to increase to 35% of total budgets by 2016.”
- “Content creation and management now claim the second-largest share of digital marketing budgets.”
- “84% of top-performing companies are using or plan to start using marketing automation by 2015.”
While this is an advantageous shift given the opportunities in the digital space, it also means that having a consistent message is more important than ever due to the sheer number of digital platforms and the variety of ways your audience can consume your message online. If your message is already flawed or incomplete, the transition to a heavier emphasis on digital marketing will only put those flaws under a microscope.
What is wrong with my messaging strategy?
It doesn’t exist
It’s simple and it’s obvious, but it’s also worth saying. Not only should you have a messaging strategy, it should be written down, disseminated amongst your sales and marketing teams, and it should be regularly updated when needed. If you’re lacking this foundational piece, you’ll need to start from square one.
It is not well researched
Like any strategy, your messaging strategy should be based on solid research, not intuition or assumption. This means doing extensive market research to discover where you really stand amongst your competitors, what gap in the market your products or service can fill, and how to communicate that in an innovative way. Additionally, you’ll want to do audience research to discover who exactly your audience is, what resonates with them, and how that applies to what you can offer them.
It is inconsistent
Inconsistency is a killer in marketing. This applies across marketing platforms and between sales and marketing teams. You want to be guiding your audience down a completely cohesive path to a sale. Any slip ups and you’ll find that brand awareness is damaged, trust is lost, and the impact of your overall message is diluted. You can’t be completely sure that a message is effective until you emphasize it at every audience touchpoint and take note of the results–but you can be sure that it will not be effective if you have not committed to consistency.
It is bland
Let’s say you create a messaging strategy. Let’s say it’s well-researched and both your sales and marketing teams know to utilize it consistently throughout the customer experience. If it’s boring, bland, and blends into the competition, it doesn’t matter. The message that you land on as the basis of your marketing efforts doesn’t necessarily need to be edgy or hip if that doesn’t reflect your brand. It should be unique, though, in a way that will catch your audience’s attention and show them you offer something distinctly different from your competitors.
It is company focused rather than audience focused
While I’ve mentioned the importance of examining your position in the marketplace and honing in on what sets you apart, you’re making a mistake if this is all you focus on. Ultimately, you should be thinking about what sets you apart and then translating that to what your audience gains from it. Rather than being ‘we’ focused (i.e., We provide this), it should be ‘you’ focused (i.e., You gain this).
It is not tailored to your specific audiences
This is basically the last step in solidifying a messaging strategy. While identifying the general details of your audience–such as age range, location, gender, etc.–is a good start, it’s also necessary to consider that your audience is not just one homogeneous group. Your followers on Facebook are likely different from those who are signed up for your newsletter, for example. Mastering the ability to provide a consistent message that also manages to speak directly to your audience depending on the platform you’re accessing them on as well as their respective stage in the buyers’ journey is the key to a powerful marketing strategy.
Nailing Down Your Messaging Strategy
While you may need to ask ‘Who am I?’ to come up with your message, it’s important to note that the answer—and the resulting message—should not revolve around you. Instead, asking this question should shed light on what it is about your business that appeals to your audience while setting you apart from your competition.
It may take some effort–and self-awareness–up front to develop a compelling messaging strategy, but once it is completed you’ll have the infrastructure in place to allow your marketing efforts to work together and reach your audience in a powerful, holistic way.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Why The New York Times Will Always Have Better Content Than You to learn how an audience focused message can whip your content into shape.