In our crowded marketplace, it’s more important than ever to offer a simple and compelling story about your product or service. Your story and how you communicate it is the single most important marketing success factor you can shape and control.
You need to carefully choose words to describe what you offer and to whom. These words create a story that connects powerfully with your clients and prospects and supports your advertising, marketing and sales efforts.
Dawn Hudson, Senior VP of Marketing for Pepsi, notes: “The average American receives more than 3,000 marketing messages a day.” Marketing messages have unavoidably crept into almost every second of everyone’s day and are part of almost all our activities. Messaging is overwhelming us from every angle in the worlds of business and consumers alike.
To make your company’s voice stand out in this overwhelming chorus of messages, you need a coherent and compelling “message platform.” A message platform is made up of purposefully designed concepts, words and phrases that effectively communicate your value proposition and coordinate it across different channels of communication.
The platform contains these elements:
- The Value Proposition: a basic description of your offering, explaining what it is, why it’s important, its benefits and who it’s for.
- Sales “cases” or the conversations your direct sales efforts will inevitably engage in. These “cases” include:
- The Business Case: the core rationale for your offering
- The Financial Case: the financial justification for your offering
- The Technical Case: what a buyer has to do or what resources they need to have in place, in order to benefit from your offering
- The Competitive Case: how does your offering compare and contrast with both direct competitors and alternatives
- The Decision Process: how prospects can examine and evaluate your offering
Your message platform shouldn’t change much, but can be adjusted and tailored for different areas where customers will interact with you, including your website, print collateral, sales team and other media. Creating a message platform will help you consistently communicate your offering and reach your target market.
A Five Point Plan for Creating an Effective Message Platform
Writing a coherent value proposition and sales cases can take time, numerous drafts and some input from various stakeholders. Here’s a five-step plan to get started:
1) Start with the truth. The fact that you have something of value for your customer is the basis of your business. If a product isn’t distinct in some meaningful way, little else will help. Start with the truth about your product when building a message to represent your product in the marketplace.
2) Discover your real value. Examine the interconnected parts of what you are selling, namely, the products, services, support and anything else that a buyer will experience and associate with your offering. Clearly state what it is in your overall “value chain” that offers a distinct benefit to customers.
3) Think like your customers. Ask your customers what frustrates them—not just in general, but about providers in your industry, and most importantly, about what frustrates them about your company and its offerings. It may not be pleasant, but it’s the key to knowing the “pain points” that your solution and message might address.
4) Test, test, test. Advertising and promotion, as well as direct sales campaigns, can be measured and tracked easily – whether using sophisticated tools or a yellow pad. Don’t guess that a new tag line is working for you or if this year’s lead-generation campaign is better than last year’s. You don’t have to be a statistician, but commit to examine what you do, ask questions and refine, refine, refine as you test, test, test.
5) Simplify for understanding. Reduce the number of features/benefits in your marketing material. Don’t reduce the actual features in your offering, but reduce the number of features you communicate. This reduction will force you to evaluate which features really matter to prospects and will enable you to deliver those points more clearly. The more complex the product, the less effective it is to deliver the proverbial “fire hose” of information to an already overwhelmed audience.
Vistage member Jose Palomino President of g2m Group, Inc, and is the author of Value Prop: Creating Powerful I3 Value Propositions to Enter and Win New Markets. As founder and President of g2m Group, Inc., he helps businesses take their ideas, products and services to market faster and more effectively.