There is one thing every company should do before embarking on marketing and communications initiatives. If you haven’t yet pinned down your key marketing messages, stop what you’re doing. Stop writing website copy. Stop creating content. Stop putting time into social and traditional media.
Until you know what you have to say, to whom you should say it and why they should care, you can’t build an effective marketing program. Here’s how to create marketing messages that connect with consumers:
1. Meet your buyer personas. Maybe you’ve sketched out some basic details about your ideal buyers. What more do you know about those people? Dig deep to create empathy for your customer. What do they aspire to do? What are the pain points in their days? Do they want to be viewed differently at work or in their communities? Is there some hurdle they’re having trouble jumping?
These are questions we ask our own customers throughout our relationships — from introductory pitch, to onboarding and beyond. Surveys do the job, but we also listen for anecdotal feedback. The customer who told us her initial interest was piqued by our website promise for “creative badassery,” for example, shed light on the effectiveness of an earlier messaging effort. Consider the customer feedback you get through NPS surveys as well as via review sites and social media messages.
2. Identify your business objectives. After you’ve “interviewed” your buyer personas, it’s time to consider your internal mandate. If you’re an early-stage company, branding might be your highest priority. If your company is already established but trying to push into a new market, the goal might be building credibility in a new geography. Map your messages to your strategic business needs before you start word smithing.
3. Leverage the data you have. A range of data should inform your messaging efforts: keyword analysis; consumer survey results; and traffic, engagement and download data from your social media, website, email and other marketing channels. You should also evaluate analyst data about the segments you’ll target, as well as broader content trends. What articles, blog posts and other assets are getting shared across social, and what do those patterns teach you?
4. Showcase your differentiators, but put the customer’s point of view first. Think about what sets your company, products or services apart, and then put yourself in your customer’s shoes. For every differentiator you identified, ask, “So what?” What does the fact that you are better, faster or cheaper mean for your customer? How will their lives change because of your offering? Why will they care?
5. Check out what your competitors say. This research should help you do two things: create messaging that stands out from the crowd, as well as debunk false claims. Look at what others in your market have to say on their websites, social media accounts, PPC ad copy, and other owned and earned content.
6. Play some word association. Get your best minds in a room, and make some word clouds together. Brainstorm the nouns, verbs and adjectives you associate with the work you’re doing and what makes it special. Erase suggestions that are vague or jargon-filled. Continue to whittle down the list until you have a manageable number of words or phrases that reflect the work you did in steps one through five. Weave these words into several key messages that give your target audiences insights into your special sauce as a company.
7. Kill your darlings. Test out your messages in every venue you can measure — your website, email campaigns, product descriptions and more. Some messages won’t be as easy to convey as you expected or won’t convert. No matter how much you love these messages, rewrite them or get rid of them. Focus on what works, and continue to test your messaging as it evolves.
The process of developing key messages can take a long time. It’s worth it. If you want to build a marketing and communications program that advances your business goals, first ensure your foundational ideas are strong.