Build the foundation for successful marketing
Positioning and messaging is one of the most important, and seemingly least appreciated, forms of marketing. It is the foundation on which all successful communication is built. With powerful positioning and compelling key messages, everything from PR and social media to advertising and lead generation perform better. Without it, these programs have little chance of success.
When it comes to positioning and messaging for tech B2B companies, we at Publitek use two very simple questions as a litmus test to gauge effectiveness: “So what, who cares?” If the positioning and messaging being evaluated don’t pass that test, it certainly won’t do its job in the market, which is to say it won’t build preference for a company or its products.
In order to effectively build preference, positioning and messaging has to be two deceptively simple things:
- Highly differentiated, and
- Highly relevant.
The word “deceptively” refers to the fact that those two qualities are anything but simple to develop. In fact, in highly competitive deep technology markets in which the laws of physics govern to a large degree what a product can and cannot do, sometimes it is a real challenge to find, or at least articulate clearly, legitimate differentiation.
And yet, without differentiation, messages won’t penetrate, and positions will be indistinct from the rest of the players in the market. In fact, undifferentiated or irrelevant messaging and positioning render marketing efforts next to useless, effectively wasting budget and resources on efforts that, at best, will be less successful than they could be, and at worst will fail. Given how crucial solid positioning and messaging is, why is it so often neglected or skimmed over?
Perhaps because it is so hard to do well.
Differentiation: The Key to Premium Pricing
Without differentiation, it’s impossible to justify premium pricing, particularly in highly competitive and/or crowded markets. Conversely, if your company and products are well differentiated from key competitors, it becomes at least possible to charge more. That’s why the first step we take when tackling a positioning and messaging project is to delve into competitive messaging.
Admittedly, assessing competitive messaging and positioning is more art than science. Combing through a company’s website, ads, news releases, sales collateral, financial reports and more to extract key messages and the apparent position a company is striving for requires both a solid grasp of marketing and a deep comfort with the technology, products and services being addressed. It also requires the ability to leave bias out of the equation; objectivity is essential to accuracy.
Armed with solid competitive positioning and messaging, you can begin to identify gaps and opportunities for differentiation. However, the fact that a messaging or positioning attribute is unclaimed by the competition does not automatically mean you should attach it to your own position. Some attributes are less valuable than others. Conversely, it’s important to be brutally honest when assessing your qualifications for various attributes. For instance, if there is an 800-pound gorilla well established in your particular market, chances are slim to none that you can successfully claim the attribute of market leadership; it would lack credibility.
Relevance: the key to sales volume
If differentiation is the path to premium pricing, relevancy is how you get to volume. The more relevant you are perceived to be by the market, the larger your target customer base will be. Relevancy is found in the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” In other words, it’s the degree to which you can meet customers’ needs and the benefits they will get from using your products and services.
The best way to imbue messages with relevancy is to channel the customer when you’re developing them. Thinking as your customer thinks will automatically orient you correctly vis-à-vis needs and benefits. An all-too-common trap technology companies fall into is to lead with features. You are justifiably proud of those technological accomplishments and know how valuable they would be to customers. So turn your thinking 180 degrees and focus on the value, the need those features meet, the benefits they are bringing to customers.
That’s why Publitek recommends customer persona-driven messaging. Our approach is to begin by creating a persona for each target audience, then identify the pain points, challenges and unmet needs of each persona. From there, we determine which of our client’s value propositions address each pain point. Finally, we make sure each value prop is effectively differentiated from those the competition use. Those three elements – pain points, value props and differentiators – form the basis for highly relevant messages.
If you can craft messages that illustrate how you meet customers’ critical needs and bring the benefits that matter to them, you will automatically communicate relevance.
Putting position and messages to work
Now that the hard work of creating a position and messages that are both highly differentiated and very relevant is over, your work is done, right? Not exactly. Now comes time to employ both strategy and discipline in deploying them.
Examples of targets found along the audience axis could include trade press, business press, analysts, end-users, purchase influencers and C-level executives, each of whom has very different perspectives and different relevance needs when it comes to messages. Along the other axis, message type, we include things like overview statement, sound bite, or competitive comparison statement. Once this matrix is completed, you have a clear roadmap for exactly what to communicate to whom and in what circumstance.
Since all of these various message permutations originate from the same carefully chosen, highly differentiated and extremely relevant position and key message statements, you will be assured of consistency of message across all outbound communications programs. But this is where the discipline comes in: You have to use the matrix, rigorously. Because all the differentiation and relevance in the world woven into your messages won’t matter if you are inconsistent in your use of them. If you do use them? More compelling marketing that drives better margins and more revenue.