Your B2B messaging strategy is the core of how your brand relates to your customers. However, many companies don’t have a defined messaging strategy. They try to get by with a menu of marketing tactics loosely wrapped around their ideas about their customers.
Sure, inbound marketing can get you a long way – but it complements, rather than substitutes for, a messaging strategy. To develop the right marketing approaches for your enterprise, you need to start with a clear vision for what you need to communicate and to whom.
That’s where B2B messaging comes in.
What a B2B Messaging Strategy Is
A solid, well-defined concept for the ideas and value proposition you need to consistently communicate to your target audience. Your B2B messaging will adapt based on the audience and their pain points, but it isn’t endlessly flexible – the candy stays the same flavor, even if the Pez dispenser changes.
What a B2B Messaging Strategy Is Not
A squishy, ever-growing list of adjectives to communicate with exciting Web design and marketing copy. “Authority,” “reliability,” and “speed” may be concepts you want people to associate with your brand. On their own, however, they aren’t messaging, just features.
To be a message, something needs to be complete, coherent, and relate to the audience.
It’s all too easy to mistake a B2B messaging strategy for branding – your corporate personality and the traits you want others to see in you. But messaging encompasses more: It’s also about positioning, the themes you spin out of your company’s differentiation from the competition.
B2B Messaging is Positioning: Deciding on Your Themes
In the old days, it was believed there were three ways to position a brand:
- Niche (also called “Customer Intimacy”)
Although there are many variations, most enterprises only have the resources to focus on one major theme and the messaging it requires. So, before you even start planning your customer contact points, it’s important to define what will resonate with them.
Check your positioning with these questions:
Is It Relevant to Your Target Customers?
You can determine a lot about your customers through market research: Understanding the platforms and publications that influence their decisions, for example. Once you know what’s valuable to your customers, you can craft a message that resonates.
Is It Feasible Based On What Customers Already Believe?
Messaging can be aspirational – leading your company toward a brighter future – but it still needs to be consonant with what customers know about you. If your reinvention goes too fast, customers will reject your message.
For an example, consider the years-long struggle McDonald’s had to rebrand itself as an “modern, artisanal burger-led experience.” (It’s hard to even write that down without laughing.)
Co-opting the language of freshness-focused fast-casual brands dragged McDonalds into a bog it was hard-pressed to escape. It finally changed course when it focused on what people knew and loved about it: The breakfast menu, which it expanded into an all-day offering.
Now, it’s back on track for many years of profitability.
Is It Effective Based On Your Advantages Over Competitors?
Branding, positioning, and messaging should all be aligned with a laser focus on what your company does best. When your ideal customers want what you do best more than they want what anyone else does best, you naturally become a market leader.
Competitive research can help you discover where you win and what your probable audience size is in your chosen market. That research process, in turn, gives you a richer and more granular picture of your customers so you can speak to them in the ways they want to be spoken to.
Will It Support Your Long-Term Goals?
There’s no point doing anything if it’s not getting you where you need to go. Messaging needs to dovetail successfully into planning on a number of levels, including product development and the strategic outlook for the business. Cross-functional collaboration is the key.
What Happens When Customers Aren’t Getting the Message?
Once you have clarity on your overall message, choosing the right channels to spread it is far easier. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others may offer opportunities alongside paid channels, influencer partnerships, and your own ever-expanding Web presence.
But what happens when your message simply isn’t connecting?
There are many reasons why your message might fail to take root:
- Customers don’t feel like your message is relevant to them and reflects their needs;
- Customers are confused by the message because it clashes with previous messaging;
- The bottom-line financial or performance offer is not very compelling to customers;
- The customer is not able to discern the differentiation from within the message itself.
Although these may seem like completely different problems, they come back to one thing: A lack of clarity. That, in turn, usually reflects internal uncertainty about the core message. What’s the best way to crystallize your message fast?
It’s simple: Try to explain it to non-specialist audiences.
It’s said you don’t really understand something until you can teach someone else, and this exercise draws on that to make you re-think your assumptions. By explaining the company message to others, you get a new perspective on expressing your core difference.
Who can you try this on?
Older people tend to find themselves disconnected from the latest technology trends. If your solution really helps clients save or make money, you should be able to explain it without jargon.
A Third-Grade Child
Kids are more tech-savvy than ever before, but they don’t usually understand business beyond trading food at lunch. Can you get to your message’s “why” without leaving them lost or bored?
A Restaurant Server
Not to say servers aren’t smart – far from it. But: No matter who you pick out, you’re going to find someone with a totally different background from yours. Can you get your point across?
B2B messaging is a complex topic, but this intro will get you on the right track. With time and refinement, your messaging won’t simply be meaningful to customers ... it’ll also be memorable.