The Definitive Guide to Messaging and Positioning
A silent epidemic sweeps through the world of B2B tech marketing. I’ve seen too many experienced marketers and leaders, holding the reins of potentially groundbreaking solutions, stumble in their messaging and positioning, resulting in a lackluster market penetration. Their solutions, often revolutionary in their own right, fade into the cacophony of the market, unable to resonate with prospects and customers.
The power of effective messaging and positioning in the B2B tech industry is indisputable. In a world where products and services are in danger of becoming mere commodities, messaging acts as the distinguishing beacon, setting the stage for all product launches, being the single source of truth for content creation, guiding media narratives, and shaping the overall perception of your brand.
This is born from over a decade in B2B Tech. It’s meant to serve as a comprehensive messaging document that informs content surrounding a product launch (such as sales enablement, datasheets, solutions briefs, for example), repositioning needs, and media, such as press releases and to inform PR teams and agencies. This is not for brand-level messaging.
Warning: this is a long-form piece to explain the reasoning of each section.
Don’t want to read this? Skip it and download the guide instead. It’s a fully structured google doc to help guide you through each section. Get it here >
Consequences of Weak Messaging
Underestimating the importance of strong messaging and positioning is a pitfall even seasoned marketers can fall into. The consequences of such an oversight can be detrimental – impacting not only individual campaigns but the overall standing and perception of your brand.
- Misaligned Campaigns: Without a robust messaging framework in place, your marketing and sales campaigns may lack a consistent theme or direction. This misalignment can manifest in mixed messages to your audience, ineffective use of marketing resources, and ultimately, unsuccessful campaigns that fail to meet objectives.
- Confused Customers: Clear and consistent messaging is critical for customers to understand what you offer and why it’s valuable to them. Inconsistencies or weaknesses in your messaging can lead to confusion, make your product harder to understand, and create a gap between customer expectations and reality. This could lead to customer dissatisfaction, negative reviews, and a drop in customer loyalty.
- Diluted Branding: Your messaging and positioning shape your brand’s identity. If these are weak or inconsistent, your brand image gets diluted. It becomes harder for customers to distinguish your brand from competitors, leading to a loss of brand equity, which can be devastating in the long term.
- Lost Market Share: Ultimately, these factors contribute to a loss in market share. If customers can’t understand or relate to your value proposition, they’re likely to turn to competitors who communicate their offering more effectively.
Frameworks and Templates – Use Them Wisely
The other thing I’ve witnessed is the overuse and misuse of well-known positioning frameworks.
For example, Marty Neumeier’s ‘Onlyness Statement,’ from his book ‘Zag,’ offers a potent way to articulate your brand’s unique position in the market. It’s designed to encapsulate what makes your brand the “ONLY” one that offers a particular value.
The original intent of the Onlyness Statement was to offer a concise, compelling articulation of a brand’s overall uniqueness – a statement that encompasses the brand as a whole rather than individual products or features. When multiple Onlyness Statement are created, each for a different product or feature, it dilutes the overall brand message and can lead to confusion and misalignment. It runs counter to the essence of the ‘Onlyness’ concept, which is about holistic uniqueness and not piecemeal differentiation.
Messaging and Positioning Components
In this guide, you won’t find a cookie-cutter template, for I firmly believe in the uniqueness of each organization, its voice, and its goals.
However, there are critical fundamental building blocks that any powerful messaging blueprint cannot afford to overlook.
Whether you are seeking to craft a compelling narrative for a new product launch or reposition an existing product to resonate better with your audience, this guide aims to be your handbook, a starting point towards a thorough and meaningful messaging blueprint.
The guide covers the following sections:
- Introduction and background of the product/service
- Understand the market and any gaps
- Assess industry shifts
- Why is [insert company name] offering this now? (the “why” of your product)
- Strategic positioning
- Value Proposition
- Target personas and target organizations
- Use Cases
- Main challenges that organizations face and why they want to solve them
- Product features
So, let’s delve in, dissect, and master the subtle art of impactful business storytelling.
Introduction and Background
The introduction sets the stage for your entire messaging strategy, contextualizing your offering. It outlines why your company is introducing a specific product or service and the story behind its creation.
Understanding the Market Gap: Identify unmet needs or areas for improvement in the market through thorough research. Your offering should provide unique value, filling these identified gaps.
Assessing Industry Shifts: Keep a pulse on industry trends that can swiftly change market landscapes, from technology to regulations to consumer behaviors. If your offering responds to these shifts, articulate it clearly. This enhances your product’s relevance and positions your brand as responsive and forward-thinking.
The ‘Why’ of Your Product
Understanding the ‘why’ behind your product is the first step in aligning your messaging with your mission. Why does your product exist? What is its raison d’être? How will it make your customers’ lives better or their businesses more successful? This should tie back to the market gap you identified and the industry shift you’re responding to. Your ‘why’ will form the meaningful core of your messaging, underpinning every element of your narrative.
Strategic positioning forms the bedrock of your overall messaging strategy. It is about defining how you want your brand and offerings to be perceived in the minds of your customers and the broader market.
The essence of strategic positioning lies in differentiation and relevance. What makes you unique compared to your competitors, and why is this uniqueness valuable to your customers? The goal is to carve out a unique space in the market that you can own and defend, while also resonating deeply with the needs and desires of your target audience.
Your positioning strategy should highlight your brand or product’s unique strengths, values, and the unique benefits you bring to your customers. It goes beyond mere features and delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of your offering. It answers the questions: Why choose us? What makes us different and better?
The value proposition is your pledge to the customer. It communicates the unique benefits that your product offers, how it solves their challenges, and why it’s a better choice than alternatives. Crafting a compelling value proposition requires a deep understanding of your customer’s needs, desires, and pain points.
Under the value proposition there should also be supporting bullet points and proof points (such as time or money saved, ROI)
Target Organizations and Target Personas
The “Target Personas” section is about defining and understanding the characteristics of your ideal customers. These personas are detailed profiles that encompass demographic information, job roles, pain points, motivations, and behaviors. They help your team empathize with your customers, tailoring your messaging to address their specific needs and challenges.
The “Target Organizations” section focuses on the types of businesses that would benefit most from your product or service. It provides a broad view of your ideal customers, focusing on the size, industry, and other organizational characteristics. Identifying the right target organizations is vital for prioritizing your marketing efforts and ensuring your messaging resonates with the right audience.
The use cases section of your messaging framework serves to make the connection between your offering and your customer’s needs tangible. It breathes life into abstract features and benefits, translating them into real-world scenarios that your target audience can relate to.
- Showcase Practical Value: When you articulate the use cases of your product or service, you’re demonstrating its practical value in the context of real business scenarios. It’s not about what your product does in a vacuum, but what it can do for your customers in their specific situations. By situating your product in these relevant situations, you make it easier for customers to envision how your solution can be beneficial in their own environments.
- Enhance Customer Workflow: Your use cases should clearly illustrate how your solution fits into, simplifies, or enhances existing customer workflows. Does it make a specific task easier? Does it automate a previously manual process? Show your customers how your product can be integrated seamlessly into their workflows and improve efficiency or effectiveness.
- Highlight Hidden Pain Points: The most powerful use cases often uncover issues that customers weren’t even aware they had. When you highlight these pain points within your use cases, you’re not only showing empathy and understanding of their circumstances, but also positioning your product as the solution to problems they didn’t even realize were holding them back.
- Craft Realistic Narratives: While detailing the use cases, ensure to craft realistic and relatable narratives. It’s not about presenting a utopian vision where your product solves every problem imaginable, but about focusing on genuine situations where your product makes a substantial difference. This realistic approach builds credibility and trust in your messaging.
Main Challenges and Why Organizations Want to Solve them
The “Main Challenges” section aims to highlight the critical issues organizations face that your product or service addresses. Understanding these challenges is vital as it lends credibility to your offering, demonstrating that you comprehend your customers’ pain points.
By articulating these challenges, you are also creating a sense of urgency, justifying why organizations would want to solve these issues. It helps customers realize the cost of inaction, and positions your offering as the solution that can relieve their pain points and drive their business forward. This section, therefore, forms a crucial part of the narrative that makes your product or service indispensable.
This can be done in a simple table format, using concise statements for each.
While your value proposition speaks to the benefits, your product features detail the “how.” What features of your product or service enable the benefits that your value proposition promises?
Delineating your product’s feature sets can help prospects visualize how your offering can be integrated into their existing workflows. Showcasing how each feature addresses specific use cases and solves real-world problems helps to enhance the perception of your product’s value.
Explaining this in a way that is meaningful and resonant to your audience is crucial to persuasive messaging.
The Bottom Line
Messaging and positioning isn’t a one-off task you tick off your list. It’s an evolution, an ongoing cycle of refinement—responding to shifting markets, understanding your changing customers, and keeping pace with your own product’s growth. The fruits of this labor? Substantial. Market share, customer loyalty, industry recognition—they all stem from the seed of effective messaging.
In the battlefield that is B2B tech, clear, compelling messaging is your secret weapon. As the wise Simon Sinek once said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Truer words were never spoken.
Let’s harness the power of effective messaging and positioning to win this war.