Messaging to Your Audiences
Messaging is the cornerstone of a company’s competitive market positioning—making it key to any marketing strategy.
Messaging tells external and internal target audiences the benefits of associating with a company. Messaging concisely covers why the company is different and why the target group should care.
The root of messaging is the positioning statement, which is also referred to as the brand promise or brand position. In our series of branding articles, we delve deeper into developing brand promises. Here, we’ll talk about how to develop messaging from the brand promise.
The positioning statement clearly describes the company or product and what makes it different through a target, a frame of reference, differentiation, and support points:
- Target:The target audience that will benefit from the product.
- Frame of reference:The category or business segment where the company or product operates.
- Differentiation:What makes the company or product different from other options.
- Support points:Proof that the product is different.
Let’s take a look at a possible Mercedes Benz positioning statement:
Through continuous pursuit of uncompromising innovation and refinement, Mercedes Benz gives wealthy, discriminating drivers the pinnacle of luxury.
Let’s break this down:
- Target:Wealthy, discriminating drivers.
- Frame of reference:Driving experiences
- Support points:Continuous pursuit of uncompromising innovation and refinement.
A product’s positioning statement will then flow into a company’s key messages.
What the Audience Should Know
To develop key messages, companies should think about which three to five key pieces of information target audiences should know about them. A company will then tailor these messages to each audience.
For example, a medical staffing company’s brand promise is
to consistently deliver cost-effective clinical staffing that enables optimal patient care.
The company wants the target audience to know these three things:
- We deliver significant cost savings for hospitals and surgical centers over other options.
- We offer the security and stability that allow medical professionals to do what they do best.
- Our highly-trained medical professionals provide exceptional service.
The company has three primary audiences:
- hospitals that use the company to provide clinical staff,
- physicians who work with the clinical staff the company provides, and
- the clinical professionals the company seeks to hire.
Consumer-focused companies also have multiple audiences. Sunny Delight, for example, markets to parents (gatekeepers) and children (end users).
In the medical-staffing-company example—as in many business-to-business marketing situations—each of the three audiences has multiple influencers. For example, the hospital prospect will have a CEO and an operating-room director—and each role will have a different set of criteria on which to evaluate the vendor.
Each of the company’s key messages is then tailored to each of its audiences—and each influencer within each audience. Messages must be tailored to each group without causing conflict or contradiction. (This is far more of a challenge than it sounds sometimes!)
A Look at Message Differentiation
Above we use an example of a medical staffing company and list its three audiences. Its competitors have the same three audiences—obviously. So how can the example company stand out from the herd?
It needs to hark back to its market segmentation and customer targeting (read our article on this topic for details). Exactly what hospitals does it target, for example? Why exactly will those specific hospitals care about the company’s service offerings? The messaging needs to speak specifically to the targeted customer.
For another example, let’s look at Target and Walmart. Both companies have similar offerings in the affordable retail space, offering a variety of products for the family and household in one big-box store. However, Target and Walmart appeal to different audiences. Walmart targets people looking for the lowest possible cost and the highest cost savings. Target seeks people seeking quality products at value prices. Each company’s messaging clearly addresses its specific audience groups.
There’s no marketing without messaging. Don’t take it lightly. Companies need to spend the time and energy needed to precisely craft and target key messages.
Note: This is the third article in a series on marketing strategy. Read our first and second articles in the series on the value of marketing strategy by clicking here and here. Our next article is on the importance of a sound tactical mix.