What do you hear from the Monday morning quarterbacks after your marketing program results are in and they failed to deliver great results?
“Your subject line sucked.”
“The landing pages were confusing.”
“I told you not to put that graphic there.”
“That white paper? Really?”
Yeah, you could have tested your subject line, landing page, graphics and the offer. But there may be something much bigger lurking beneath your lackluster program performance than a tweak here or a swap there that you overlooked: your company/product messaging – or lack thereof. If you don’t get your messaging right and tight, the revenue you take will rarely equal the marketing investment you make.
This ah-ha moment struck me during a two-day engagement in San Antonio with an established SaaS business going to market as a newly independent company. Ken Rutsky, an expert on messaging and positioning asked me to collaborate with him to advise on technology, demand gen, and go-to-market. We had a game plan for the two days centered on funnels, forecasting models, user experience and a marketing technology stack. After we defined the structure and segmentation for their market, my partner Ken the messaging master drove a mini brainstorming session that resulted in a rough messaging and positioning architecture for their business. That evening, Ken worked his magic on the day’s rough messaging turning ideas into words and structure in a way that was clear, concise, logical, and effective.
When we reviewed his work with the team the next morning, it was clear to me that this was the cornerstone to the success for the rest of our work – and the marketing programs that would soon follow. The big idea is this: marketing automation and program execution divorced from great messaging and positioning can significantly reduce ROI on marketing investments. By the same measure, great messaging and positioning can enable – and therefore greatly improve your returns on marketing investments.
When I was at Intuit, getting messaging and positioning right and tight was table stakes for every Intuit business unit. I learned Intuit’s “message mapping process,” but more important I learned the power of using a messaging methodology to get everyone in every role at the business on the same page. All were able to clearly articulate what was unique, compelling and great about our products. It made marketing so much faster and easier because we always stuck to the blueprint, no matter what tactic or program we brought to bear.
If messaging and positioning are so important – so fundamental to great marketing – why then don’t more companies build and maintain a great messaging foundation? Here are a few reasons that come to mind:
- Company somehow believes they have it – but they don’t
- Messaging is not aligned to where the company is today
- Messaging is not aligned to where the market/competition is today
- Various factions in the company make up their own versions of messaging
- Messaging was built by someone who doesn’t really understand how to build great messaging
- Stakeholders were left out of the message building process and don’t understand or have any interest in following it
- The messaging is not documented in a usable way
And what happens? Everyone at your company can interpret your company’s value to mean something different on any given day, for any marketing initiative. All marketing disciplines are diminished: public relations, demand-gen, investor relations—all of it.
So what can you do? For starters, give serious thought to getting someone outside of your company to help you get your messaging defined; if you have messaging in place, ask yourself if it could use a refresh, a re-think, or another set of eyes outside your business to give it a look. Our visit to San Antonio was the catalyst that made creating a great messaging architecture possible for our client. We looked at their business from the outside, bringing new ideas and reinforced some of their thinking around how they could segment their market, surface their value and differentiation, and go-to-market in a strong, cohesive way.
The message is clear: get your messaging and positioning defined and documented and put it to work in your marketing. With your messaging right and tight, you are more likely to find that the revenue you take will be more than the marketing investments you make.
P.S. Read Ken’s take on our San Antonio adventure here