Messaging and positioning are the most under-rated tasks in marketing. Worse, crafting messaging is just not as much fun as creative development, story-telling, or content creation. Yet, messaging is a crucial and vital foundation for external communications and internal sales training. This blog post provides you the step-by-step process to work with your internal teams and easy-to-follow messaging hierarchy templates to create a solid strategic messaging framework. Check out the templates and samples below. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
- What is a Messaging Framework
- What are the Primary Benefits of a Messaging Framework
- How to Create a Messaging Framework
- Hidden Benefits After Finalizing Your Messaging Framework
- Product-Specific Messaging Template
- Thought-Leadership Messaging Template
- Product-Specific Messaging Framework (Sample)
- Thought-Leadership Messaging Framework (Sample)
So, if messaging is done right, it provides strategic guidance and consistency to PR, external marketing communications, sales, and can even be used for internal sales and employee training.
As boring as it may sound, I absolutely LOVE creating messaging frameworks for clients!
How to Create a Messaging Framework
The process of developing a strategic messaging framework is time-consuming and lengthy. You need to start early if you have new product launches ahead.
Engage with your product team
You need to engage your product team and subject matter experts to have them explain the key features of new and existing products to you. Most of the time, product managers or engineers can explain the technical features well, but it’s a marketers’ job to “translate” them to the benefits that end-users can relate.
Draft the messaging using template and vet it with your product team
Once you create a draft of the messaging framework, you need to vet it with the product team to make sure that features and benefits are presented ACCURATELY. Please bear in mind: Messaging is NOT copywriting. Essentially, messaging is the prelude to content creation and copywriting. The messaging framework provides guidance for content creators, copywriters, and designers. Therefore, the messaging framework needs to present features and benefits accurately so that writers can sprinkle their magic on it to create the final content. This is especially true in B2B marketing, given key content pieces may also need Legal’s approval.
Test with your sales and customers
After several rounds of revisions working with the product team and subject matter experts, you’ll need to test the latest messaging framework with your sales team and get their feedback. If you have the budget, you can also test the messaging with select customers or using AB testing online. Bringing your sales and customer feedback into the conversation will validate what messaging pillars or statements work better and further refine your messaging.
Finalize and approval by the product team and Legal
The last step is to finalize your messaging framework based on data from testing, sales, and product team. In B2B marketing and technology sales, you many use benchmark and performance data to support your claims. Therefore, Legal review is essential, in some cases, before you publish the messaging framework.
Additional hidden benefits of creating a messaging framework
Working through the process of reading product materials, interviewing subject matter experts and researching keywords will help you:
- Connect the dots with key business objectives and buyers’ personas
- Help you understand your products more deeply
- Identify optimal words to use for product differentiation
- Expand your ability to position products in the context of sales and marketing communications
- Pave the way for content strategy and editorial planning
Through years of working with clients, I’ve created several easy-to-follow and simple messaging templates that my clients love to use to brief their sales teams, marketing teams and agencies, including content creators, copywriters, media and search agencies.
Here are the two popular templates my clients rave about. Download the templates.
One is product-specific, the other one focuses on thought-leadership. The messaging hierarchy is structured in a logical manner from one to another.
Product-specific Messaging Framework Template
Here are additional tips on how to fill out the messaging template:
In general, a messaging framework is product-specific, not company-specific. Think about it, we buy “things” to solve our needs.
People may think that they want a drink, but we need to use our messaging to convince them they need our specific drink, like ‘Coke.’
Therefore, when you craft your messaging framework, focus on the product or services that you offer, not the specific brand family. Your position needs to be specific to products or services to engage your customers’ interest.
Only fill out ONE audience segment in this blank. You can pick 2 or more, if these personas’ challenges, pain points, and talking points are very similar, but the rule of thumb is ONE! This needs to tie back to the company’s primary buyer’s personas. Your company may have many buyers’ personas. Select the one which is the primary focus for sales and marketing teams.
Craft one statement to explain your product’s differentiation in the marketplace. In other words, how do you compare your product with that of your competitors? I usually write several value proposition statements and have discussions with my clients. If we have a budget, we will even test the proposed value positions with our target audience.
I love following “The Rule of Three.” List 3 key customer challenges. Write 1-2 statements per challenge and use the first person: “I need to….” or “I have this challenge of….” It’s important for everyone that reads this framework to identify with the challenges.
This should connect directly to customer challenges. You need to write one statement to describe your product’s promise to solve the specific challenges you listed. That one statement can also be a talking point or a product-specific differentiator.
This is connected to customer challenges and messaging positioning. You need to provide a list of product features which will substantiate your positioning statements. This is especially important in B2B and technology selling. Make sure to call out specific features.
Product feature may be technical, such as Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS). The User Benefit is to keep Toyota owners and their loved ones safe on the road. You need to be able to explain technical product features in plain English so that it resonates with your target audience.
Keywords for Content Creation
This is optional. Since I do so much research, I always add a list of keywords that relate to my clients’ products. Agencies and content creators love it because they know what keywords to use when they start creating content. It saves them time!
Thought Leadership Messaging Framework Template
Brands love to be perceived as thought leaders. To create a thought-leadership story, you also need a messaging framework.
As you can see, the template below is different from the product-specific one. The key difference is to identify the narrative and explain “why” your company is a thought-leader.
Here are additional tips on how to fill out the thought-leadership template:
Again, let’s focus on ONE target audience. For whom are we creating this thought-leadership story? This also needs to tie back to the company’s primary buyer’s personas.
The key difference in thought-leadership messaging development is to explain “Why.” You need to identify your product or technology category and explain why it is critical for your target audience. This section needs to be written in paragraphs, not bullet points.
Once you explain why the product or technology category is important, you can proceed to describe why your company has the best answers to the challenges in this product or technology category. Again, you need to write 3-4 short paragraphs to explain the ‘WHY’.
Value Proposition of [Company Product Portfolio]
Now the spotlight is on the ‘thought’ leadership value proposition. Rather than focusing on product-specific value propositions, you need to elevate the company and create one statement that showcases the overarching benefits of your company to target audiences. I usually create several statements and let clients choose. Clients love to analyze my proposals for the one statement they should use. We go through each one and determine the pros and cons.
Benefits of [Company Product Portfolio]
Once you identify the value proposition, it’s important to talk about the benefits of your company’s product portfolio. How does the company’s product portfolio help the target audience reduce cost, maximize value and increase revenue?
I use the ‘Rule of Three!’ It’s important to identify three key trend-based or strategic pillars that you want to talk about as a thought-leader. In the written example that follows, I use Connectivity, Artificial Intelligence, and Automation as 3 key pillars. Tie your narrative to your key leading trends to showcase your leadership position.
Impact of Messaging Positioning
Once you have the strategic pillars, you can explain the impact of your company’s product portfolio in each pillar. Again, this can be bullet points and can be product-specific, if necessary.
It’s important to write 2-3 paragraphs to further depict the stories in each pillar. Having short paragraph-driven statements helps guide content creators on what to write to tell a coherent and focused story.
Proposed Thought-Leadership Content Topics
As part of the messaging framework, I always come up with suggestions for thought-leadership titles to help senior management visualizes the type of content that will be created. Again, I ask them which titles they like to gauge their preferences and help content creators determine the final titles.
Keywords for Content Creation
Again, I add a list of keywords that relate to my clients’ thought-leadership story. Agencies and content creators appreciate the keyword list because they can pick and choose from these keywords when they write the stories.
Messaging Framework Examples
Product-specific messaging framework example:
Thought-leadership messaging framework example:
Messaging framework is the foundation of all sales marketing communications
These are two easy-to-follow templates. You can DIY and modify the templates as you see fit.
As you can see, I treat product-specific and thought-leadership messaging differently:
- Product-specific messaging emphasizes the customers’ challenges, associated product features, and user benefits. It’s more bullet-point driven.
- Thought-leadership messaging stresses the narratives and stories that a client wants to tell. It’s more paragraph-driven.
Once you have the messaging frameworks in a structured manner, sales, marketing, PR or senior managers can use the framework freely for different purposes of communications.
Having a solid and structured messaging framework is crucial for everything sales and marketing! This allows everyone inside and outside the company to have the same talking points.
Crafting the optimal messaging is not something that can wait until the last minute. You need to plan as part of product development and prior to product launches. It takes time and effort to do the research and fill in the blanks that showcase a company’s uniqueness.