by Deb Harrsch
Marketers talk a lot about messaging platforms. They talk about the need for one, and how to use it in marketing. But, not everyone understands what a marketing message platform is or why it’s an essential part of your marketing strategy.
What is a Messaging Platform?
A messaging platform empowers you as a marketer, and it empowers you as a business. It is the basis of everything you need to communicate with your buyers. Your integrated marketing plans are built from the information in your message platform.
Any message platform should include:
- Your target audience and their needs
- A position statement
- A long elevator pitch
- Your brand (or product) pillars and headline benefits
- Support examples
- Tone of voice
It doesn’t sound like much, but it delivers deep ongoing value to every area of your business – from the C-suite to sales to marketing. If you think about your business today, each department is likely delivering different messages about what you do and what benefits you give customers. In addition to those mixed messages, each person is probably using different language and support examples to demonstrate your value. They may even be chasing customers outside of your target audience. None of this is helpful to growing your company – or its revenue.
A marketing message platform gives everyone in your company very clear language, proof points, and positioning – ensuring that your brand is consistent in every engagement with a potential customer. It tells everyone in your company:
“These are our brand pillars. This is how we talk to our customers. This is what we do.”
That’s what a messaging platform is.
Developing a Message Platform
The six elements of a message platform are the basis of all communications and they do take some significant upfront work.
Who is involved in creating a message platform? Everyone.
- Your C-suite needs to be in the room
- Sales needs to be in the room
- Marketing needs to be in the room
- Every department with customer-facing communications needs to be in that room
This may sound like there will be too many cooks in the kitchen, but what actually ends up happening is this: it brings your entire team together. It is an outstanding exercise for your company, and everyone ends up on the same page.
No, it’s not a bing, bang, boom, five-minute conversation. It’s a process. I’ll be honest, it can take weeks to get this done right.
Developing this platform gets to the core of what your company does, what you want to be, and how you want your customers to perceive your brand. Those are big questions, and you may think you know the right answers, but when you dig down deep everyone may have different viewpoints.
I understand that as a marketer you need to move fast and it’s hard to take a step back, to spend time and money on messaging. But, you can either set yourself up for success by focusing now and getting it done right, or you can go on about your business and find out that your messaging isn’t right and lose your audience.
Your messaging is critical to your business. If you don’t follow a solid proven process and develop the right messaging, you’re going to lose out.
How do You Create a Message Platform?
Every messaging process starts with discovery. Whether you’re working on a company brand messaging platform or a product messaging platform, you need to have a discovery session to begin figuring it out. What are you going to talk about?
The discovery process digs deep into your business. Here are the areas that you’ll explore to create your platform:
- Define the background of the product or – in the case of a brand platform – the company. What are your business goals for your company or product or service?
- Ask what exactly does the company or your product or service do. You’ll work on listing out all features and benefits and how they solve customer pain points.
- Talk about the target market and your buyer. This is where you’ll spend considerable time. You want to confirm who your target markets are. Who’s your audience? Who are your buyers? If you haven’t developed your buyer personas, do it now. You’ll look at what their roles are and what their individual journeys are in moving from awareness, to consideration, to buyer. Analyze your customer’s pain points.
- Develop competitive positioning. Where do you fit in the marketplace and where do you want to fit? Explore your business intelligence. Look into anything that you can get from third parties or marketing trends or information you may have inside.
- Explore why your product or service or company is different from your competitors. What makes you better at addressing your customer’s pain points? Develop your SWOT analysis. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? What makes your company or product/service special?
- Determine the value you offer. You need to know what the value proposition is for what you’re doing – whether it’s for a product or service or your company. The value could be all wrapped into one proposition, or there could be multiple value propositions. For example, big companies tend to have multiple value propositions for multiple products or services, while smaller companies may be much more integrated. Develop a short value proposition and a long value proposition.
- Figure out what the brand pillars and benefits are for your messaging – what’s important to your company and customers. For example, if one of your brand pillars is security, what does that mean? Is the benefit reduced risk?
- Each of your brand pillars must be substantiated with support examples. Use cases are a good source for this information. These support examples are what sales and marketing will use to talk about your company or products and services. In the case of the brand pillar – security – above, the support examples could be end-to-end solutions, or geographic diversity, or an alternative supply, or all of the above. All of this supports your security brand pillar and you’ll need this information when you develop your content.
- While everyone is in the same room working on the big vision for the company, it’s also a good time to figure out what the sales strategy is and what the marketing goals are. Sometimes the marketing goal is just developing a message platform or web copy or a brochure, but you need to figure out what your marketing goals are for the near-term and long-term.
For brand platforms, the process does deviate somewhat and is much more visionary in nature. You need to develop clear vision and mission statements. Everything else remains the same in terms of your target audience, value statements, brand pillars and benefits, as well as the support examples.
If you have a messaging platform from a corporate standpoint, the information in your brand pillars needs to flow through all of your content and assets, including your graphics. We also work on the tone of voice, which ties directly into content development. It skis into your social media and into your website copy. It skis into ads and all your marketing collateral. All of this work is done in service to your buyer personas – to get them from awareness, to consideration, to buy.
What Does the Application of a Messaging Platform Look Like in Practice?
We had a recent example where a client was developing a sell sheet. The copy was essentially a bullet list. When they showed it to me, I said, “Wait a minute, we just did a messaging platform. Tell me, how does that sell sheet relate to the message platform we just worked so hard on?”
Can you guess the response? It was, “Oh, my, it doesn’t.”
My next question was, “What does that mean?”
“We can’t use it.”
Ouch. No one wants to spend time and money developing collateral that doesn’t meet the needs of customers.
Messaging platforms give you a way to be consistent in your content and how it is used. It does everything from give you the keywords you need in your copy (especially digital copy) to how you build your integrated marcom plan.
A messaging platform that everyone in your company has weighed in on and worked together to develop is essential to your sales and marketing efforts. Yes, it takes work, but the ROI far outweighs the investment.
Sometimes it helps to have an impartial outside firm facilitate the discovery process and develop the platform. At Brandwidth Solutions, we have a proven approach to building an integrated marketing plan – one part of which is a brand or product messaging platform.
Our approach takes your team from discovery into strategy development. After those two critical steps, we build the plan and implement branding and marketing tactics. Give us a call to learn more about developing your marketing message platform.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – that want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.Read More