Posted by on Nov 12, 2018 in Integrated Marketing, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Sales & Marketing Departments: Friends or Foes?

When a company launches a product and it fails to attract much notice or move the revenue needle, the result is always predictable – and unhelpful. The internal response is something like this:

Sales: “Marketing didn’t do their jobs.”

Marketing: “Nope, Sales didn’t do their jobs.”

Sound familiar? It should, because the push-and-pull between the Sales Department and the Marketing Department is as old as the Sales and Marketing structure itself.

So what should be the response? Sales, Marketing and Management should all be asking the same questions:

  • If we aren’t reaching our numbers, it can’t always be Marketing’s fault. So what aren’t we doing right?
  • How did we market the product/service?
  • How did we hand it off to Sales?
  • Maybe the product isn’t right?
  • Did we do enough due diligence when we were developing the product?

By working closely together throughout the entire sales & marketing process and asking & answering the same questions, your company could avoid contributing to the $1 trillion dollars per year lost due to the misalignment of these two departments.

Marketing & Sales: Different Perceptions

When newly-developed products are handed off from the product manager to marketing, marketing immediately looks at the product and wonders: “Why is this product better than the previous generation? How is this product different from everything else in the marketplace? What’s the value to the customer?

Product Managers can be so entrenched in the product itself that they tend to focus on new or improved features/benefits as selling points rather than why the customer will buy. Marketing, on the other hand, wants to focus on end user value – the real reasons why the customer will choose this product over a competitor or even upgrade their existing system.

Features/ Benefits Don’t Always Translate Into Value Propositions

When a product is handed off to marketing with a list of features, marketing must determine if they can be translated into value propositions. Marketing has a story it needs to tell and if the customers haven’t been brought into the story until product launch-time, it is often too late to craft a customer-focused narrative. The key to this is thinking about the product from the customer’s perspective. Marketing must find the customer’s ultimate: “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” or WIIFM to develop that story.

Sales: We Want Leads!

The sales team, in order to meet their numbers, wants to get a hold of the product as quickly as possible. Their immediate reaction to the marketing team is to demand leads.

Marketing’s role typically begins six to nine months ahead of the sales cycle. To create an effective sales & marketing campaign, marketing needs to create collateral, including brochures, sell sheets, web pages, white papers, case studies, social media and more. These are the elements with which marketing builds the product story, being sure to weave in customers with their challenges and needs while delivering the WIIFM Value Proposition.

Too often, these elements – and the customer journey – are overlooked in the race to launch and start selling.

“We’re going to a trade show and we need the product ready for the show.”

With barely enough time to complete a key piece of marketing collateral, Marketing often pushes back at Sales when they ask why they haven’t been provided any leads. In many cases, Marketing has launched campaigns in advance of a trade show and provided leads to Sales, feeding them into the CRM – where the ball was dropped.

Creating a Sales & Marketing Relationship

For a product launch and subsequent lead generation and lead nurturing to be successful, there needs to be a solid working relationship between the Sales and Marketing departments – along with the realization that both teams have ongoing work to do and must nurture leads. Not everyone is ready to buy at the exact time you launch.

When marketing and sales work together to achieve the same goals, it’s not uncommon for companies to experience some stellar results:

Leads vs. Customers

Leads are often just that – leads, not customers. Marketing is constrained by how much information it can reasonably expect to collect from prospects – even more so now due to the EU’s GDPR requirements. It’s common to request a name, company name and email address to begin nurturing the relationship using the marketer’s toolbox of channels and tactics – requesting too much information up front discourages people from filling out forms. Limited information is preferable to no information.

Sales can’t just be closers – they have a critical role to play in lead nurturing too. With today’s tools (LinkedIn, Company websites, and the internet at large), leads can be filled out. There are many tools that can be used to find somebody’s phone number, or determine their email address format.

Here is an excellent example of the role Sales can play in lead nurturing:

If a lead comes in with only a first name, last name and company name, it’s quite easy to determine a particular company’s email format. It may be ‘first name.last name @company’ or ‘lastname.firstname,’ or ‘first initial.last name,’ etc. A company’s website might contain clues to the proper formula, as will LinkedIn. Sales can take the information Marketing has gathered and entered into the company CRM and to do a little research to begin the sales conversation with the prospect.

Teamwork: Collaborating to Improve Lead Gen

It’s very rare that Marketing can hand off a lead that is already a sale. In almost all cases, the lead requires nurturing and follow-up. Instead of finger-pointing between departments, Sales and Marketing should ideally work together to improve lead quality.

It’s not Marketing’s fault that there aren’t enough leads, and it’s not Sales’ fault that all the leads they were provided have been closed. In addition to collaboration being a more constructive approach, it’s also a way to ensure better leads.

The Sales-Marketing relationship becomes even more important in cases of long lead cycles. Some sales cycles have 12-18 month timelines. If you’re working in the contract pharma sector and you’re trying to lock down a contract with Big Pharma, it’s going to take 18 months to close.

Eighteen months is a long time, and both Departments will need to work closely together to ensure the lead is nurtured along the way. Sales can provide Marketing with valuable real-time feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. With that information, the two departments can work together to improve the quality of leads and further target marketing tactics.

The Importance of Customer Perception

People buy based on perception. If Marketing is helping raise customer perception about the company and the product, Sales has got to pick up their end to work the leads. Management can’t blame Marketing and they can’t blame Sales, they all need to work together and figure out a marketing and sales plan for success.

It’s never any one department’s fault that revenue isn’t generated – it could be a mutual problem. But when Sales and Marketing work together as a team to solve any issues, you’ll find that any challenges are solved far more elegantly than you might imagine.

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Posted by on Jan 10, 2020 in Integrated Marketing, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Acquiring Lab Customers: Demystifying the B2B Sales Process

Brandwidth Solutions - Acquiring Lab Customers: Demystifying the B2B Sales Process

by Larry Worden and Deb Harrsch

Do you know why you lost that big sale to the hospital lab? Chances are you don’t. Not really. All you know is that you submitted the RFI/RFP response and…nothing.

MDxI (Market Diagnostics International) surveyed a sampling of laboratories and found that the main reasons vendors weren’t chosen to provide services were:

  • Failure to meet the basic requirements of an RFI/RFP
  • Delays and lack of focus on the customer’s evaluation process
  • Absence of a solid relationship with decision makers
  • Ability to meet the customer’s requirements efficiently and economically
  • Challenges in prior service delivery
  • Aggressive sales tactics or personnel
  • Lack of appropriate assays

If anything here rings a bell for you, then you’ll want to dig into the following information.

How Customers Make Buying Decisions in Hospital Systems and Laboratories

M&A in the hospital and laboratory space has increased in the last several years, leading to fewer opportunities due to consolidation. But, the vendor selection process hasn’t changed. The length of the buying decision for lab and hospital laboratory systems has also remained the same – a nine-to-24-month time frame.

MDxI reports that virtually all labs have a similar 13-step process for identifying needs and potential vendors, producing RFIs & RFPs, evaluating vendors, and ultimately choosing a supplier. As a sales rep, you’ll want to study this process to ensure that you understand what your target customers will expect from you.

Behind the Scenes in the Lab – 13 Steps to Successful Vendor Selection

  1. Identifying the Need: Lab staff drives the process when older equipment needs replacing.
  2. Establishing an Evaluation Team: Participating team members typically include the lab manager, section supervisor and key medical technologists. Team members may also include the medical director and an IT representative. The lab manager is the team lead.
  3. Gathering Preliminary Information: Team members research and identify potential vendors through web searches, laboratory trade shows and conferences, and conversations with lab colleagues.
  4. Notifying Potential Vendors: Once the evaluation team has qualified a selection of vendors, they invite those companies to present to the team.

When can you ask to be included in the evaluation process? If your company already sells to the lab in question, or if you have developed a relationship with the potential customer, you can ask to be included in the evaluation process at this stage.

  1. Developing and Prioritizing Evaluation Criteria: The team will create a categorized list of requirements in order of importance.
  2. Issuing the RFI: During this key phase, all potential vendors are provided the lab’s list of requirements. You may need to visit the lab to ensure your company thoroughly understands the lab’s layout and workflows. You must make detailed recommendations on how your solutions will address the customer’s needs.
  3. Sourcing Additional Input: The lab’s evaluation team will continue to gather information on all the potential vendors. They’ll tap third-party resources to validate your claims. Sources could include: CAP proficiency survey results to review equipment performance, adverse incident/recall information, MD Buyline service ratings, and site visits to labs which use your equipment.
  4. Rating Vendors: After gathering all of their research and your RFI answers, the lab evaluation team begins ranking the potential vendors against their requirements.
  5. Narrowing the Playing Field and Sending the RFP: Once the rankings are completed, the team sends out the RFP. Typically only two or three vendors are in the running at the time of RFP.

If you have a strong relationship with the lab manager and your company is not invited to participate in the RFP, you can ask to be included in the RFP process. But, be warned, it may not be in your best interest to participate. Many labs prefer to restrict the RFP process to only those companies they believe best meet their needs.

  1. Vendor Presentations: Vendors may be asked to present their responses to the RFP directly to the evaluation team.
  2. Assessing the Finalists: If the finalists are tied or if none of them can provide the perfect solution, the evaluation team requests additional information or alternate solutions from the vendors in question.
  3. Selecting the Best Vendor: When all the information has been submitted, including the financials, the evaluation team meets to vote on the winning vendor.
  4. Negotiating and Signing the Contract: Once the team has selected the best supplier, the contract is then negotiated and signed by the business manager or procurement department.

Knowing your customer’s process allows sales teams to add value at critical stages of the buying process.

What Your Sales and Marketing Departments Need to Do

Now might be a good time to review what ‘customer acquisition’ means. As BusinessDictionary.com states, it’s “The process of persuading a consumer to purchase a company’s good or services.”  Yes, there’s a cost associated with customer acquisition as well, but what we really need to think about here is the process.

The process involves both sales and marketing. The sales team is responsible for the customer relationship and driving the sale. MDxI shared that there are certain do’s and don’ts to sales rep actions.

Do

  • Communicate monthly or quarterly with your contacts. Ask your contact which they prefer and follow directions!
  • Connect by email or make an appointment.

Don’t

  • Don’t assume a phone call is better. Customers report it’s hard to get on the phone.
  • Don’t show up without an appointment and expect your contact to be available.
  • Don’t go around laboratory decision makers. Executive teams, administration, or purchasing will not help you get your foot in the door.
  • Don’t try to visit your contact too often – they’re busy.

Marketing is responsible for making sure that sales has everything they need to nurture and close the sale – from marketing collateral to white papers and case studies to web content the customer may access prior to speaking with a sales rep.

Marketing needs to work closely with sales. Regular communication delivers a crucial understanding of what the customer needs to know. With that information, marketing can design exactly the right tools to enhance your sales efforts.

How to Win at Customer Acquisition

What happens when sales and marketing work together? Sales success. When MDxI surveyed labs to understand what was behind successful sales, they found that the key drivers were solid relationships and time and attention to detail.

  • Relationships: When sales establishes a solid relationship with all the key decision-makers in a lab system – and maintains those relationships over time – regardless of their status as a customer or future customer, they are invited to bid. These relationships provide the sales rep with inside knowledge of open bids. They also allow sales reps to ask decision-makers to participate in upcoming vendor selections. If you can’t bid, you can’t win a sale.
  • Time and Attention to Detail: It takes time to develop a relationship. It also takes time to respond to an RFI/RFP thoroughly – and ensure that each step of the acquisition process is completed by the deadlines requested. Customers are watching and they will notice if your team doesn’t meet expectations. You need to show decision-makers that you value them and their business. If not, guess what? No sale.

But, don’t assume that these are the only keys to winning new lab customers. MDxI found that breadth of product lines, automation capabilities, and other contracts with the customer also played important roles in driving vendor choice. While you may not be able to do much about current contracts with a health system, your marketing and sales teams can certainly ensure that your potential customer understands the scope of your product line and advantages of your automation solution.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who 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.

Larry Worden co-founded MDxI in 2006 and is now the principal at IVD Logix. Larry has spent 40 years in the fields of medical and scientific marketing research and syndicated data services. Today, he focuses on the in vitro diagnostics marketplace, providing market information solutions to clients using qualitative and quantitative market research methods. Contact Larry at 214.434.1923.

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Posted by on Jun 17, 2019 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Tips | 0 comments

How Can You Optimize Webinar Results?

Once your company has achieved brand awareness (and even while you’re still working on it!), lead generation is the most important activity for any marketing department.

What is one of the most valuable tools for B2B lead gen? Inside Sales.com’s Optimal Lead Generation Methods report states that “75% of respondents (B2B sales and marketing representatives) say a webinar is the best way to generate high-quality leads.”

 But to generate those high quality leads, you’ve got to design an effective webinar and follow-up marketing campaign.

Designing an Effective Webinar

For science-based businesses, a third-party webinar is a smart choice. When you hold your webinar via third party trade publications, it is viewed less as a direct marketing campaign and more as higher-value educational information.

You need to choose a topic your audience is interested in. Then choose speakers for the webinar who are not associated with your company, as that drives higher interest in the webinar for your target audience.

You should know that third-party webinars can be pricey. You’ll be paying quite a bit of money for their email list in addition to the hosting and all the marketing they will do to their audience. But sometimes their list isn’t complete, and you’ll want to supplement it with additional lists – including your own – to make the most of your investment.

Once you’ve held the webinar, I often say to clients, “Now what? What are we going to get out of the webinar?”

Yes, you’ve got a webinar. You’ve got this great piece of collateral that’s going to live on and be accessible for a year. You can market it, you can do eblasts reminding people to log on to the archived version of the webinar.

But what’s the next step in generating leads from a webinar?

Creating ROI from Your Webinar

Sometimes companies who hold webinars think that once they’ve created, promoted and produced the webinar the job is done. It’s not.

If this is what happens in your organization, you’re walking away from leads. Obviously, you don’t want to do that. You need to keep marketing.

How?

When a webinar is scheduled, many people will sign up. But only half – 40% to 50% – of that audience usually attends. This is when you segment the audience who was interested in the material. You’ll divide the list into “Those Who Attended” and “Those Who Did Not Attend.”

For those people who attended the webinar, you’ll create an email drip campaign starting with a “Thank you for attending” message along with a next step call to action. Your next email could include an Executive Summary of the webinar or the PowerPoint slides in a PDF format. The emails following that could include white papers, case studies or articles relating to the webinar topic.

But for those interested parties who didn’t attend, many times they are completely left behind by marketing and sales departments. You can’t assume they didn’t attend because they weren’t interested. Anything could have happened – life, emergencies, important meetings, etc. This situation calls for a different email drip campaign.

For these folks, you’ll want to create a starting email with a “Sorry we missed you on the webinar!” message. You can also include an executive summary with a call to action link to the archive for the webinar. Your next email in the drip campaign might be the PDF of the PowerPoint slides from the webinar along with a link to the the archived webinar – providing a way for them to attend at a more convenient time.

As this audience gradually attends the webinar, you’ll receive monthly reports from your webinar vendor identifying them.

What Happened With This Clinical Company’s Webinar?

One of Brandwidth’s clients in the clinical space did a webinar on PCT testing and Sepsis.

The first step? Identify the audience. In a hospital, sepsis falls under the antibiotic stewardship team. That team consists of three audiences: the laboratory director, the infectious disease director and the pharmacist. In every hospital, that’s the team for an antibiotic stewardship program.

The webinar was being run through College of American Pathologists. Now, CAP is an outstanding place to have a third-party webinar, but their list is specific to laboratories. They don’t have infectious disease doctors in their database, and they don’t have clinical pharmacists on their list either.

The next step? We rented two lists to fill out the audience – a clinical pharmacist list and an infectious disease doctor list. We gave the infectious doctor list to CAP so when they sent out the invite to the PCT & Sepsis webinar, both the labs and the infectious doctors received it.

The clinical pharmacist list rental required a different process. They needed an HTML version of the invite to send to their list. So we provided the messaging for the invite in HTML for them.

The set-up? We structured the webinar to ensure that our client spoke very little. While they sponsored the webinar, they chose a clinical pharmacist and an infectious disease doctor to speak about sepsis, why PCT testing is so important and how it affects diagnosing sepsis. In addition, we structured the presentation slides for both leading experts.

On the day of the webinar the company had 1,100 registrants for the webinar. It was a one-hour webinar, and more than 600 people attended. But what’s fascinating is this: that one-hour webinar lasted an hour and a half due to the questions the audience asked.

Post webinar marketing steps?

Now we had the list of registrants, and they included the clinical pharmacists, infectious disease doctors, and labs.

What we did first was create an email blast to those who attended from the registrant list. To those who attended the message was, “Thank you for coming.” For those who did not attend we crafted an email message of, “Sorry we missed you.”

And because we had rented the infectious disease doctors list for a three-month period, we were able to see which doctors did not register for the webinar. For those individuals we created a special email message around, “Sorry we missed you at the webinar. Here’s a link to the webinar archive.”

The ongoing email marketing campaign looked like this:

  1. The first email provided the webinar’s executive summary and PowerPoint slides.
  2. The second email provided an FAQ. This FAQ was created from the Q&A from the webinar.
  3. The third email provided attendees a white paper on PCT testing and sepsis.

By structuring the ongoing communications, we kept the audience engaged. It was obviously a very germane topic, because 1,100 people registered and even more importantly – 600 attendees stayed on the phone for an hour and a half. Not one attendee left the webinar before the end.

A Successful Webinar Delivers ROI

A successful webinar includes the right topic and the right audience. You need to make sure you’re reaching all of the audiences that pertain to the topic. If you’re producing the webinar through a third-party organization, they may not have the list for your entire audience – so go and rent more lists. Be sure that you have a plan for a proper follow-on marketing campaign.

Remember that in science-based businesses, sales numbers are not always immediately reflected. You won’t be in the position to have a “Buy It Now” button, so ROI can occur 18 months or more after an event such as a webinar. It’s important for your marketing and sales teams to track whether their conversions have attended and engaged with the webinar, or any follow-on marketing efforts.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who 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.

 

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Posted by on Feb 26, 2021 in Marketing Tips | 0 comments

Is it Time to Rebrand? What to Expect from a Rebranding Process

What to Expect from a Rebranding Process from Brandwidth Solutions

by Deb Harrsch

How do you know if you should rebrand your company – or whether it’s time to refresh your brand? Rebranding your company isn’t something you do simply because you’re bored with your current look. While I know that can happen, a brand refresh (or an entire rebrand) should only occur when you ask yourself the following questions and the answers are no.

  • When you look at your brand, does it represent who you are?
  • Is your brand consistent across all divisions and regions, as well as marketing collateral?
  • Does your brand deliver on the value and vision that you have for the company right now?

The reasons behind starting a brand refresh or rebrand process all come down to this: your company has changed. You aren’t who you were when your current brand was developed.

Maybe you’ve grown, adding new divisions along with products or services far beyond what you used to offer, or maybe as you look around at all of your communications properties you found that every department or division has been doing their own thing – creating chaos and inconsistency across assets and digital platforms.

If any of these have you saying, “Yes, that’s us.” Well then, it is likely time for either a brand refresh or a full rebrand that will take your company into the future.

Consider Pfizer’s recent rebrand, for example. The former blue pill-shaped oval representing the medications they have made for 171 years has been transformed into a fresh new logo representing the new vision for the future of the company.

What Drives a Company Rebrand?

I’ve seen companies do brand refreshes without a major need to do so. To me, that is a waste of your budget. This is why the people inside your company are so important. You can be with a company for many years and not realize that a change is even needed until everyone gets in a room (virtually these days, of course!) and starts talking.

Because it starts with the company’s vision for the future, leadership needs to drive the process. They are responsible for executing on the vision and mission of the company. It’s critical to have everyone involved, and that means the entire C-suite. The CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, sales and anyone who interacts with your customers – because it all comes down to your customer. They should be at the forefront of your mind throughout your branding exercise.

Before the creative process can start, however, you’ll need to go through a strategy-setting exercise in which you’ll answer two overarching questions and develop the key information needed for your graphic design team.

You’ll first answer:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we want to be in our market?

From those answers, you’ll develop your company’s:

  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Values
  • Core attributes

The Rebrand Working Group

When it’s time to get the rebrand process rolling, the same critical players at the table for the strategy-setting will be back in the room. Everyone who will be involved in the sign-off of the new brand must be engaged from the start.

Why?

What do you suppose would happen if the CEO, CFO, COO and sales and marketing all need to approve the new branding, but the CEO wasn’t engaged from the start and throughout the process? What if the CEO was only presented with the final versions of the creative work then turned around and said, “Oh no, this isn’t right for us at all?” I’m fairly certain you can imagine the turmoil, wasted time, and resulting budget overruns to redo the work!

None of the C-suite needs to manage the project. A rebranding project is typically managed internally by marketing, but involves key players from every critical part of the company.

What Should You Expect from the Rebrand Process?

It can be challenging to grasp the full scope of a rebranding creative process. There is significant upfront work which involves understanding the company’s customers and goals, in addition to the visual work.

To the creative team, the input of every individual in your working group is incredibly valuable. All of our work is developed using the mission, vision, core attributes, and values. For instance, if innovation is identified as a number-one priority, then that will be worked into the visual and brand delivery – but creative needs to know that innovation truly is the number-one priority and that everyone agrees with that assessment at the very beginning of the process.

The development of the visual aspects of the creative brand platform is an iterative process. Typically, creative presents two to three distinct visual directions for the client. We always want to ensure that what we present can be utilized across all the company’s different communications platforms, both print and online.

We’ll pull together all the different components of a brand platform, including a color palette, typography, imagery and photography styles, icon styles, an overall look and feel, and tone and mood to set the foundation for all those different elements.

Then we typically apply all of those elements to a couple of select marketing tools to show proof of concept. Most of the time we’ll choose tools that are print-based, digital-based, and social media-based so that the client can clearly see how each visual concept would look in use. We find it’s easier for clients this way and they are able to say, “Oh, so this is what my business card would look like if we use this palette of choices. This is what my website’s home page would look like if we used this brand platform.”

We do all of this in two or three very different, distinct directions and give the client the ability to “try” things out and see a broad range of the options in action. Then the client will select one of those directions, and creative will go through the necessary refinement until we get brand platform approval.

We always deliver “the logo house.” This includes the logo and the tagline in all of the different files and formats for both print and online use. At the end of the process, the client always has that as an asset.

Creative works in tandem with the content writer so that what is being developed visually resonates with the messaging. We always conduct internal reviews before presenting any work to ensure that it aligns with strategy and we’re showing our best work.

Every client is different – some can be very definitive in their review process, while others need more back-and-forth. Moving each client to a brand that fits them now and for the future is what is most important.

What Timeline Should You Assign to a Rebrand Project?

As you plan for a rebrand you’ll need to factor in time for roll-out. A complete creative brand platform development process could range between 12 and 20 weeks (3-6 months), while a smaller brand refresh could be done in about 4-6 weeks. Much of the timeline will depend on your working group and how quickly and clearly feedback is provided to the creative team.

Next month we’ll explore the difference between a brand refresh and a complete rebranding effort and share stories of two we’ve recently completed.

Ready to rebrand or need a brand refresh? It can be difficult to do the entire process in-house. An outside agency can provide a valuable outside perspective, as well as proven strategy and creative processes to guide you through the project. Give us a call if you’d like to explore how we can help.

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.

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Posted by on Jan 29, 2021 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Tips | 0 comments

The Messaging Platform and Why It’s Essential for Your Marketing

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.

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