Too. Many. Messages! How to Use a Messaging Hierarchy to Assemble Buyer Messaging
- Buyers have a lot of needs that messaging may need to address
- Compiling a unique messaging set for each buyer can be overwhelming and time-consuming
- Build messages at different levels to give your organization a matrix to choose from for each buyer
As a portfolio marketer, I’ve been asked many times to build messaging. Sometimes a sales rep is going after a client in a new segment like financial services and wants material that talks about how great we are at compliance. Sometimes I’m asked to build messaging to go after a specific geography, like when we’re entering a new market. And sometimes I’m asked to tell a story about how our full set of offerings meets a higher-level need than just the main product we’re selling. Each time, I have to decide what messaging can be reused and what we need to build anew. And each time, the rest of the team starts to think that all these different messages are getting too complicated to use as they try to put together the pieces like a puzzle.
When B2B companies build messaging, they often find that messaging development quickly gets complex as they craft a specific message for each buyer and each offering. It’s easy to give up and fall into a trap by creating generic messaging to use with all buyers. But knowing a specific issue exists in a region, an industry, or a buying center and messaging directly to it can spell the difference between boring, product-focused messaging and messaging that really resonates with buyers.
Of course, building these different messages isn’t always simple. Many organizations have a lot of products and operate in a number of regions. Developing a unique message for every combination becomes practically impossible. What’s missing is a way to build messaging at different levels that can be assembled and applied as needed. A robust messaging hierarchy can help organizations identify the different levels of messaging required and provide a framework for choosing and deploying those messages on the basis of who’s being targeted.
The first step in building a hierarchy is determining which levels we need. For example, if we’re targeting a buyer in Sweden, we know we may want to create a level of messaging that addresses issues Swedish buyers often face. If the buyer is in a certain industry, like financial services with its peculiarities in regulatory compliance, we’ll likely have specific messages for that level as well. And, of course, if the buyer has needs that can be addressed by our complete portfolio of products, we may develop a messaging level for the portfolio. The key is to identify which levels are necessary to guide what we build.
The second step is determining the messages that should be activated in the buyer’s journey. Just because we’ve built messaging at every level doesn’t mean the buyer needs to hear it over and over. Understanding the needs of the buyer can help us figure out which level is needed and when it is needed in the buying process. For example, early in the buying process, if a buyer cares about the provider’s experience, then a message highlighting that experience in the buyer’s region or country can help convince that buyer of the provider’s long-term support. When a buyer is drafting a short list of providers to consider and thinking about future needs, the portfolio-level messaging can be particularly powerful to show the differentiation needed to get on that short list. When a buyer is making the final selection and thinking carefully about what provider is best to do business with, then delivering messaging with values, mission, and purpose can give that buyer confidence that he or she is making the right decision. Not every message shows up in every buyer interaction, but by creating a matrix of these messages, organizations can help everyone that’s touching the buyer — sales reps, demand marketers, field marketers, content creators — understand what messages should be used to make a positive impact.
To learn more about how to build and deploy your own messaging hierarchy, join Barbara Winters and me in October at this year’s Forrester SiriusDecisions Summit EMEA for our session “Messaging Hierarchies: Creating a Messaging Ladder From Product to Portfolio to Corporate.” We look forward to seeing you there!