Market research is a fundamental first step when starting a business. The same holds true for message development that includes value propositions and positioning statements. Yet so many businesses don’t have a messaging framework in place to use as a guideline. If you don’t do your research—assumptions and guesswork will fail the process—if not the entire business.
Staying on a consistent message is always a goal yet also an after-thought. Until it’s realized a customer isn’t understanding what your offering can deliver resulting in a lost sale because your company’s offering wasn’t clearly defined, or a company spokesperson’s quote is off the mark in an article. It happens. While marketing teams can develop and enforce messaging standards, the execution by companies can go awry if everyone isn’t on the same page, interfering with market perception of your brand, company growth, and profit.
Missing the Mark On Your Message Can Be Damaging
The concept of messaging and positioning is not a theory—it’s a reality. If your company has buyer personas that require different positioning statements on how you solve their problems, and most do, it’s not ideal to mimic the value you deliver as a blanket message.
Businesses run their operations based on the value they deliver customers by way of product or services. This makes it all the more necessary to communicate how and why to support that value to resonate across buyer personas to inform, influence and drive a call-to-action. Businesses also rely on marketing and public relations people who can think out of the norm to help develop and distribute compelling messaging and positioning, while also enforcing and guiding how, where and when to communicate it both externally and internally. This, however, only can be achieved if staff is willing to follow the guidelines by truly understanding the importance of staying on a consistent message, and the consequences that come with it if they don’t.
Most interchange the terms value propositions, positioning and messaging—or simply confuse them all together. To help you better understand the differences, I’ve outlined a brief overview below of each:
Value Propositions clearly state how your product or service solves a customer’s problems or improves (or relieves) their situation for the better. It delivers specific benefits and unique points (differentiators) to inform and peak interest in why they should buy from you. Or at least add you to the shortlist during the buyer’s journey. You can learn the steps in developing value propositions in a recent blog post.
Positioning reflects as a subset to value propositions, meaning it’s more targeted at communicating specific marketing messages aimed at very specific target audiences. There can be multiple positioning statements for a single value proposition. Various criteria included are buyer personas, products/services (what it is, does, solves, benefits achieved), targeted industries and competitive differentiation, for example.
Personas must be defined to develop true positioning statements because you’re tailoring to their specific needs and situations. It’s important to help them understand why your product or service is best suited over others in the market. And emphasize the benefits that can be acheived, as relative to them, that will make their lives easier.
Messaging reflects as a subset of positioning. Meaning it translates positioning statements into key message points that speak directly to your buyer personas in a compelling, informative way to resonate, educate and motivate them to buy from you by transparently sharing how you can help them overcome their challenges or solve their problem. Messaging also helps set the stage of your content strategy—blogs, email marketing, inbound marketing campaigns—and the tailored messages that come with it. From an internal standpoint, messaging can be also created to communicate with employees or prepare for a crisis.
All in all, messaging is a framework that serves as a corporate guideline that can be used by employees, departments, executive leaders, product managers, sales teams and even the receptionist, in addition to the marketing team who leads the initiative to begin with.
Value propositions, positioning statements and messaging are going to always evolve, as your business does. As long as you have a solid framework in place to reference—the easier it is to fine tune and stay ahead of the game.