What is your brand message to the marketplace? You can probably describe your product or service, but what about your connection with the customer? A lot of brands fall short when it comes to developing a brand message that describes their reason for being.
In my experience, I’ve learned that the best messages are those that most closely align with your audience’s needs and desires. You have to know what your relevancy is in the marketplace—and understand what messaging your audience is willing to accept from you.
The key is to place the value on your audience—not the brand, product or service. This is an easy mistake I see many marketers make all too often when starting the process of developing key messages.
Here are some of the top considerations I use with my teams when developing brand messages for today’s ever-changing marketing landscape.
Be open to hearing others’ opinions.
Throughout this process, you have to be willing to let go of paradigms. Start fresh. View your brand through the lens of your audience. How do you do that? It’s certainly easier said than done. Listen to your customers and partners, but don’t ignore your internal stakeholders. Ask questions and be willing to go where their conversation leads you. This is where the role of an agency can be particularly helpful, because it provides trusted counsel, honest opinions and validation to help back you up with your peers.
Understand your marketplace position.
Before you can define your brand, you have to understand the market. What are your obstacles? What are your points of distinction? A colleague once told me, if you don’t have a hammer, then you’ve got to have a sharp nail. Meaning, if your product or service doesn’t have any clear distinction in the marketplace, then your creative and messaging has to be spot-on to resonate with the audience.
From start to finish, a messaging development project can take anywhere from two to six months, depending on the complexity and audience. Try to think of this undertaking as pre-production. Once your messaging is aligned, your entire creative process will go much smoother.
Anticipate how messaging could impact business strategy.
Message development research findings often force internal discussions at a higher level about product and overall business strategy. If you’re successful in bringing knowledge, it’s going to empower your teams to do more dimensional work. Think about the impact and value that comes from having your sales and marketing teams aligned in a message that speaks directly to what your audience wants to hear from you.
Remember to refresh.
When you’re developing your message, consider your audience not only in the immediate period, but also try to forecast for the short term and long term. We like to think that if you develop messaging that truly sticks with your audience, it can last for up to 18 months, depending on the industry. Once you have your starting place, it’s also much easier to update your messaging as products change and markets evolve.
Message development is certainly hard work. There’s no cookie-cutter approach that can be applied to every industry, product and service. Each project has its own unique consideration set. But that’s also what makes the effort and the results so rewarding.
My last piece of advice for marketers who are considering a message development project is to make sure you have senior-level executives conducting your research. Just like I don’t believe in cookie-cutter approaches, I also don’t believe valuable research can be found from a scripted conversation. You need to know which questions to ask and where to guide the conversation to build trust and rapport with the audience you’re seeking to learn from. After all, that’s the key to developing relationships with your audience through your marketing messages, too.
Caryn Herder is the director of strategic planning at CMD, a West Coast marketing agency based in Portland. www.cmdagency.com.