Would it be young and trendy, mature and sophisticated, elegant and chic, or fun and sporty? It’s an interesting question to ask and you’ll often find the company you’d like to be is nothing like the company you are. Don’t worry, many companies are in the same boat, but you can become the company you want to be, it just takes focus and a little effort.
Consider some of the global brands. Virgin is a messaging machine – definitely a young and trendy person, or perhaps adventurous and dynamic? Or out of the box and doesn’t follow the norm? I personally admire this brand tremendously and appreciate how true it has remained to its message for many years.
I watched a video of Richard Branson speaking in Malaysia recently. Before he came out there was a corporate video. The terms and phrases that appeared on the screen were:
- Be different
- Challenge the norm
- Amazing achievements
- Love the limelight
- We’re about people
- Champion our customers
- We innovate
- Do business like there is no tomorrow
- “Screw it Let’s Do it”
And it’s all true right? Virgin embodies these words.
Let’s look at another example – Microsoft. They started down the consumer path, have grown across all sectors of the business community, and have been a leading business for the last 20 years – but what sort of a person would they be? A slightly nerdy but successful person usually dressed in chinos and a company polo shirt? Would HP be a bit dowdy? IBM all business suits and serious? Apple - a person in the prime of their life, cool and funky? Accenture a twin set and pearls with a plumb in their mouth kind of person?
You get the gist. All companies have an image, a brand, the way the world views them, and the question is – how do you want to be viewed?
It all begins with your messaging and positioning. This is the words you use to describe your company and products/services. It is both the written and the verbal words attributed to your organisation, and if you get this right, you’ll really be talking business.
Many companies evolve over time, starting with a clear direction that changes rapidly in the first few years of operation – this evolution is important as you refine your business plan, get in line with your customers’ needs and create a successful business that meets a requirement in the market. Alternatively, many businesses reach a point where they need to change their perception in the market as they have been around for a long time, and as the market they serve is changing and evolving, so they must keep abreast of changes in a rapidly modernising world.
You cannot remain static for too long in any business sector. Change, evolution and progress is the order of the day – so are you leading the pack or following?
The importance of messaging
The message you take to market about your company has never been more important. It is no longer about marketing professionals getting the word out in a controlled way. With the advent of social media, every person in your company is taking your companies’ message to market. Your spokespeople include every employee with access to the Internet, and every influencer who has an opinion about your company or the products/services you deliver. Being clear about the type of company you are is more vital than ever before, something many companies are struggling to grasp right now.
Most companies go to market long before they have a consistent message. The reality is, in the excitement of launching a new business; executives just want to sing it from the roof tops. It’s an exciting time, so it’s fair enough. However, the challenge is most executives think they can talk about their company because it was their passion that got the company to where it is today. That’s when you’ve got to step back and say – am I communicating in a way that makes sense to everyone I need to influence? Now that is the challenge.
Many C-level executives I have worked with have brilliant ideas, but are unable to talk about these ideas in a crisp, clear way that ensures complete understanding of their value. As a simple guide, if you can’t explain your business and/or product/services in a way your mother understands, then why presume anyone else will? You must communicate across multiple audiences – customers, prospects, partners, employees, the media, analysts, etc… and your message must resonate with all the target audiences and be relevant to each of their needs.
What are the benefits of effective messaging?
- Provides a core foundation for spokespeople
- Presents a unified front to the market
- Clarity and consistency internally and externally
- Extends beyond the media and enforces credibility
- Provides measurability – is the message resonating with your target audiences?
- Helps you to differentiate and create a competitive hurdle
- Consistency is key and helps to maintain context
- Credibility and validation of your company
- And after a merger or acquisition, it’s a valuable process to get all companies’ aligned
Messaging needs to have an overall impact, but the next layer is to target your message for each audience. For example, when communicating with customers, focusing on their needs and problems, as opposed to what you can do for them is more important. You’ll always have a chance to tell them what you can do for them, but demonstrating that you understand their business and the challenges they face is what really opens the door to sales. So remember, in customer communications, show them you understand how your solutions will make their lives easier. It is the same for business partners – how can you make them more successful? That is the cornerstone of all communication with partners and if you communicate with this vital audience correctly, it will gain loyalty, and by extension, sales.
In all messaging strategy there is a simple guideline to follow – your messaging to market must be compelling, credible and consistent.
Simple objectives around defining your company’s messaging include:
- Formulate top level messages that go down through all levels of your company – executive team, sales team, marketing, product development, and admin – remember, everyone has a voice these days
- Define your overall messaging and then separate messages by the different audiences you need to influence
- Get everyone in the company brought into the messaging to ensure they are all “singing from the same hymn sheet”
- Messaging should be seen as the precursor to formulating your strategy for going to market – if you don’t define exactly how you position your company in advance, how can you go-to-market effectively?
It’s important stuff
I can’t emphasize enough how important messaging is. Great messaging means that you will be understood in the market. Great messaging means you’ll have a consistent message circulating out there in the stratosphere. Great messaging means your target audience understands what you can offer them because you’ve tailored it in a way that meets their needs. Great messaging defines the personality of an organisation – remember the Virgin example?
- A clearly defined corporate and product messages ensure that a company is represented accurately, consistently and in the best possible way
- If agreed messages resonate with customers, influencers and partners, then your messaging is strong and will be reinforced by external audiences
- Once a messaging hierarchy is defined, the messages will be threaded through every aspect of communication – internal and external – this includes items such as sales collateral, presentations, marketing collateral, press releases, Web content and now, social media content
As a final point, here is a typical influencer diaspora. These are the audiences you need to reach and all require their message in a different way to meet different needs:
Most companies need to reach all of these audiences, however if you are, for example, a manufacturing company in the civil engineering products field, your audience extends to specifiers, industry experts, testing institutions and academics. Every business sector has different audiences to influence so don’t forget the other important people that need to be in this circle.
Additionally, in the specific case of social media, your influencer circle grows even more. If people are writing blogs that impact your sales, make sure you appropriately share your message with them. When I say appropriately, it is no longer about press releases and brochures – make sure the right people in your organisation are talking to them, online, bringing up relevant topics on discussion boards/open forums and gently get your corporate message across. But that’s a whole other discussion.
The fundamental goal is get your messaging and positioning right before you go-to-market and you will know success.
I’ll talk more about how you can do this in another blog.
In the meantime, if you’re wondering what sort of person SAJE is? We’d consider ourselves honest, trustworthy and loyal, but definitely not conventional, no no no. What you see is what you get, but we’re nice people with it, just trying to live life in a different and less conventional way than the norm – that about sums SAJE up.