Do you have a messaging template/worksheet/framework that you like to use?
There are a number of messaging framework templates available these days. I shared an article that I like to reference (link is below again); I also suggest you check out posts from Andy Raskin (https://andyraskin.com/) who I've worked with previously or check out this recording of Tiffany Spencer doing a talk at Heavybit. It's a handful of years old, but still relevant: https://www.heavybit.com/library/video/getting-to-a-messaging-framework-and-value-prop/.
More than having the right template, however, the critical second piece to the question is about driving home messaging to internal stakeholders. Messaging projects should not be done in a vacuum. As a product marketer, you have the responsibility and superpower to be closest to what's happening in the market, with your buyers, at scale. Take that information, distill it down into insights that are easily digestible and then use that to take your internal stakeholders along for the journey - show them how the messaging you've helped develop is differentiated from your competitors and they will get excited.
Another way to drive messaging home with larger groups is through certifications. Every one of my sales teams has had a certification process and messaging/narrative is definitely a part of that. Align with your sales leadership on this.
This is a tough one for me because I've tried several things in the last few years that DON'T work. I've used several different "message map" formats, and you can find a lot of examples online. The online formats are good, very professional, well-structured. They are useful ways to think about what you are saying & why you're saying it.
But I find that my audiences internally struggle to use them, no matter the exact format. Even reinforcing with video training, quizzes, prizes, etc., hardly moves the needle.
Moving into this year I'm trying 3 new tactics and we'll see if they get more consistent results:
3) Selling paths
1) COLLATERAL. Rather than focus sellers on a formal template, I just tell them to speak from our publicly available materials. For reps, I am advising them to review our website and make sure they have their own way to talk through the message flow there. For our internal business development reps specifically, I'm advising them to refer to a specific piece of market collateral we made last year. This piece contains a complete high-level pitch for the product: leadership proof points, basic message, 6 differentiating features, 3 brief customer stories. So I tell the BDRs to use it as their "cheat sheet". This seems to have worked so far.
2) STORYTELLING. I buy into the idea that people remember a story better than a series of bullet points, and can relay it more convincingly. So I am turning customer stories (and a few made-up stories, think of the "in a world..." movie trailer format) into speeches that reps can give.
3) SELLING PATHS. I am laying out specific paths that tell our sellers a strictly defined way to sell a product through all the steps from engagement to close. Think of an "if they are X persona, say Y; if they ask about A, say B" format. The challenge is not boiling the ocean but so far we're on a reasonable path. I'll report back in 6 months how effective this has been! And if I can I'll share a template.
I find that it depends on the scale of what I’m messaging. If it’s for a small project (a landing page, a video, etc.) I like to go with:
- Key message
- 3 supporting value propositions, with taglines and descriptions
- Supporting points for each of those value props — whether those are unique differentiators, supporting features, and/or reasons to believe/proof points
I like to use the following table structure: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x1catf2yn6zh451/Screen%20Shot%202021-07-14%20at%209.59.54%20PM.png?dl=0
If it’s for something slightly larger — a launch or a campaign, for example — I add on to the above with:
- Target headlines
- Key message per target persona, and/or guidance for how to adapt the messaging to serve different audiences
- For each value prop:
- Key benefits / value delivered
- Key use cases
- Success metrics — what are the key outcomes someone can expect to see? (e.g. higher customer lifetime value)
And if it’s for an entire product line or company, I typically compile messaging frameworks for 3 different stages of the customer journey:
Awareness: Why should customers should evaluate your type of solution? This doesn’t mention your company or product at all, and is designed to inform really top-of-funnel activities or conversations. For example, the messaging framework for Klaviyo’s SMS product talks about why text message marketing is so valuable, and why companies should consider it, but never mentions Klaviyo.
Consideration: Why should your company earn a place in the consideration set? This pays off the awareness messaging above it, explaining how your company/product delivers on the value propositions established in the awareness-level messaging. In the Klaviyo example, the 3 awareness-level value props are ‘deliver a better customer experience,’ ‘double your ROI’ and ‘build direct relationships with your customers.' The consideration-level messaging uses those same value props, but talks about how Klaviyo delivers on them — knowing that those are the criteria that people will use to build their consideration set. It’s like you're giving the prospect permission to say "ok, this company checks those boxes, I’ll learn more."
- Decision: Once you’re in the consideration set, this is where you set yourself apart from competitors and define the purchase decision criteria. This messaging should live at the intersection in the Venn Diagram of: what customers value, what your product/company does uniquely well, and what is competitively differentiated. This is usually the most extensive framework I build out, because it shapes the majority of what goes out into market: website language, sales assets, paid ads, etc.
At Upwork we use a feature messaging brief (or initiative messaging for big projects) to communicate everything from the big picture to the fine details to internal stakeholders. The brief typically contains these sections: Feature description (usually includes screenshots), Target audience, Release and go-to-market plan, Key messaging (2-3 sentence blurb for customers that clearly explains the benefit and if any action is required), Ongoing marketing efforts beyond the GTM, and FAQs.
Through some missteps, about a year ago we also started labeling sections with “Internal” and “External” so it’s very clear what can be copy and pasted for customer consumption and what is for internal context only. Given that Upwork has a marketplace and sales arm, we’re also very clear, when we disseminate the brief, about which stakeholders in the company should be educated about this change or feature.
I love telling a good story...:
Background: For internal stakeholders, you really have to set context/background. We are in the weeds with planning day to day for a specific launch or initiative, but you can't expect internal stakeholders to be the same. To help drive messaging home, set the right context.
What's the problem? Paint the problem that you're trying to solve, but sometimes what works best isn't just a statement of "We are trying to improve the checkout process..." but tell them a story of common problems that users encounter with this issue. i.e. "Pete is in a rush to get this gift to his Mom for Mother's Day, but because he had issues navigating the checkout page, didn't check the right shipping time. Mom didn't receive the gift on time = sad Mom, angry Pete".
Solution: Clear and concise value based messaging helps drive messaging home. Avoid marketing-speak ... that always helps!
I find most messaging frameworks will get the job done here. It's more important to have consistency in using whatever template/framework you ultimately select. This allows your internal stakeholders to really focus on the meat instead of template. This is also very important for our marketing teams whose job is to amplify our message and are building repeatable processes off those templates.
I like to use a 5 question messaging framework:
Who am I?
Who am I for?
Why am I good for you?
Why should you buy me here and now?
I start by answering these questions. I do user research to really get the insights to answer to "who am I for" and "why am I good for you", and I do competitive analysis to understand what differentiates us from other companies and create urgency. The answers to "who am I" and "what am I" revolve around branding and also being able to describe the escence of the feature in just a few word.
With these answers I create a positioning statement, and the two together inform messaging and creative execution.
I share the framework with stakeholders in a meeting and use plenty of customer quotes to help me them visualize and relate to the user. I repeat this again when traing CSAs and AEs.