What are good messaging framework resources that you use?
Hmmm … this depends on what you’re launching. The most important things to understand when you’re creating any messaging is who your audience is, what is the benefit to them, and how you'll reach them. This is a great read if you’re just getting started (and something I make my new hires read): https://medium.com/startup-grind/people-dont-buy-products-they-buy-better-versions-of-themselves-2ce85fdb5ff1
In general, the framework is only as important as the message you’re trying to deliver. Play around with what works best for you and the people you work with. Don’t be too beholden to the process.
We’ve developed a few of our own frameworks over the years based on jobs-to-be-done. It’s an approach that runs counterintuitive to classic, persona-based marketing, and does so purposefully. Focusing on customer attributes really means focusing on what you want to sell, rather than what your customers actually need. Those customers come from a variety of backgrounds, industries, and verticals, but their one commonality is their motivation, the Job-to-be-Done.
I had to fundamentally change my approach when I joined Intercom. For me, the easiest way to grok the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology was by watching Clay Christensen’s famous milkshake video and understanding what “job” people buy milkshakes for. You can read more about Jobs-to-be-Done on the Inside Intercom blog here: Focus on the Job, Not the Customer: https://blog.intercom.com/when-personas-fail-you/
And, here’s a recording of a talk and podcast I’ve given in the past about how we apply JTBD to our go-to-market strategy.
How to market the Job-to-be-Done: https://blog.intercom.com/marketing-the-job-to-be-done
How Jobs-to-be-Done Informs Intercom Marketing: https://blog.intercom.com/podcast-intercoms-go-to-market-strategy/
As we continue to grow, our products mature, and we learn more about the problems we’re trying to solve and for whom, we’re constantly adapting our frameworks. As an example, we’ve recently created an internal document called the “Solution Guide” for each of the solutions we take to market. The guide answers the following questions:
- What problem are people looking to find a solution for?
- What will a solution to this problem improve for them?
- Who is looking for it?
- What are the keywords they are using to search for it?
Solution Positioning & Messaging
- What do we call the solution we provide for this problem?
- Why would someone be interested in Intercom’s solution?
- Which Intercom products are required to solve this problem?
- How does Intercom solve this problem?
- Which must-have features for this problem does Intercom have?
- Why would someone want to use Intercom to solve this problem?
- Who is successfully using Intercom to solve this problem?
In addition, as we think about how to best position ourselves against alternative solutions (products) to the problems we solve, we make use of the 4 Forces model. You can learn more about that and our approach to comparative marketing here: The right way to challenge your competitors - Inside Intercom: https://blog.intercom.com/comparative-marketing/
Of course, there are many other, more established frameworks available to you. One thing I have heard good things about is Pragmatic Marketing (https://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/). My advice would find a framework that feels good and adapt it to your business because everyone is different. :)
We think of messaging in three tiers and have different frameworks for each. Product marketing usually collaborates with PR and brand for Level 0 and Level 1, while we own Level 2.
Level 0 Messaging: Highest-level company messaging, found in press releases, first sales decks slides, the “about us” section
- Mission — Your battle cry; why you wake up and work every day
- Vision — Where you’re going if your mission is successful, aspirational and inspirational
- Audience — Who you sell to (be as specific as possible)
- Key Values — Three key value propositions that you provide for your audience (should focus on differentiators to your business)
- Category — The market category you fit into (or are creating)
- Description — Incorporates these elements into a short description or elevator pitch. This is often thought of as your “boilerplate.” Everyone at your company should be able to recite this and be on the same page. (This is easier said than done)
Level 1 Messaging: Highest product-level messaging, found on the website, sales decks, analyst briefing decks
- The flawed way the world works today
- The consequences of this approach
- The market trend making these consequences dire now
- The world after your product
- The benefits of your approach
- Customer proof
Level 2 Messaging: Lower-level product messaging, found on per-product web pages, one-sheets, case studies, and in product-focused demos
- Product name
- Solution family
- Audience (company size, roles)
- Customer current approach and problems
- Negative business consequences
- New product approach and benefits
- Outcomes with new product
- Use cases
- Customer anecdotes
A couple to try out. Here’s a combined messaging source doc that I use every time I start working with one of our portfolio companies. Inherited from Citrix days and then adapted over time. Hope it’s helpful!
The second one is one I've been working on for a year and am sharing with the Sharebird community before publishing for feedback. The core idea is that I've that that a lot of messaging focuses too much on product/benefit and not enough on fitting the narrative into a broader context of how a customer views their world, their priorities, and setting the table for the new world. Interestingly, there are all kinds of tools for salespeople to essentially become a consultative partner to their customer - Command of the Message, Challenger Selling, etc. As marketers, we don’t really have a single framework to help us build a narrative in the way that these sales frameworks do.
The net of the issue is that we don’t stay focused on answering the 3 big ‘why' questions that a rep needs to answer to close a sale: 1) why buy anything, 2) why buy now, and 3) why buy you. The idea is that if your messaging/story can answer these three questions better than your competition, customers will buy from you.
Over the past couple years, I’ve been working with a couple dozen startups here at Unusual Ventures and see the same problem at play with our founders. So, I wrote a new messaging guide that we’re going to be publishing (for free) called “Three Why Storytelling”. It’s a simple storytelling framework that nets out 6 steps to crafting a story that wins customers:
Why Buy Anything
1. Start with an authentic founder insight
2. Align on shared view of impact
Why Buy Now
3. Connect problem to business urgency
4. Show current solutions to be ineffective
Why Buy You
6. Frame new approach to solve the problem
7. Prove unique offering and value
Is this rocket science? No. You’ve probably seen each of these concepts in various forms all over. But this framework strives to simplify and codify the building blocks of a story that, when laid out together, form an airtight, irrefutable narrative that is purpose-built to lead customers to your solution as the best choice.
By the way, if I had to pick one ‘Why’ that is most underrepresented in messaging, it is most definitely Why Buy Now. We are conditioned to think in problem/solution terms. But the reality is that there are two types of problems - big problems (we’re moving from on-premises software to SaaS) and urgent problems (my business units are going around my IT team and signing up for SaaS apps like Dropbox and Concur, cutting us out of our core function!). Big problems are market-focused while urgent problems are customer-focused. Companies that obsess on Why Buy Now typically have a solutions marketing mentality that starts with the customer initiative and works back to product vs. the other way around.
Here’s the draft .pdf of 3 Why Storytelling. Would love any feedback!
There are a lot of messaging frameworks out there. If you are on the hunt for templates, check out April Dunford's website (Obviously Awesome is a must-read of Product Marketers) or the Product Marketing Alliance.
In general, a messaging doc should be the single source of truth and act as the building block for any external-facing language used in your marketing. Also, it's likely that you won't always be there to walk folks through the document, so it should be as clear and self-explanatory as possible.
With that in mind, I like to include the following in a messaging document:
- Customer insights
- Product details
- Value proposition
- Key messaging idea
- Key benefits
- Dos and Don'ts (usually informed by your legal team)
Andy Raskin broke down our Zuora messaging framework perfectly: The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen
This messaging framework we use has 5 elements:
- Name a Big, Relevant Change in the World
- Show There’ll Be Winners and Losers
- Tease the Promised Land
- Introduce Features as “Magic Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promised Land
- Present Evidence that You Can Make the Story Come True
Another good messaging framework Andy Raskin breaks down well is a keynote by Elon Musk
Elon’s framework also has 5 elements:
- Name the enemy
- Answer “Why now?”
- Show the promised land before explaining how you’ll get there
- Identify obstacles—then explain how you’ll overcome them
- Present evidence that you’re not just blowing hot air
At Zuora, we use a version of both of these frameworks in all our messaging.
- For [target customers]
- Who [statement of need of opportunity],
- The [product name]
- Is a [product category]
- That [statement of key benefit].
- Unlike [primary competitive alternative],
- Our product [statement of primary differentiation].
ELEVATOR PITCH FRAMEWORK
A elevator pitch has 4 sentences:
- What the customer is trying to do
- Highlight the pains of trying to get there
- Why this pain is happening
- How we help
Good overall book Kyle Christensen, Zuora’s CMO, recommended to me is “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. Lots of good frameworks on making sure your ideas stick! I read it 10 years ago and I'm actually reading it again right now.
The way to improve messaging is to break it down into five components, measure, and work on each separately:
↑ Clarity (I get it)
↑ Relevance (it’s for me, helps with my specific challenges)
↑ Value (I want the promises)
↑ Differentiation (I get how this is different)
↓ Friction (resistance, doubts, anxieties)
With messaging, simpler is better. Messaging should be crisp and devoid of jargon. There are three resources I use, and the resource would depend on the project, e.g. company messaging vs. product messaging:
- Mother story: write a 3-4 narrative about your company. What is the change that inspired its creation and your vision for the future state? I am a huge fan of this because you can tackle narrative, mission, and values at once.
- I also use a "Mad Lib" format that many PR/comms people use:
- _____ is a _____ (your company name, what you are/do)
- for _________ (who is it for)
- unlike ______, _______, _______ that only offer ______ (competitors, your takedown of them)
- And then a simple matrix like my buddy Myk Pono posted on Medium.
Pro tip: Keep your messaging in a Google doc or similar. Note the date you've made updates and where that text is located.
The positioning framework I use was developed by my partner and co-founder when he was at Microsoft in the mid-80s. After he became a consultant I engaged him extensively over a two-year period during which we positioned more than 15 B2B software products, fine-tuned the framework and continued to do so once we founded Messages that Matter in early 2001.
The framework is simple, logical and helps you create the ideal positioning statement for your B2B product. All you do is answer seven questions outlined below, and test options using a set of criteria to determine the positioning statement that best makes your product stand out from the competition.
A positioning statement is a short, declarative sentence that expresses a benefit that solves a pressing target audience problem. It becomes the theme for all your marketing communications so getting it right is critical.
Here are positioning statement examples:
· Microsoft® Forecaster is the fast, affordable way for you to gain control of budgeting and planning.
· Kit Software helps maximize the value of your commodity trading operations.
· Messages that Matter works with you to create a position that makes it easier for buyers to buy.
You’ll be able to answer the seven questions with confidence by doing your research. You’re ready to get started once you know your target audience’s most pressing problems, how your competitors are positioned and challenges in the sales cycle.
The process begins by analyzing how prospects might respond to your offering. The answers to four fundamental questions provide this analysis.
1. Who is the target buyer?
You’ll answer the rest of the questions from the perspective of the No. 1 target buyer you’ve selected. Remember a tie for the No. 1 spot will muddle the rest of your positioning effort.
2. What problem does our offering solve?
You can’t successfully position your offering unless you know the answer to this basic question: “What is my target prospect’s most pressing problem?” Notice that this question asks about THE problem, not problems. Although it may be tempting to think of your offering as a Swiss Army Knife, don’t, because it’s doomed to fail.
3. How do prospects solve that problem today?
If your offering solves a bona fide problem, then customers already have a solution. You need to know how they currently solve the problem.
4. Why is our offering a better solution to that problem?
Your goal is to position your offering as a better solution to an existing problem. Remember that cutting edge technology often fails to provide a better solution for more than a small fraction of a target market. Admitting to this requires honesty.
Using your knowledge of the prospect’s key problem and your product’s ability to respond to that problem, you can categorize your offering. Categorization enables potential buyers to quickly understand how they might benefit from your offering. The following “what” questions help you converge on a potential positioning statement:
5. What is your product? (Product category)
B2B prospects need to recognize your product category, otherwise confusion reigns. Ideally, you can place your product into an existing category or one that represents a natural evolution.
6. What does your product do? (Product description)
A short description of your product’s functionality can help prospects imagine how people in their organizations might use the product. But a description alone won’t get to the heart of the matter.
7. What does it deliver? (a benefit and our product position)
Marketers frequently make a critical error by confusing what a product or solution does with what it delivers. Naturally, prospects need to know the advantages of your offering. But they won’t purchase until they can understand the benefits. Why make prospects figure it out for themselves? Make it short, simple and sweet — by telling them in your positioning statement.
After working through the framework described above, you will have developed several potential positioning statements. At this stage, four criteria can help you assess the viability of the various statements. For each statement, ask if it is:
This assessment helps you identify the positioning statement that will best stimulate market awareness and demand. Let’s consider these criteria in more detail.
A positioning statement must respond to a prospect’s primary problem. By doing so, the statement creates confidence in your ability to offer a desirable solution, as well as a sense of urgency in the prospect’s mind.
You can test the importance of a potential positioning statement by asking a simple question “So what?” If the answer produces a higher-level benefit statement, you haven’t yet found the most important benefit.
If you continue asking “so what?” you will ultimately arrive at one of three benefits. For business-to-business offerings, these are volume, share and profit. Since these benefits may not be believable, drop back to the answer to the previous “So what?” question.
An effective positioning statement recognizes prospects' inherent skepticism by avoiding exaggerated or meaningless claims. Effective communications “ring true” by referencing existing market conditions; they support your company’s brand identity and signal that you understand the prospect’s concerns.
Positioning always occurs in a competitive environment. Therefore, a positioning statement must state a benefit made by no other competitor. When you make a unique claim, two results occur. First, you raise a significant barrier to competition. Second, you increase the desirability of your offering. These two outcomes can significantly impact sales volume, market share, and profitability.
A positioning statement provides a foundation for changing market behavior through marketing communications (e.g., advertising, website, public relations and direct marketing). Therefore you need to be able to use it in all types of marketing communications and sales presentations. You can create sample marketing materials (press releases, e-mail blasts, website content, etc.) to test for usability.
Once you have answered the seven questions, and come up with several positioning statement options, use the four criteria to decide the best option. The winner is a positioning statement that is unique, useable, believable and important – it expresses a benefit that solves one of the target buyer’s most pressing problems.
I usually have one or several resources of the following resources open when I'm developing a new messaging strategy.
1. Doug Kessler's "Irresistable Content for Immovable Prospects " [Slideshare]
2. Andy Raskin's "Promised Land " pitch [Medium]
I also developed my own product messaging framework which I use to audit/teardown existing a company's existing messaging.
I would recommend using it if you know your messaging isn't working but you can't really pinpoint where or why. It's been a useful way for me to evaluate where a client's messaging falls apart, and it's definitely something you can bring a cross-functional team together to do on your own.