How to Engineer a B2B Marketing Message That Turns Heads and Opens Wallets Like Clockwork
Do you have an incredible B2B service that you know in your bones will make your customer’s lives easier and more productive?
… But, every marketing campaign you run falls flat on its face right out of the gate.
… So, you’re wracking your brain daily to figure out what gives.
… Which stresses you out and causes more harm than good.
You’re not alone, and chances are good that your brand messaging is to blame for the lukewarm reception in your market.
Luckily, this article is especially for you: the overworked marketing manager, overwhelmed entrepreneur, or ambitious business owner in the B2B professional services space.
In this easy to understand guide to B2B brand messaging, you can expect to learn:
Sluggish revenue. Declining sales. Indifferent customers. Smug competition.
You’re either struggling to break into the market or you’re trying to hold onto the market you already have, but everything is coming up ‘meh’ when you roll the dice.
As a B2B service-based business, winning the hearts and minds of your ideal customer is no walk in the park. In fact, it’s a deathmatch in the Thunderdome: two men enter, one man leaves sort of deal.
B2B marketing is one of the most difficult arenas to compete in because it’s always difficult to nail down how to speak to your customer.
But, what if you could kick up more of the right kind of customer and keep them around longer WITHOUT shelling out more for marketing and advertising?
That’s where having an artfully developed brand message comes in.
This strategy is the glue that holds your marketing together and is your first line of defense when it comes to the ‘WTF’ moment of exactly how to tell your story and get people to listen.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of developing a powerful brand messaging strategy to take your marketing from zero to brand hero, we’ve got to start with the basics first: What it is and why you need it.
First of all; what is Brand Messaging?
So, what exactly is messaging? What makes it up? How do you deploy it?
Slow down, we’ll get to the good stuff in a minute… but…
Simply put, brand messaging is the language and tone that businesses use in their marketing content to describe their services and value proposition.
Basically, how you talk to people and what you have to say.
Obviously, this all sounds pretty important to know and include in all of your marketing.
Why is Brand Messaging Important to B2B Businesses?
While it’s safe to say that brand messaging is important to all businesses, it is especially critical in the B2B space.
This is typically because business owners and marketing managers know the song and dance by heart and are overly cautious when engaging with marketing content.
I.E. They can smell bullshit a mile away.
Not to mention the fact that service-based offerings are completely intangible and very difficult to quantify, even to a savvy businessperson.
So, how do you de-stink your marketing?
By perfecting your marketing message, of course!
But, why bother? Just another thing on your plate among a pile of plates over the course of the week, right?
By now, you’ve probably heard that Content Is King. In fact, I’m pretty sure that every marketer and their mother has been relentless in beating you over the head with that fact.
Here’s the thing; they’re not wrong.
But, they’re only partly right.
Here’s the real lowdown:
🤴 Content is King
👸 Context is Queen
🧙 Messaging is the Royal Advisor that runs the whole damn kingdom from behind the scenes.
That’s right, the biggest factor in successful marketing is ultimately your brand messaging, and the underlying strategy that drives that messaging.
Messaging, in turn, drives every single piece of communication that you put out as a business, including internal memos.
If you’re still doubting the value of a solid message, here are some crazy statistics to keep in mind:
💎 Presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%. (Source: Forbes)
💎 78% of consumers trust brands that produce custom content, compared to generic content. (Source: Crowdspring)
💎 80% of readers think authentic content is the main factor that will drive them to follow or engage with a brand (Source: Pardot)
💎 63% of people say they have engaged with disappointing brand content and 23% say they wouldn’t engage with the brand after that. (Source: Mathew Sweezey)
Plus, here are some solid tangible benefits you can expect from working through the development of your brand messaging strategy:
👉 Understand Your Value – Working through the brand messaging process allows you to pinpoint and understand your unique value proposition.
👉 Refine Your Offer – An understanding of your value and the customer’s needs help you adjust your offer to be more relevant and appealing to the customer.
👉 Bridge the Gap – Instead of burning bridges with customers, you will now bridge the gap between knowledge and genuine understanding.
👉 Control The Narrative – Leverage your unique brand messaging strategy to guide the conversation between your brand and the customer.
👉 Improve Brand Resonance – Maximize the customer perception and sentiment toward your brand using a message that resonates on a personal level.
👉 Stimulate Growth – Come full circle and use your new brand messaging strategy to reel in customers and grow like crazy.
5 Steps to Creating a B2B Brand Messaging Strategy That Doesn’t Suck
1. Identify Your Long-Term Marketing Goals
When it comes to developing a brand message, and any marketing for that matter, the first thing to do is outline your goals as a company and develop with those long-term goals in mind.
I’m not talking about the goal of improving revenue by 3% YoY. That’s not a relevant long-term goal when it comes to your messaging strategy or your marketing. I mean, it’s a great goal…but it doesn’t really correlate to your sales and marketing message.
Some examples of solid long-term marketing goals:
- Increase new user traffic by X%.
- Increase return visits by X%.
- Reduce bounce rate by X%.
- Increase new customer sales by X%.
- Increase customer retention by X%.
- Increase referrals by X%.
These types of goals directly relate to the consistency of your marketing message across the entire customer journey, from strangers to advocates.
Not sure what your goals are?
Start by sitting down and putting together a SWOT analysis and subsequent S.M.A.R.T. goals that directly relate to your marketing efforts.
2. Assess Your Message & Determine Any Opportunities for Improvement
Whether you’re a brand new business or an existing establishment with years in the game, you have already extended a message to your audience, even if it wasn’t intentional.
The thing is; an accidental message is worse than no message.
Brand messaging is at the root of everything that you write and say as a brand, and a poorly articulated message can cause any number of marketing issues across your entire organization.
Messaging is one of the most important aspects of both a branding and marketing strategy because it helps establish and maintain your brand perception in the mind of your audience AND within your own organization.
So, how can you diagnose whether your message is being well received or if it’s a complete flop?
Firstly, you’ll want to take a look at all of the content you’ve been putting out as a brand and assess whether the marketing message that you’re putting out there is resonating with your audience. I.E. Whether they’re picking up what you’re putting down.
When I say all, I mean ALL. You want to review each and every scrap of content you’ve created, like:
- Website Copy (Base pages, landing pages, sales pages, etc.)
- Blog Articles
- Press Releases
- Social Media
- Internal Communications
- Phone Scripts
- Print Ads
- Digital Ads
- The list goes on…
I’ve developed a handy dandy scorecard that will help you dial-in the issues (if any) in your brand messaging strategy by scoring the impact of the message at different points in the customer journey.
Snag a copy of the 6-point Brand Message Scorecard today and shift your marketing message into overdrive:
3. Understand the 4 Key Elements of a Strong Brand Messaging Framework
Before you can even begin to craft a powerful brand messaging framework, you need to understand the four key elements of that strategy: Targeted Personas, Positioning, Brand Voice, and Content Style Guide.
Each element is made up of several smaller facets, and each plays a pivotal role in shaping your marketing message to the masses. I’m going to lay it out in terms that all of our heads, hearts, and stomachs can jive with: the good ol’ PB&J.
Targeted Buyer Personas (or Customer Avatars): The Bread
Knowing who you’re talking to is the FOUNDATIONAL element of good brand messaging. Everything else is built upon and falls in line with what you learn about your ideal customers.
In fact, even the most expertly-crafted ‘why’ statement would fall flat on its face without a keen understanding of the audience.
This is why taking the time to research and develop a strong targeted buyer persona, also known as a customer avatar, is the first step to creating ANY marketing strategy, including your brand messaging strategy.
A targeted buyer persona is a snapshot of your ideal customer that outlines key demographic information as well as decision-making factors like their goals, challenges, and any potential objections that they may have to buying from you.
You’ve heard of ‘pain points,’ right? A well-planned customer avatar is where pain points are both discovered and soothed.
A solid buyer persona should tell you:
Who the customer is. – General demographics like gender, age, profession, income, lifestyle, and marital status.
What their goals are. – Because this is B2B marketing, you’ll want to highlight things that weigh on their mind on a daily basis while they’re at work or driving forces behind their search for a new provider/solution.
What challenges they are facing. – Your customers are businesspeople, too. So, they have their own unique set of work-related challenges that they need to overcome and are looking to you or a competitor to solve for them.
Possible objections or fears they may have. – Price is always a common objection here, but think of other, less obvious objections that might come up in the sales process.
Now, this example is a pretty common and relatively lean customer snapshot used in B2B marketing. But, I encourage you to dig as deep as your data and customer relationships will let you. In this case, you can never have too much.
(Can you ever really have too much of anything? Nevermind, didn’t think that through. Yes, you can)
So, how can you find the information to build an adequate persona?
While much of this information is best gathered from the horse’s mouth, some of it can be gleaned from some careful internet stalking.
- Job Boards
- Testimonials & Reviews
- Social Groups
- Customer Service
- Common Support Issues
The Statement of Value (commonly called the Positioning Statement): The Peanut Butter (I prefer smooth)
The Statement of Value is a beefy component of a strong brand messaging strategy because it defines:
- Who you are.
- What you offer.
- Who you’re selling to.
- What’s in it for them.
However, this information is delivered in a variety of vehicles, including some that you may have heard of:
🔊 Mission Statement – A simple statement about who you help and what you help them achieve.
🔊 Vision Statement – A simple statement about your long-term goals as it relates to your mission statement.
🔊 Positioning Statement – A more robust statement that outlines who you are, what you do, why you do it, who you help, and what you help them achieve.
🔊 Brand Values Statement – Outlines the culture and values that your business lives and works by.
🔊 Elevator Pitch – A very conversational version of your positioning statement.
🔊 Tagline – A quick, memorable version of your mission.
Needless to say, these elements factor into pretty much every single piece of communication that you put out as a brand.
“Effective messaging emerges at the intersection of what your buyers want to hear and what you want to say.” – Adele Revella
Now, you probably already know most of this information or have a lot of opinions, but refining it into something that makes sense to your customer could be the missing link in your marketing message. Because let’s face it; passionately describing what you do to a customer doesn’t always have the impact that you hope. That’s what happens when you’re too smart for your own good.
See…as business owners, marketing managers, and entrepreneurs, we know we’re smart. But, sometimes we aren’t sure how to articulate what we want to say without using jargon or techno-babble that the customer just won’t understand.
Taking the time to sit down and work through your Statement of Value as a team helps simplify a complex subject. Plus, having an outside perspective is MASSIVELY helpful in making it human and conversational.
Your Unique Brand Voice: The Jelly (or jam, if you prefer)
The final element of a powerful brand messaging strategy is your fabulously unique brand voice.
A brand voice is the expression of the people and values behind the brand. Without a brand voice, you’re simply a commodity competing on product price and as we all know, the lowest price often wins but doesn’t necessarily produce loyal customers.
Your voice is not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. It embodies the feeling that your audience gets when interacting with your brand both digitally and in person.
A unique brand voice can easily set your brand apart from the rest of the industry by instilling trust and being relatable. While what you’re saying may not necessarily cause people to remember, how you say it and how it hits them…will.
The most important thing to remember about your brand voice is that it represents the brand, not the person, and therefore cannot come from a single source. To best represent your brand, your voice must be sourced from everyone that deals with your brand, from the customer to the CEO.
You can find great sources for your brand voice in many of the same areas as you found your customer avatar details:
- Testimonials & Reviews
- Social Groups
- Customer Service
- Common Support Issues
Look for commonly repeated adjectives and phrases. These phrases highlight both the Voice of Customer (phrasing that they identify with) and Brand Voice (tones and styles they identify with).
The Content Style Guide: The Butter Knife
You don’t want to cut the crusts off of this key messaging element! While your content style guide is an often overlooked element of a messaging strategy, it really ties it all together.
The style guide is essentially the butter knife that is an organized set of rules for crafting branded copy across all of your channels. It pulls together all of the strategic elements of your Persona, Voice, and Statement of Value into a single, easy to understand document.
A content style guide also includes all baseline style requirements such as:
- AP or Chicago Style Guidelines
- Relevant acronyms.
- Formatting for numbers, time, dates.
- Specific punctuation to use or avoid.
- Hyphenation rules.
- Specific word choices to use or avoid.
- Title formatting.
4. Implement Your New Brand Messaging Strategy
Now that you’ve got a shiny new brand messaging strategy, what the hell do you do with it?
1. First of all, you should crowdsource approval and revisions of the document.
The entire process of developing a message tends to shake a lot of things loose for your team and letting them review the final product will typically result in more enlightened results.
2. Distribute the final strategy documents across your company.
Once the strategy has been revised and finalized, distribute the final copy to everyone within your organization who is responsible for creating content, either directly or indirectly.
Distribute physical or digital copies of the strategy to:
- Marketing Manager
- Social Media Managers
- Call Centers
3. Schedule gradual updates to your existing content.
Now that everyone has a copy of the expected messaging strategy, it’s time to go back through your content audit and update the overall message.
Start with the most critical, customer-facing sources:
- Website Content
- Social Media Content – Both posts and page details.
- Email Templates
- Email and Phone Scripts
- Print Marketing Collateral
- Employee Onboarding/Offboarding Documentation
5. Engage in Ongoing Message Maintenance
A brand messaging strategy is designed to be a flexible, living document. That’s why it’s always smart to reevaluate it every so often as your business and markets evolve.
So, after you and your team have updated all existing content and distributed the strategy to all relevant parties, schedule message maintenance roundups.
During these roundups, you’ll want to repeat your message assessment, make necessary tweaks to your strategy, and repeat steps 1-3 in the implementation phase above.
Think You Have a Good Grip On Your Marketing Message Now?
By now, you should have a pretty solid understanding of the importance of a brand messaging strategy and be well on your way to developing one for your business.
But, as with all other elements of digital marketing, some things can get lost in translation. So, if you have any questions or comments about brand messaging, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll be sure to take a peek and adjust the article as needed or leave you a special comment.
Or, if you totally get the importance of messaging but just don’t have the bandwidth to create one yourself, drop me a line and we’ll chat.