Let me answer that question with another question.
Do you want to become first to your customer’s mind when they have a problem you can solve?
If so, then you will want to fine-tune your brand messaging.
Brand messaging is the art of consistently sharing your brand’s promise.
Brand messaging happens every place your startup writes a word your customers read. Or for that matter, speak a sentence for them to hear. This includes:
Get the picture?
Every time you communicate, you share your brand message.
The best brand messaging resonates with customers in a way that results in a conversion.
That conversion may not be a sale. Your customer might:
So what creates powerful brand messaging?
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Does your brand messaging create that warm, fuzzy feeling that “this speaks to me?”
If not, then usually your brand messaging failed because:
Want to help your customers find the right elements of your brand messaging? Then you will want to create a brand messaging framework.
Before creating your brand messaging framework, let’s look at the brand messaging hierarchy.
In summary, your brand messaging should use...
To start crafting your brand messaging, you need to talk to your customers to get the voice of the customer.
Main article: Voice of the Customer
All effective brand messaging begins by talking to every customer persona.
Every culture has a particular way of speaking. And if you can speak the customer’s language, you can leverage the in-group bias to your favor.
For example, let’s say we’re playing Ultimate Frisbee. Someone might say, “That guy poorly hucked the Frisbee because he ignored his teammate yelling ‘chili’ and threw a blade-y hammer on impulse.”
If you’re not into Ultimate Frisbee, that sentence may sound like gibberish.
But Ultimate Frisbee players know what that sentence means. As a result, they would feel a connection with the person because they speak the language of their tribe.
Your customer wants to feel like you get them. To do this, you need to learn their language. In business terms, you are finding the voice of the customer (VoC) and using the VoC to shape your brand messaging.
Every time you talk to a customer, write down the exact words and phrases they use. You will use those words when crafting your brand messaging.
What should you ask your customers on the phone?
That depends on what your goals are for your brand messaging.
Let’s say you want to improve your content marketing strategy. You might ask questions like:
Again, you will want to put this information into your VoC spreadsheet. Each question should have its own separate column.
Your business goals will shape the questions you ask.
You should not ask a customer a question unless it will inform your strategy.
During the interview, you should write down everything your customer says to you. Then put this information into a spreadsheet. If you were to interview me and ask these five questions, here is what you would get:
To get your own Voice of the Customer (VoC) Spreadsheet, click here. Make your own copy by clicking File -> Make a copy.
You will want to use this information to shape your brand messaging.
Once you have captured your VoC, you can use it to shape your brand messaging.
The goal of this step is:
How do you find topics from the VoC data?
Let’s take a look.
In my VoC notes, an article I read was "Get Backlinks With Product-Led Strategy." What topics could you pull from this information? (Source)
Perhaps I want to learn more about the marketing channel, engineering as marketing. Or maybe my interest is in SEO. Or both.
The best way to get answers to those questions is to ask me specifically during the interview. If you forgot to do so, you often can send an email to the customer asking for details.
Here’s another example that includes emotional messaging.
The third question was, “What is one thing you would like to learn more about regarding product marketing?” I answered, “How do I do press outreach when promoting a product?”
The follow-up question was, “How have you tried to do press outreach in the past that didn't work?”
My answer was, “I've done some press outreach with various degrees of success. I've been interviewed for Inc, Entrepreneur (x2), and HuffPo. I've been quoted in several other places too. That said, I haven't found a consistent system.”
And what was the outcome I was looking for? “1) Help clients get customers through the press. 2) Get links for SEO (I want to get more organic traffic). 3) Use press as social proof.”
So what would be the messaging that would capture my attention? A system someone created to consistently get press.
Consider how you might apply this information to your brand messaging if you were a press agency:
How do you take your brand messaging and create your positioning?
Main article: Brand Positioning
As stated earlier, you want to ask your customers questions related to your business goals.
To determine your brand positioning, I recommend asking your customers questions like:
With this data, you will want to examine your competitors to see how to position yourself differently than them.
Main article: Competitive Intelligence
Write out every competitor you know in your field. Then list out every competitor your customer told you in the interviews. Finally, you can use Google Autosuggest to find competitors.
To find competitors using Google, type in your biggest competitor + vs. Then type in a letter of the alphabet. Each competitor that pops up is a potential competitor.
If you are creating a competitor to Zoom Video Conferencing, you can find competitors like this:
You will want to be careful with this approach.
As you might notice, “Zoom vs Avengers” will bring up superhero battles. And “Zoom vs at home whitening” will bring up results for teeth whitening. Last I checked, video conferencing has not added in teeth whitening to their product.
“Our product is like Zoom video conferencing for teeth whitening. You can video chat with customers while you get your teeth cleaned.” (Image Source)
After listing each competitor, write the meta-title and the main header is on their homepage. It will look something like this:
Now compare your competitors positioning to what your customers value about your business. For this example, let’s say you are creating video software for remote teams.
How do you know what position will resonate the most with your audience? By gauging market demand.
You have qualitative data from your customer interviews. Now you need to make sure there is demand in your market for the position you want to capture.
You can use a tool like Pollfish to survey your market. Alternatively, you can use organic traffic as an estimate of market demand. (Source)
Let’s say people loved using my video conference tool for their remote meetings. Looking for relevant keyword phrases, I find the following:
To find these keywords, Google the phrases your customers gave you. Take a few articles listed in the search results and put them into an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush. Then find out what keywords that page ranks for. You can learn more about the process of finding keywords here.
You can then combine keywords to create your positioning, such as “video conference calls for your daily stand up meetings.”
Keep in mind: When choosing your position, it’s important to balance:
You could position yourself as the “free video conferencing” product. This keyword phrase has a lot of market demand (5,400 searches per month). But then it will be harder to become first-to-mind because you’ll directly compete with major brands like Skype.
Main article: Value Proposition
The goal of creating your value proposition is two-fold:
After interviewing 20-30 customers, you will start to see patterns in their answers.
Count the number of times a topic comes up in your VoC data. The more you see something repeated, the more popular this topic is to your audience. From this information, you can begin to prioritize your brand messaging.
Finding these patterns can be tough because people might describe the same problem in different ways.
For example, I want to learn about press outreach to promote a product. But someone else might say they want to learn how to do a product launch. A product launch often involves reaching out to the press. There’s a possibility I may also want to read an article about a product launch.
Once you have your value proposition shaped, you will use it to create your unique selling proposition.
Main article: Unique Selling Proposition
You’ve chosen your position in the market. Is that all you need to become the #1 in your market?
That depends on how mature your market is. The newer the market, the easier it will be to out-market the competition and become the first to mind.
The more mature the market, the more valuable it will be to create a unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP will become your extra edge to rise above the noise and become first to mind.
Consider the remote video conference market.
If you are creating “video conference calls for your daily stand up meetings,” you don’t have much competition.
As of right now, I’m aware of two competitors. They and their positioning statements are:
Since this is a newer market, you are directly competing against two products.
With a marketing agency that can get you results, Tatsu will be easy to beat.
Why? Because it’s hard to remember that name, which is critical when naming your company. Even worse, they may think of Tatsu, the rollercoaster ride at Six Flags in California. (Source). Or if potential customers come from Russia, they may associate this company with Tatsu the movie (Source).
What should you do if you’re competing in a more competitive market?
Create a USP. Your USP is a clear statement that:
In other words, it refines your positioning statement into a specific promise.
Main article: Go-To-Market Strategy
Let’s say your goal is to create blog articles from your VoC data.
One outcome I listed in the VoC Spreadsheet was, “I want to help clients get customers through the press.”
You can then write an article using the exact language I used. Some phrases which stand out include:
If you wrote an article titled, “Press Outreach: 215 Customers + 315% More Organic Visitors,” I would read it. And so would other people like me.
In the article, you could then address:
These three areas all relate to the answers I gave in my mock interview.
If you chose to create a USP, you should add this to your article as well. This reinforces your brand message to potential customers.
Need some inspiration of companies who have done brand messaging right?
Here are some examples of companies that fine-tuned their brand messaging down to the USP.
The clothing and retail company Zappos offers products “powered by service.” They then added a USP: “Free shipping and returns within 365 days.” This promise became the hallmark of customer service for this $2 billion brand.
In 1973, Domino's Pizza guaranteed you would receive your pizza in 30 minutes of placing an order, or the pizza was free. Is it any surprise that Domino’s continues to be the market leader?
Cemex, the world's third-largest cement company, once looked as chaotic as every other company did. For example, Cemex would set a three-hour delivery window whenever they set an appointment.
Then in the 1990s, Cemex invested $200 million to improve its service. Soon, they completed 98% of all deliveries in 20 minutes. Company profits soared in 1998 to 35% of sales. That’s much higher than the industry average of 21% (Source).
And then there’s GEICO. I bet you can quote their USP by heart, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance. They came up with this USP slogan in 2010. Ever since 2010, GEICO moved from 1% market share above Progressive to 2-3%. And they’re closing the gap on State Farm. (Source)
Yes, a USP is only one part of your positioning strategy. But if there is one area you should focus on, it’s your USP.
Effective brand messaging begins by talking to your customers to capture the voice of the customer (VoC).
Start by listing out the business goals you have questions and need answers from your customers. My recommendation is no more than 20 questions. Otherwise, the interview will go too long.
If you have customers, get a list of 50 customers by doing email outreach. If you do not have customers yet, you can reach out to 50 people you believe are your customers.
Once you’ve done the customer interviews, put that information into your VoC Spreadsheet. Each header should represent a column.
Organize the information into topics and intriguing phrases. This will be the foundation for your brand messaging.
Then you’ll use your brand messaging to inform your marketing strategy.