Practical tips to build your company’s strategic messaging and positioning

Make no mistake: today and in the future, the message is the medium. And that puts new importance on your company’s strategic messaging. Make it strong, crystalized and differentiated, and it’s one of your most reliable engines of business growth. Delegate, defer or neglect it at your peril. I’m not talking about the vague, naval-gazing mission statements of decades past. Rather, you want a strong and clear brand proposition and core supporting messages to guide and support the strategic direction of your company. This gives new prospects, customers, business partners and employees clarity about how your company is uniquely relevant and contributes to your customers’ businesses, while proactively defining who you are.

Getting your messaging just right will require focus. I’ve long argued that it’s important for owners/CEOs to take charge of their strategic messaging and positioning. Other experts inside and outside the company can assist, but the owner/CEO alone has the authority to define a print company’s strategic story, as well as the power to make the tough tradeoffs about what’s most important to highlight. Messaging that drives new business typically comes from the CEO and loyal customers. CEOs usually are most adept at telling the company story because they know what ideas and positioning resonates best with prospects. “Marketing is the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view,” observed Peter Drucker, one of the world’s authorities on business and management. “Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.”

Make your messaging authentic, high-purpose and long-term in scope and it puts all of your stakeholders in sync with how your company uniquely contributes to customer success.  Done best, it will focus on how you meet customer needs and solve their most pressing problems.  For example, being your buyers’ recurring top choice on print is far more differentiating than yet another drum-banger about “high quality print at attractive pricing”.

Here’s what you need to create or update your strategic messaging:

Brand proposition. A single overarching brand proposition helps guide the strategic direction of your firm, and must be easy to translate in sub-messages communicating specific benefits to each of your core target audiences.

Logo. Make sure it communicates how you define your company for the future.  Sometimes your existing logo will work nicely. More often, it either requires modernization or a total reboot. The logo is key because it’s the single most important visual representation of your company.

Tagline. Three to six words that crystalize your brand proposition.

Define your company in ways that will get the attention of your clients.

One sentence: What you do and how it helps customer success.

Two sentences: More room to expand on above, re:  capabilities and results.

One paragraph: A standalone overview of what you do for your customers and who you are.

Two paragraphs: A more detailed overview of all key aspects of your firm.

Elevator pitch. A 10-15-second conversational overview that leaves your prospect wanting to know more.

Environmental. A no-nonsense view of your company’s most important environmental bona fides – from earned certifications to energy-saving equipment.

Customer testimonials. Make sure they’re short, specific and authentic, so that they maximize their worth to your prospects.

Once you have established this, putting together a message matrix is the next step. This helps your teams think in terms of conversations, not just one-way communications. Below is an example of a message matrix for a fictitious trade printing company. Yours will be unique. The key is to get your overall value proposition in place, then identify each of your core audiences, crystallize the primary message for each audience, and finally outline the three main supporting messages of how your company benefits each of these audiences.

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