Four Signs That Your Business Needs a Messaging Makeover
Your company’s core message – the sharp, clear statement of unique value – is your brand’s selling story. It’s your elevator pitch. It’s the script to the blockbuster movie of your marketing, sales and PR execution. But how do you know when it’s time for that script to change?
Although every business is unique, after leading hundreds of messaging makeovers I can reasonably identify a few common signs. If one or more of these sounds way too familiar, it may be time to revisit your messaging.
Sign 1: Significant Growth or Change
Change takes many forms: growth, crisis, launching a new product or pivoting to a new market. Business growth, the most positive of changes, is ironically the one most likely to turn your company positioning into gobbledygook. Tech startups, for example, usually start with a few people and a singular product vision. Success brings more products vying for attention, more customers pulling the company in different directions and more salespeople meeting quota any way they can. All of these are wonderful. Taken together though, they can diffuse focus and confuse both employees and customers about what the company really stands for.
Take the case of Inc. 500 startup BlueCore, which rebranded after rapidly outgrowing its single-product origins. That very expansion made it more difficult to explain the company’s offering.
“Ironically, providing more value actually made having a clear value proposition much harder,” says CEO Fayez Mahamood.
Success, rather than the lack of it, is often the driver for a message makeover.
Sign 2: Too Many Cooks
If you asked five employees the key value prop of your business, how many different answers would you get? If you said “six”, you’re not alone!
When it comes to messaging, many businesses have too many cooks but no master chef. In the absence of clear guidance, different people or departments each communicate the company’s value differently – often making up “messages” on the fly to meet the needs of a given situation, presentation or important meeting.
This constant, random re-creation is unproductive at best and actively destructive at worst. The wheel is constantly being reinvented and these reinvented wheels are as likely to be square as round.
Sign 3: Conflict between Marketing and Sales
Of all the cooks in the messaging kitchen, marketing and sales are the most likely to pull chef’s knives on each other when messaging isn’t clear.
Marketeers understand that consistent communication builds a brand, which in turn makes lead gen and selling easier. Salespeople fighting for their lives in the field know that every customer is unique. They want to communicate specifically to the needs of that customer and will quickly discard “blah, blah, blah” corporate messaging that doesn’t meet those specific needs.
This dichotomy is both epidemically common and absolutely false. Yes, marketeers serve an audience of many while salespeople perform for an audience of one customer at a time. However, a strong, consistent brand message shouldn’t be the enemy of necessary customization. It should be the basis of it.
Think of a jazz combo improvising variations on a familiar tune. The band starts by playing “My Favorite Things” in a way every listener would recognize and then expands out from there. The pianist plays an inversion of the melody. The sax takes a solo that spirals off in a completely new direction. Yet somehow all of these improvisations are anchored by the strong melody that starts and ends their playing.
Clear messaging is that melody. If your sales and marketing aren’t playing well together, maybe the problem isn’t with the band but the song.
Sign 4: Your Sellers Talk More than Customers
If your sales presentations keep getting longer and space for customer interaction is getting shorter, the problem may be with message rather than your team. Doodlecorp
CEO Meenu Kumar explained how this problem showed up in her company.
“Because we weren’t sure how to say what made us different, we just starting throwing things in. Whatever stuck with one customer got added to the pitch for the next. Pretty soon it reached the point where we were talking more than our customers.”
We’ve all heard some version of the quote, “I’m writing you a long letter because I didn’t have the time to write a short one.” The short letter is harder to write, but much more likely to be read. The same applies to sales pitches and PowerPoints. A short, clear one can start a conversation. A crushingly long one sucks all oxygen out of the room and ends the conversation before it starts.
Is it Time to Write the Short Letter?
Let’s be honest; reworking your messaging isn’t always the most important thing you can do for your business. Creating a new core messaging for your company, with or without expert help, represents a substantial effort. That investment competes with every other possible use of time and money in your business – even with the more day to day tasks of marketing and sales. However if your see one or more of these signs that lack of clear messaging is actually slowing your success, it may well be time to take it on.