Behind every successful company, there is a strong brand.
Brand building starts with clarity. Clarity on your audience (e.g. what matters to them most) - and clarity on your company's 'why'.
Once you've got that, the next part of your foundational work should be messaging: the process of articulating what you do in a way that speaks to your customer.
But, most companies get this so, so wrong.
That's where Dan and his consultancy, Third Act Marketing enter the equation.
Dan is an expert in brand strategy, positioning and messaging- the foundations that support successful sales and marketing activity.
His experience means he has identified common mistakes that brands make, as well as some rules that everyone can abide by to improve their messaging.
Interview summary: Creating powerful brand messaging
What is messaging?
Messaging is a series of defining what you do, why you do it, and for who, so that it can be articulated in a way that capture's your prospects attention.
Dan starts with audience. You should be asking yourself:
- Who are they?
- What problems do they have? (Look at Jobs to be Done as a framework to interview customers)
- What do they care about? What is important to them?
Then it comes to messaging. You need to work out:
- What do you do?
- Why would your audience care?
- How can you as a company help your audience get what's important to them or solve the problems they have?
- What do you want your audience to do? What action should they take?
When it comes to execution, it's essential to understand that your messaging should be tailored to the channel it's presented on.
While the underlying 'why' may be the same, your CTA and copy should adapt to location: website, product page, social media, PPC advertising, or content marketing.
A recommended book
One of the first things that I asked Dan is whether there was a brand that he thinks does messaging well.
His answer was Story Brand, a marketing company founded by Donald Miller that focuses on helping brands to clarify their messaging so customers will listen.
In Donald Millers book (A must-read, available on Amazon UK/ Amazon USA), he lays out a valuable framework that all business owners and marketers must learn. Rooted in ancient storytelling techniques, Miller breaks down messaging into an easy-to-access framework.
What are some common messaging mistakes?
1. Message drift
Often entrepreneurs and marketers are so involved in their businesses that over time, they lose the ability to step back and look at the business from their audience's perspective.
This means that sometimes, messaging begins to shift. Over time there are small shifts in response to certain anecdotal events. Often this leads to messaging that morphs into something generic and self-centred.
You can see evidence of this on many big company social media accounts, where all they post about is themselves: their press releases or new product features.
Somewhere along the way, some companies forget about the customer and their messaging no longer resonates.
Dan's message is clear here: stop talking about yourself and how great your business is. Talk about your audience first, and then yourself.
2. Not being audience focussed
It's quite clear that new potential customers don't care about your company. They care about how you can add value to their lives. Thus, your messaging should put the customer first.
3. The words don't work
Often brands have a great story and powerful intentions but are not able to articulate those in a way that gets the right people's attention.
Some brands try saying too much- falling on the impulse to say everything in one go, as quick as possible. There's a myth that people have a short attention span, so often marketers try to cram everything about their product in one paragraph.
Dan would add a caveat to that myth. People don't have short attention spans when they care about what you're saying. Especially if it's said in a way that is simple to understand.
What makes great brand messaging?
Messaging should always be audience-first. And, it should also be built upon a messaging hierarchy.
A hierarchy of messages summarizes your unique position and story. At the top level, the brand promise is your tagline. It’s a promise to your audiences, not a description of what you do.
The positioning statement is your elevator speech, expanding on that brand promise with more details.
Messaging is the foundation for all communications, from website to advertising and social media. The messages crafted in a messaging hierarchy guide content for all communications.
When messaging defines the brand story, you’ll have built a brand that’s focused and easier to manage. Communications are clear. Each message builds on the foundation. You’ll be branding responsibly.
How to make sure you know your customer well
Understanding your audience is not a race that has a finish line. You must always look to understand and pursue understanding of your customer.
It's likely that you will never know or have a feeling you fully understand them. Things change all the time, so you must continuously pursue this understanding.
The most obvious answer to knowing your customer better is to talk to them. Dan suggests talking to as many as possible.
Both MJ Peters (on B2B marketing strategy) suggested the same method for learning as Dan: Cold call or email a prospect, ask them to do a Zoom call, make sure they know you’re not selling anything, then probe and push them to figure out what they want, and how they understand your problem area.
Forget about focus groups. They don't work because they aren't the right environment for people to tell the truth in.
The best book for interviewing customers is the Mom Test. A must-read for entrepreneurs and marketers.
A top tip for website messaging when you have too much to say
Getting your messaging right on your website is not easy.
You have to consider two things: your customer and what you want them to do.
What you want them to do is usually easy: click on your call-to-action. (Here's 50 call-to-action examples from the impressive AdEspresso team)
But, while your call-to-action should be prominent all over your homepage, not every first-time visitor is ready to click it yet.
So, what do you want them to do?
The answer is: scroll and keep scrolling until they are ready to take action.
Every sentence should have one aim, to get the reader to read the next sentence. Messaging no.1 should get people to scroll to the second section of messaging, and so on.
With this method, you can say everything you want- there's plenty of opportunity if you keep your reader engaged.
Keeping your reader engaged is the tricky part, but if you talk about only what's interesting to them, framed in a way they understand and 'get', you can get them to take action.
You goal at all times should be simplicity and clarity. You need to take people on a journey that is simple for them. That's why the foundational work is so important.