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Proving you have a B2B messaging problem and fixing it

November 3, 2020

Your company’s messaging is the backbone for absolutely everything that your marketing creates. It therefore can not be ‘something you will take care of later’.

Whether your B2B tech company has been around for 6 months or 30 years, there’s no excuse for bland or vague messaging that doesn’t mean anything to anyone. You know, the writing and branding that your team is ‘making do’ with because fundamental change is too hard. 

There’s a reason why the likes of J-Frog, Monday.com, GONG, Lemonade and many others ooze the type of marketing that us professionals relish over. And it all starts with their messaging.

Quite frankly, if you can’t find anything exciting to say about your company, why should your audience bother paying attention? 

In the words of Carmen Hill, director of marketing at Connective DX, “it’s the scourge of effective marketing: content that caters to everyone and thus caters to no one. It’s plain old vanilla – ubiquitous, bland, and the default choice when you don’t really know what people want or care about.”

Here’s how to set off on your messaging journey: 

1. Proving to the boss that you have a messaging problem


The first, and sometimes biggest, challenge is to convince management that your messaging is problematic and needs improvement. It is however easy to prove. 

Try this 4-step exercise:

Step 1: Cut’n’paste your current messaging and the messaging of 4-5 of your competitors onto one slide

Step  2: Remove all company names

Step 3: Challenge your management to identify your own positioning statement and that of each competitor

In 9 out of 10 cases, they’ll fail because too many companies use the same meaningless jargon and pompous filled statements. Many will also fail to identify their own statements for the same reason

Step 4: Next slide, add the names of the companies; watch and listen as everyone in the room sheepishly acknowledges you have a messaging problem

 

companies messaging statements on a slide

 

2. Deciding on your company type & personality

It’s impossible to produce strong, clear brand messaging if you’re not sure yourself about what your brand stands for. Do you want to portray yourself as  playful, or serious? An innovative startup, or a large and stable corporation? 

 

To get around this, get the slides ready again. On each slide have a scale of 1 to 10:

Sample of slides can include:

 

  • What would you like your target audience to feel when they read about ‘YOUR COMPANY’ and see your marketing material? Are you:

Personable and friendly OR Large corporate America

  • What would you like your target audience to feel when they read about ‘YOUR COMPANY’ and see your marketing material? Are you:

Accessible to all OR Upscale and high-end

  • What would you like your target audience to feel when they read about ‘YOUR COMPANY’ and see your marketing material? Are you:

Cutting edge and innovative OR Tried and tested safe

 

placing your b2b company on a scale

 

Scales of 1 to 10 are easy, but the real secret is to remove the numbers between 4 and 6. 

Given the chance, management tends to pursue 4,5,6 answers and this is how dull and uncreative messaging gets created. Nobody particularly likes or dislikes it and that’s why nobody remembers it or cares about your brand. 

The more you can steer your organization to one end of the scale, the better your chances of truly creating a bold brand voice. 

3. Calling for non-biased help


If you’ve already gone through several rounds of messaging in whatever shape or form in your company, you are in no position to lead a messaging workshop/project. It’s nothing personal about you, you know you have a messaging issue, so you are already fabulous, but you’re not clean and impartial.

It doesn’t need to be someone external to the whole company. You just want an individual whose head isn’t already clogged up with the last 20 failed attempts at messaging. The newest member of your marketing team is a great choice, because they don’t have any history, allegiances, or hidden interests. 

4. Running a messaging workshop


The messaging team:

A messaging workshop is an ideal method for producing firm brand messaging, but only when you structure it correctly. Don’t let participation get out of hand (more about that in the next section). 

Aim for a maximum of 5 participants, including your CEO; a co-founder with some marketing knowledge; and, vitally, a representative from sales. Ideally, you’ll add a customer support manager too, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have anyone filling that role. If your startup isn’t yet that big, aim for 3 participants but make sure they include the CEO and a sales person.

 

The timeline:

Producing crisp, concise messaging can take over your entire work life and never reach an end. The longer it takes, the more likely it is that your B2B marketing will wander off course and miss the target, so create an endpoint. 

Develop a timeline for your messaging and accept the finish line whenever you reach it, even if you think that a little more tweaking would make it perfect. 

In order to stick to a timeline AND have only the core (up to 5) people provide input in the process, do not allow anyone else to be included in the reviewing process and the general role of thumb is, no more than 3 rounds of iteration.

5. Outlawing messaging by committee


If there are too many people involved in your B2B messaging process, you might just as well not bother. Your messaging will not transpire into anything meaningful.

 

how exciting messaging turns bland

Strong, clear messaging is bound to put some people off, and that’s ok. 

“Creative can be made stronger by the virtue of additional points of view,” acknowledges marketing expert Tom Fishburne. But we have to channel those points of view constructively. The path of least resistance in a creative project is to water everything down.”

When your messaging passes through 10 pairs of hands before it returns to you, it will have been watered down so far that it’s neither recognizable nor memorable.  

6. Preventing messaging FOMO


Messaging FOMO is when you’re filled with dread over the horrific possibility that you might have left something out of your messaging. 

You cram every single feature, benefit and acronym into your B2B content marketing texts to make sure that nothing’s been overlooked, and you end up with a rambling, incoherent textbook that doesn’t appeal to anyone.  

Accept that you can’t say everything, and whittle down your messaging points until only the bare bones are left. Be brutal and answer this one question:

What is THE SINGLE customer problem that you are solving?

If your messaging does not clearly answer that. Start again.

Give tired B2B messaging an electric jumpstart

When you achieve memorable, mind-blowing B2B messaging, you’ll want to shout from the rooftops, and this time people will actually listen. Awesome messaging gives you the start you need to create transformative marketing content that hits all your targets and converts like nobody’s business. It takes copious amounts or courage to create and stick by but what’s the point of marketing without it?

If you’re still struggling to overhaul your messaging, Marketing Envy is here to help. 

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PS: If you found this helpful, I'd really appreciate if you can click here to share it on Twitter - besides helping my ego, it's just fun to get notifications 😉

About the Author

Billy Cina

Billy Cina is the CEO of Marketing Envy, a B2B tech and startup marketing agency based in Tel-Aviv. Career and portfolio companies include Canonical/Ubuntu, Cloudyn, Aqua Security, CyberInt, Magic Software, PlainID, Cato Networks, Vulcan Cyber, DealHub and many more.

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