Marketing messages are at the core of what a Product Marketer does. And while in many cases they do it well, something happens after the messages are created and things tend to fall apart. Getting the carefully crafted messages into all the content and disseminated across the team (marketing, sales, support etc.) is a huge challenge and then keeping it up to date and in sync with continuously evolving products is near impossible.
For this reason, many Product Marketers look to implement a “messaging framework” also known as a “message map”.
Key reasons marketers might want to turn to this tool include the wish to:
- Make the messaging and positioning easier to manage by driving structure into the messages being used across marketing and the rest of organization
- Drive more consistent application of messages across the content and teams that use it
- Facilitate the review process with product teams and executives with a centralized location for messaging and positioning
The Benefits of Message Maps
1. Message Consistency
One of the main benefits companies get from using a so-called “message map” is consistency. While many may intuitively agree that it’s a good idea to be consistent (just like daily hygiene routines) they also might not fully appreciate just how important having consistent messages actually is.
By delivering a clear and consistent message throughout your content and from all your prospect (and customer) facing people, your company will significantly increase conversion rates while improving efficiency.
Brad Smith from Codeless said on the Moz blog he was able to increase their customer’s conversion rate by >200% through improved alignment between the messages on the landing pages and the messages in the google ads.
In Conversion Optimization, experts like Oli Gardner at Unbounce call this “Message Match”. And the same logic can be applied throughout the buyers’ journey where you can increase conversion rates by consistently reinforcing the messages in each subsequent step along the way.
Not only is a consistent messaging approach more effective, but it’s more efficient (less costly) too. Whether you agree with Ebbinghaus or Thomas Smith or whomever, psychology experts are consistent in inferring that message repetition to a potential buyer is required in order to help them:
- Notice your existence and
- Develop willingness to take action
So if you believe that you need 3 consistent messages before a prospect considers your message and your cost is $40 per indirect interaction, that’s $120 per prospect. But if your messages are inconsistent, the spend required to get to the consideration stage goes up significantly. This is not only because you are paying for each of those inconsistent messages, but also because you may need more than 3 repetitions of the message you want the prospect to act on due to the inconsistent messages muddying up the waters.
2. Messaging Quality
Messaging quality is another benefit of using a message map. By having a structured, centralized approach to message dissemination across the team, you reduce the chances of people “taking matters into their own hands” and creating their own messaging.
You also eliminate the situations where some people are still using messages from an older version of your product. Instead, with a message map you can create the single location where people can go to get the authentic messages that you’ve painstakingly created with your team.
Time-savings is yet another benefit of having a message map. By creating and approving your messages once and then applying them consistently across all the relevant assets and communications, you eliminate redundant review and edit cycles. Without a message map companies often go through some sort of review process for every new or updated asset.
The Value and Limitations of “Simple” Messaging Frameworks
OK so you agree that there are benefits to having a messaging framework. If you’re just getting started you might want to begin with a simple messaging structure that can be formative for what will come later. While simple messaging frameworks are great for defining initial messaging they are too limited in what they can do for you over time.
Typically one of these simple maps includes the high-level value proposition for the product, maybe three messaging pillars and a few supporting messages. Here’s an example:
|Product Name||[What you call the product]|
|Product Category||[What kind of thing you tell people the product is]|
|Value Proposition||[Product Name] can [Main Value Statement] by [Unique Capabilities].|
|Messaging Pillars||[Key Message 1]||[Key Message 2]||[Key Message 3]|
|Supporting Messages||[Supporting Message]||[Supporting Message]||[Supporting Message]|
|[Supporting Message]||[Supporting Message]||[Supporting Message]|
|[Supporting Message]||[Supporting Message]||[Supporting Message]|
It can be helpful with your elevator pitch or for talking points at a tradeshow, but it doesn’t have the depth to assist in driving consistent messaging across most marketing and sales assets or conversations as they get deeper.
Datasheets, web pages, product blog post and sales pitches will need more details, so if all you have is the high-level map, you end up needing to make things up to fill in the gaps.
The “Detailed” Message Map
In order to get the full benefits of a message map, you likely need to go through a more detailed message mapping exercise.
Certainly you can include all of what you have in the simple messaging framework, but you will probably also want to create a detailed centralized message map that includes these key elements:
- All of your products
- Features for your products and what those features do
- How they benefit individual personas
- How they work together to create value for your customers
- How they contribute to solutions and use cases
Customizing Your Message Map Template
Those are the basics, but you should also customize the exact dimensions based upon the complexity of the product and complexity of the selling situation.
For example, if you want to separate the capability from the feature description, you should add a capability object to your message map. But remember that you don’t need to message everything, just what is minimally marketable. You (probably) don’t need to talk about the picker in the dropdown menu for example.
You should also consider usability for the people in your organization who will be using this message map. This means you should balance your desire for more granular messages with the reality of the usability constraints inherent in a spreadsheet.
If you have to make a tradeoff between detail and usability, go for usability. There’s nothing valuable about a tool that no one will use.
Gaining Message Map Buy-in
In smaller companies you might be able to implement a structured message map on your own, but in most cases you’ll want to get the buy-in from others on the concept and usage of the message map template.
Gaining buy-in from Product Managers should be fairly straightforward. Product Managers will like the idea of having a way to better translate their vision for what the product does (and for whom) directly into marketing messages. They can enter the initial information about the features and benefits and then you can transform it into marketing language. I like using a Google Sheet for this because the PMs will be able to see all of your edits and any additional object information you provide, and they can then review and approve / edit directly in the sheet.
Executives may need a bit more convincing that the project is worth doing. But if you explain to them the benefits in terms of business impact (greater consistency and quality yields better conversion rates, sales, etc.) and the operational benefits of having a single location where they can review and approve messages and see the change history for each message, they will get on board.
The easiest group to get buy-in from is the other marketing team members (content marketing, demand gen, digital, etc). Having a single place they can go to get the latest thinking on the best messages to use for each persona, product, feature, etc. just makes their jobs easier. They should see the merits pretty quickly.
Message Map Template Download
Ok, so where’s this message map template I’ve been talking about? Here it is:
Please go ahead and copy it, use it, customize it.
We have an article detailing the Product Level Message Map template. We’ll also have another article that describes in greater detail the structure of the Feature Level Message Map template and how to use it.