Messaging for Leadership

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In my last post we discussed putting in place your execution team. Now with your execution team in place (at least theoretically), this next series of posts will be focused on customer acquisition. For me, customer acquisition begins with marketing and marketing begins with messaging and positioning.

So what do I mean by marketing and what do I mean by messaging and positioning. For those of you comfortable with these terms, feel free to skip ahead. For everyone else, let’s take these terms one at a time so as to be clear. So ‘marketing’, we hear this term a lot, but what exactly is it? Well, this is actually quite a difficult question, because it depends on the stage of your company and it encompasses a lot of areas.

To make things easier to understand, let’s subdivide the marketing category into 3 areas: strategic marketing, customer-facing marketing (aka corporate communications) and product marketing. Here is a bit more information on each:

  • Strategic marketing is focused on maximizing business potential for a company, including figuring out sector-based market needs, determining market size and growth rates, understanding the customer and their pain points, determining sales channels, market segmentation, etc.
  • Corporate communications focuses on communicating important information about the company to the marketplace. It is generally concerned with developing market awareness, generating leads, and providing tools to sales teams and partners.
  • Product marketing, like its name implies, is all about a product, or for a startup, the product. Product marketing is supposed to be about drawing together internal and market information to create killer products. This areas focuses on developing written materials for the marketing and engineering/R&D teams such as market requirements documents (MRDs), functional specifications, product requirements documents (PRDs), software requirements specifications (SRSs), white papers, data sheets, etc.

When we get to execution, I generally expect that the strategic marketing and product marketing is covered, since these areas should have been involved with why the markets/customers/channels were chosen and how the product was developed. What is missing is generally the communications piece since the team is usually just speaking amongst themselves and they generally understand what everyone is talking about.

Communications outside the company, however, is a different matter. The market needs a company to make a few things clear, and quickly. These things include:

  • the company’s value proposition: what is so special about your company and how, as your customer, I benefit from working/engaging with you
  • the product’s value proposition: what is so special about the product and how I benefit from working/engaging with the product
  • competitive differentiation: why you and your products are better than the competition and why I should care (ie saving money, making money, being ‘cooler’, getting more friends, etc.)
  • the company and product positioning: how do you fit into the market ecosystem, are you ‘premium’, inexpensive, enterprise, for kids/teens, serious fans only, experts only, etc.
  • general company messaging: what part of the marketplace do you operate in and what is your brand about (ie innovation, trusted, hip/cool, etc.)
  • general product messaging: what does your product(s) do, what is special about them (benefits/features), and why I should care (what’s in it for me)

This may look like a lot of marketing verbiage, but each of the bullets above needs to be no more than one to two sentences to be effective. People have short attention spans and are easily confused so keeping everything simple and concise is the easiest way to get your message across. What is generally hard about marketing is being able to communicate effectively what you mean with impactful, memorable phrases that use the fewest number of words.

Also, for startups it is generally important to position yourself as a leader. As we have generally seen in the high tech space, companies proliferate as the market emerges and then consolidate as the market matures (think of spaces that include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc.). Over time each high-tech ‘space’ is usually dominated by one or two players, so coming out of the gate indicating that you are leader is a good place to be to capture mindshare and attention.

So get cracking, if you haven’t done so already, and crank out some good sentences/phrases that enable people to really understand your company and your products (messaging) as well as where you play in the marketplace (positioning). And, as I mentioned, don’t forget about being a leader, at least in some area. With your core messaging in place, now we can begin to discuss lead generation and prospecting for customers.

Until next time, have a great day!

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