You Sure You Are "On-Message"?
Tactical message development and continuous
customer cross-checks are the keys
major concern for marketing and sales executives is that they
are always 'on-message' with all of the communications that
reach their prospects and customershelping to create,
establish and build a customer relationship that will 'competition-proof'
this messaging goal is always agreed to by management, it
often fails to make it through to execution. This results
in messaging that is identical to what the competition uses
and that fails to create any competitive distinction or build
the customer relationship. The problems lies in that no diagnostics
are used to insure that the messaging is truly 'customer talk'giving
customers the information they need and also building the
relationship. There is almost never any reality check on the
messaging at 'street level'to confirm or validate that
it in fact addresses the needs of the customers.
higher the purchase authority in the customer organization
or the more sophisticated the sale, the more important this
can you tell if you have drifted "off message"?
- Your information
(be it web, collateral, video, etc.) appears to be the same
as your competitionjust swap out company names and
it would be identical.
- Your material
does not consider the reality of the customer, or translate
into solutions and benefits that they can visualize. In
other words, you assume too much expertise on their part.
- Your messaging
doesn't engage in 'customer talk' using clear, concise ideas
and language that they can relate to. In short, you don't
translate the information into customer-talk language.
are all too common with messaging that is developed internally,
without any customer cross-checks or validation.
is a way to identify, extract and validate customer talk messagingfrom
the best source possiblethe customers themselves.
This is done through
careful diagnostic interviewing of both high-value customers
(to identify their characteristics and profile) in order to
target more customers like them, and also your customer-facing
sales force (who usually have developed customer-qualification
dialogues to help identify the preferred customers who are
going to buy in the next sales cycle.)
interviewing quickly results in a confirmation and validation
if the customer dialogue is 'on-message', and often serves
to identify new topics that permit the messaging to stay one
step ahead of the competition. It will also give you a warning
if your messaging is off target and in need of adjustment.
is process-based, and requires a keen knowledge of the competitive
environment, your products or offerings, and your sales and
business model. In other words, it requires a skilled marketing
professional who is adept at listening, but also spotting
new information and probing for the real issues. (This will
become apparent in their initial dialogue with you, where
the baseline information is obtained from your executives
and sales people.)
All of this has
to be done very diplomatically and on a customized basisespecially
if the interviewing is done at the C-level or with high-end
customers. In almost all cases, diagnostic interviewing requires
the use of external resourcesindividuals who do not
have any biases or agendas that may 'flavor' the answers.
The nature of the process tends to rule out standard market
research services. The nature of the dialogue is too sophisticated
and will often evolve too quickly for a routine question-and-answer
format. A continuously-evolving competitive environment requires
the ability to spot the signs of that evolution.
The flip side
of the coin of diagnostic interviewing is the ability to compare
the information obtained to the messaging that your company
uses, help you to identify and extract the messages that will
resonate with your customers, and then to help you build them
into your current messaging techniques. All of this can be
done fairly quickly, and usually the 'rule of threes' applies.
It is necessary to have, at a minimum, three similar customers
or three executives in the same industry in order to separate
messaging that is appropriate for that whole market segment
as opposed to individual messaging that is best left to the
sales force in their individual dialogues. Again, it takes
an experienced marketing professional to spot this difference.
The goal to be
'on message' is desired by every marketing and sales executive.
However, without tactical confirmation, that strategic goal
often doesn't translate into tactical realities. A reality
check on your messaging, and the ability to help you identify
and extract current key competitive messages is critical to
success. Process-based diagnostic questioning is a key technique
that serves to help create effective messagesthat are
validated at the 'street level'especially if that street
leads directly to the executive suite.
Note: Article used with permission. © 2003 Jeffrey
Geibel, All Rights Reserved
Geibel, APR, is the principal of Geibel Marketing & Public
Relations, a Belmont, Mass- based provider of sales-oriented
public relations and marketing services. He is the creator
of the Sales Autopsy[sm] diagnostic methodology, and created
a public relations program for Mike Bosworth, a cofounder
of Customer-Centric Selling™. He is professionally accredited
in public relations and a widely-published author. The Sales
Autopsy and additional articles are available on his web site