GEIBEL Marketing Logo

Are You Sure You are "On-message"?

Tactical message development and continuous customer cross-checks are the keys

[see also How's Your ROM (Return on Messaging)?]

Copyright 2003 Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

A major concern for marketing and sales executives is that they are always 'on-message' with all of the communications that reach their prospects and customers - helping to create, establish and build a customer relationship that will ‘competition-proof' their customers.

Although 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. The higher the purchase authority in the customer organization or the more sophisticated the sale - the more important this validation is.

How can you tell if you have drifted "off message"?

The characteristics are all too common with messaging that is developed internally, without any customer cross-checks or validation.

However, there is a way to identify, extract and validate customer talk messaging - from the best source possible - the 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.)

The diagnostic 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.

Diagnostic interviewing 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 be come 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 basis - especially 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 resources - individuals 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 messages - that are validated at the ‘street level' - especially if that street leads directly to the executive suite.

You can also view this article in the Customer Centric SellingTM newsletter

© 2003, Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

Related articles:

Articles Master Index Page for One Stop Browsing

How's Your ROM (Return on Messaging)?]

How to Build a Sales Public Relations Program

Using Public Relations to Leverage the Hidden Code in Your Successful Sales

The Sales Autopsy [sm]

Developing a Thematic ReleaseSM Program for Channel Marketing

Marketing ROI Part I: Estimating Your ‘Reachable' Market Potential

The Hidden Messaging in Your Recruitment Advertising

Painful Marketing Forums

Business Video: How to Avoid Being a YouTubeTM Amateur

The Voice of the Market Survey - How to get Answers from Your Market

The Sales Autopsy [sm]

Are You Sure You are "On-message"? (Sales Messaging)

Marketing Architecture for Business Sales

CSI Marketing - Separating Fact from Fiction

How to Make Your Case Studies a Sales and Marketing Tool

Blogs - Where's the Beef?

Can Your Marketing Pass the Test?

How's Your Return on Messaging (ROM)?

Think Twice About that Press Release - You May Have Entered The Google Zone

The Sick Press Release

Broadcast PR: Working with Community Access Television

It's Your Website, Stupid!

Internet Damage Control: How to Prevent and Defend Against a Web Mugging

Kennedy Crash Shows Public Relations Lessons Learned from TWA Flight 800

Return to Index Page