Messaging and positioning is one of those foundational elements that everyone agrees you need, but somehow it rarely seems to find its way to the top of the priority list. Particularly now, when budgets are tight and headcount has been cut, it’s often relegated to the nice-to-have column of business’ to-do lists. We’re here to argue that *especially* now, it very well might be the most crucial work your marketing team can do to set your sellers up for success.
Here are 5 reasons an MPF will help you close deals during a recession:
The 8-Second Rule
There’s a widely referenced claim that the typical attention span is 8 seconds. I’d argue that in some mediums, it’s even less. Regardless of the specifics, it’s clear you have to pique your target’s attention within a few words. A messaging and positioning framework will give your team the common language they need to quickly and clearly communicate your company’s value each and every time they’re “at bat.”
There are no more “umms” or “likes” or rambling elevator pitches because your MPF has language that distills your best value props into concise language that’s tailored for your various audiences. As long as your team can memorize a few sentences, you can send them off into the world knowing that they’ll give sharp, consistent introductions to your brand.
Want to make it fun? Challenge your company to learn the pitch as part of your internal messaging roll out. We used to give out $25 Starbucks gift cards to anyone who could give a five-star delivery of the new pitch when spontaneously asked around the office. It was a fun way to encourage everyone (not just the sellers) to be active participants in the promotion of our brand.
Come Out of the Gates Selling Value
Especially in tight economic times like these, the bar is high for sellers. When your prospects are extremely price-sensitive and your biggest competitor is either a cheap knock off or “do nothing”, you immediately have to sell the value that your brand delivers. Particularly in the software world, pricing models are very strategic and intentionally set exactly where they need to be in order to be competitive. So every time we see “price” attached to a closed/lost report, it is a tough pill to swallow. 99% of the time, it just means the value wasn’t communicated effectively.
While it’s ultimately on the seller to close, it’s on marketing’s shoulders to start building this narrative from the very first impression. An MPF intentionally identifies and communicates the high-value benefits of your product or solution. If you’ve done it right, pricing discussions are just a technicality and, by the time they reach sales, your prospects already understand the clear ROI they can expect.
Eliminate Mixed Messages
How many times have you had someone walk up to you at a trade show, eagerly asking questions about something completely unrelated to what your company does? If your answer is never, you’re super lucky. I’ve gone to literally hundreds of events, and inevitably it happens at least a couple times at every one of them. Particularly with the flood of noise that prospects encounter about your business – think social channels, earned media coverage, and competitor’s messaging – there’s a lot of mixed messages about what it is you do. While you can’t control what competitors are saying (stay tuned for more on that below!), you can make sure that all your internal stakeholders are speaking from the same script.
A strong messaging and positioning framework will take your core brand language and tweak it for these different uses - whether you’re speaking with the press, promoting work on social, or helping your employees amplify the brand through their own channels. Each and every time an “outsider” hears about your brand, it’s building an impression. Make sure these impressions are consistently contributing to the story you’re working so hard to tell.
Differentiate Yourself From the Competition
Shorter sales cycles are *always* at the top of the wish list when we talk to sales leaders about ways they hope marketing can help. Time kills all deals, and keeping sellers turning over prospects quickly is a key to keeping your sales overhead worth the investment. Resolving competitive objections is something that can and should happen at the top and middle of the funnel, right where marketing is playing.
A messaging and positioning exercise incorporates all the competitive intelligence your product marketing team has gathered. It reflects every nuance on each competitor battlecard and works that language into the various MPF components. It helps differentiate your brand as the initial impressions are formed, making it easier for your sellers to ask those trap-setting questions that make your solution the obvious winner. If you’re just starting out and don’t have these competitive sales enablement assets for your sellers, an MPF exercise is a great way to incorporate preliminary competitive messaging into your sellers’ scripts in a turnkey way. Being a salesperson is hard even without competitive pressures. This is one place marketing can have a very profound impact to help make sales easy.
We used to say “explain it so my mom will understand” but the world of memes calls it “explain like I’m 5.” ELI5 means “break it down so I know exactly what you mean, no matter my level of tech fluency”. And you need to be able to do this all day long (ADL).
Great messaging takes pretty complex technology and distills it down into language that anyone can understand. It removes the tech-speak barrier that so many people (particularly solution architects and tech founders) encounter when trying to explain what it is their company does. The vast majority of your audience isn’t going to be super tech savvy. You can’t afford to miss the opportunity to help them understand the truly transformative nature of your tech. An MPF can help with this.
Not sure if this is a challenge your team faces? Ask your mom’s friends what it is you do for a living. You know she’s bragging about you and, if she’s anything like my mom, she has no idea what exactly it is that you do. (Sorry, Sue. I know you try!) Help her out and explain it in language that leads to an “ah-ha! I get it!”. Now you understand what an MPF can do for your prospective customers. As marketers, our job is to make sales easy. It’s to craft language that gets people excited about your brand, then place that messaging where your audience hangs out.
We hear that MPFs are hard and take a long time to develop, then they sit on a shelf and collect dust. Well, they are hard to develop - your solution is complex and likely brand new or highly disruptive. Ask 5 people at your company what you do and you will very likely get 5 different answers. This is exactly why you need a messaging and positioning framework. Wheels Up has built dozens of MPFs for all sorts of technology companies. We’ve gotten pretty good at pulling together the various voices and elevating and aligning them into a common primer. Sometimes it does take a long time. We’ve had MPFs that go through 7 or 8 rounds of revisions before we get it right. But we haven’t failed to find that consensus yet.
As for the concern around an MPF gathering dust? Making sure that doesn’t happen is the last mile of our project. After the initial branding language is complete, we adapt it for your channels (web messaging is very different from email messaging or PR messaging, afterall), we adapt it by persona and for each individual solution in your portfolio. We make sure the value of your MPF exercise is realized across the board.
Messaging and positioning exercises are some of our favorite work because they take creativity, strategy, and practicality. We’d love to help you tackle yours!