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Posts Tagged ‘Competitive Position’

A brand messaging architecture is the first thing you should develop to help you manage your brand image and communications.  It is primarily used by internal departments and external vendors (such as PR firms) who communicate externally to customers, partners, and influencers.  The brand messaging architecture is a formal structure that summarizes and communicates messages about your company, products, and services. 

There are a lot of components to messaging and not all of them will be needed for every brand messaging architecture.  Depending upon your situation, you will choose from the following components to develop the messaging that you need:

– Vision Statement
– Mission Statement
– Positioning Statement
– Value Proposition
– Key Messages
– Proof Points

Here’s an example of a brand messaging architecture for a global non-profit professional association, the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (it’s an older version of the brand architecture, so I can share it).

Example: Brand Messaging Architecture
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It’s been a while since my last blog post, and that’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my new ebook!

I am truly excited to announce the publication of  “Before the Brand: Using Positioning and Messaging to Build Brand Identity.” 

Think about it.  How is your brand perceived?  Unless you consciously define your brand, your customers will create their own perception. This book helps you take control of your brand by defining what your brand is before your marketplace does.  It contains a step-by-step process to create positioning, value propositions and messaging, making it much easier to influence customer perception of your brand.

To learn more, or to purchase a copy ($10 USD), click here.

And there is another change you may have noticed.  My blog brand has changed from “Marketing Magic” to “Before the Brand.”  I’ve had so much interest in the intricacies of positioning and messaging that I’ve evolved this blog to cover that topic more fully.  In upcoming posts, you will learn:

  • How to create a value proposition
  • How to manage brand perception
  • How to position your product
  • What the difference is between vision statements and mission statements
  • …. and much, much more!

I’m pleased to bring my subscribers new, useful tools to help them in their day-to-day work.  Go forth, and make your mark!

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On June 19, I discussed the Discovery Analysis aspect of the messaging process.  In this post, I pick up where that post left off as we launch into the second stage of the messaging process, which is the Strategy Workshop.

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Prepare for the Strategy Workshop

When you started the messaging process, you will have selected and involved team members based upon role (see my post June 16).  For most projects, team roles boil down to (in order of depth of contribution):  Team Leaders, Core Team, Extended Team and Influencers.  This implies a hierarchy of importance by role and helps prioritize the weight given to input and involvement for each team member.

The people that are usually invited to the Strategy Workshop are the Team Leaders, Core Team, and select Influencers who are essential to buy-in for the new messaging.  About a week prior to the Strategy Workshop, you’ll distribute the Discovery findings to attendees for review.  The workshop will take about six hours, so I like to structure 3 hours in the morning, a long mid-day break, and then 3 hours in the afternoon.

Purpose of the Strategy Workshop

The purpose of the Discovery stage is to find the patterns and trends of messaging and to identify any gaps.  Gaps are those items where opinion, information or messages diverge or don’t exist.

The purpose of the Strategy Workshop is to get everyone moving in the same direction.   As the leader of the process, you’ll need to bring a very different mind-set to the workshop than what you brought to the Discovery stage.  In the Discovery stage, you gathered and analyzed information.  In the Strategy Workshop, you’ll unveil the patterns, trends and gaps and will be seeking to bring people together, resolve differences, and get everyone going down the same path.  I call it the “Pied Piper” effect, with one key difference — you may not know where you will end up.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Happily, there is a way to get everyone moving in the same direction — focus them on a task.  In this case, it is the task of putting a positioning statement together (check out my blog on March 30 regarding positioning statements).  This isn’t an arbitrary move.  Firstly, focusing everyone on a task engages them in the process and in the end they will feel not only a sense of their own contribution, but they will also feel ownership in the messaging itself.  This is why and how organizational alignment is one of the primary impacts of a messaging process.

Secondly, the task focuses attendees on creating the postioning statement because it is the foundation of all messaging.  Essentially, a positioning statement aggregates all elements of a marketing plan and addresses all the questions that a prospect or customer will have about your message: the target audience, the value proposition and the competitive differentiation.  So, you can already see that this session was aptly named a Workshop — it’s definitely not “death by PowerPoint” and attendees will be continually engaged.

In my next post, I’ll walk through the agenda for the Strategy Workshop and how to guide the team in building a positioning statement.

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  In my last post, June 18, I discussed the execution of the Discovery phase of the messaging process.  In this post, I talk about analyzing the findings in the Discovery phase of the process.  __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Discovery phase of the messaging process produces an extraordinary amount of information which must be sifted through, organized, and then analyzed.  Just sorting through the information is a daunting task.  The Discovery Findings Template provides a way to sort through and synthesize the information collected in the interviews themselves.

 Tool: Discovery Findings Template

In a messaging process, the information gathered will consist mostly of qualitative information, rather an quantitative information.  That means that rather than being about to present results in pretty charts and graphs, you’ll need to sort through answers, opinions, prejudices, and judgements revealed during the interview process.  You’ll also want to incorporate messages and themes revealed in written and multimedia materials contributed to the process.

I usually break this process into two steps:  1) synthesizing the information, and 2) analyzing the information.

Information Synthesis

The easiest tool for me to use is the ever-handy Excel workbook.  I create tabs at the bottom that correspond the sections in the questionnaire.  On the left hand column, I put specific questions.  Across the columns at the top, I put either the names of the people that I interviewed or the topic areas being discussed.

Then, in a laborious but invaluable process, I go through each and every interview, step by step, and cut and paste question responses into the Excel worksheet.  There are some benefits for this.  First, you’ll re-read every interview and begin seeing trends and gaps that are emerging.  Second, the column format allows you to see responses to the same question side by side.

Information Analysis

So I guess you can see where I’m headed with this?  Yep, in the top column, at the very end, I add three last columns — Trends, Gaps and Quotes.  Then, I go through each question and read the responses – side by side – and I pull out the trends and gaps that I see and I put this information into the Trends and Gaps columns.  As I go, I’ll pull out quotes that I see that either express the essence of the trends or gaps, or that are particularly colorful or articulate.

It’s pretty straightforward and it’s a lot of work.  But I’ve found that this message is probably the best for synthesizing qualitative data into a digestable and actionable format.

In my next post, I’ll review the second phase of the messaging process, the Strategy Workshop.

 

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  In my last post, June 16, I discussed the messaging process in general — it’s advantages and components.  In this post, I dig deeper into the execution of the messaging process.  The execution of the process begins with the Discovery phase.

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In the Discovery phase,  the “legwork” of the messaging process begins.  It is the most complex and involved phase because its scope is elastic, based upon what you “discover” as you go along.  The objectives of this phase, however, are very clear:  1) to create a picture of the current situation and 2) to evaluate and present your findings to the core team.

Information is gathered by auditing internal and external communications and conducting discovery interviews with a select group of company executives, team members, and company influencers.

Critical here is the concept of relevant messages.  Basically, any messages that your customers remember about you, new or old, are relevant and should be collected as part of this process.

Communications Audit

For the internal audit, start by gathering internal documentation and presentations on company, product, and service strategies, because messages you create should support and evangelize those strategies.  Then, check out company and partner intranets, and private communities.

For the external audit, there are a broad range of information sources to tap, including, but not limited to:

  • Public Web site
  • Partner Web sites that contain information about your company, product, or service
  • Press releases and published articles
  • Analyst communications, if relevant
  • Multimedia:
    • Commercials, Web seminar recordings, Podcasts
    • External blogs
    • Company-sponsored as well as industry-specific communities
    • Social networks – Facebook, Twitter, etc., and other, industry-specific social networks
    • Buzz sites:  Association Web sites and other influential media sources that customers, partners and employees refer to regularly

Discovery Interviews

The goal of discovery interviews is to collect perceptions, opinions, and insider knowledge that impacts the way your company, products, and services are perceived in the marketplace.  But the impact of the discovery interviews doesn’t just rest in the information that is gathered.

The interviews also engage executives and internal influencers in the process, thus enlisting their unspoken support in the messaging process, simply because you’ve elicited their input.  During these interviews expect to uncover additional people who need to be interviewed as well as additional questions that need to be either added to the interview questionnaire, or brought to the core team for guidance.

Tool:  Discovery Interview Questionnaire

The discovery questionnaire is organized in the format of the Positioning Statement, so there are certain questions that will be consistent to every messaging process.  You will naturally want to customize the questionnaire as needed.  I have a base-line discovery questionnaire that I use, but since I can’t post files on my blog, here is a guideline for you to reference as you create your own questionnaire.  Since I frequently send the questionnaire to the person I interview prior to our discussion, I usually put a brief description of the project and the purpose behind it.

Interview Guide

For: [define specific market]

 1)     What is the target market?

2)      How do you segment that market?

3)      Who are the decision makers (role/title)? 

 Who Need: [compelling need]

 4)      What are the needs of the decision makers in your target market? (Probe by target market segment.)

But: [capture pain points]

5)      What is preventing the decision makers from getting their need met?

6)      Do the decision makers know there is a solution for their compelling need?

 Our offering is: [category]

7)      What is the category of your offering?  (Is it a product, service, technology, other?)

 Including: [components]

 8)      What components does it contain (if relevant)?

 That: [your value]

9)      What is the greatest value that your offering delivers to your target market?

 Which: [overall benefit]

 10)  What is the key benefit of that value for your target market?

 Unlike: [define competitive category or companies]

11)  Who are your competitors?

12)  What is your competitive category?

Our Company: [your competitive differentiators]

 1)      What are your strengths and opportunities relative to the competition?

  • Strengths
  • Opportunities

 

In my next post, I’ll review how to consolidate and analyze the information you have collected.

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When I speak with marketing professionals, one of the chief benefits that they point to in implementing a messaging process is that it helps them align their organizations around one message architecture.  And when one message architecture is in place, it’s much easier to get the organization moving in the same direction.

But how do you get all these executives, influencers, company employees and partners aligned?  Just what are the mechanics of the messaging process?

The messaging process has four steps:

  1. Gather the Team
  2. Establish a Schedule
  3. Execution Phases:
    • Discovery
    • Team Strategy Workshop
    • Messaging Validation
  4. Evangelism

1.  Gather the Team

When gathering a team together, it’s best to select and involve the team members based upon role, and to define roles in relationship to the messaging process, rather than relationship to the company.  For most projects, team roles boil down to (in order of depth of contribution):  Team Leaders, Core Team, Extended Team and Influencers.  This implies a hierarchy of importance by role and helps prioritize the weight given to input and involvement for each team member. 

For example, you may have a particular customer who has been extremely active in defining a new product or category – plus they just “get” your business.  You really want their active participation in the project and will weigh their input heavily when crafting the final messaging.  In that case, you may assign them to the Extended or even the Core team. 

On the other hand, you may have a powerful executive within your company.  You need to include them in the process, but their input just won’t be that hands-on.  Therefore, you may opt to assign them to the Extended team or even as an Influencer.

2.  Establish a Schedule

The complexity of your project schedule varies according to complexity of the messaging project, such as how many people are involved, how many brands need to be positioned, and how complex a messaging hierarchy is required.

It makes sense to break the schedule out to align with the Execution Phases of the process:  Discovery, Strategy Workshop, and Messaging Validation.

3.  Execution Phases

There are three execution phases to the messaging process:  Discovery, Team Strategy Workshop and Messaging Validation.  The execution phases involve a lot of tasks, people and documents, so it’s helpful to use some sort of project management tool to help you manage the project.

I’ve developed what I call a Project Navigator, which I would post to my blog as a file, except, my blog subscription doesn’t let me post files.  So, instead, let me just tell you what’s in it, and you can create your own.

Tool:  Project Navigator

Using Microsoft® Excel™, create a series of tabs at the bottom of the document — basically, you’re creating worksheets.  On these, I put:

  1. Project Schedule:  A high-level schedule for the project itself.
  2. Roles & Contacts:  Tracks the role of each team member and their contact information.
  3. Status by Team Member:  Tracks what each team member is contributing and status.
  4. Bibliography:  Provides a repository (bibliography) of all inputs, such as presentations, videos, books, web site articles, etc., and their sources.

It’s a great little tool but you’d be surprised the big impact it can have.  Just tracking the bibliography of inputs can be daunting, especially on enterprise projects.  Plus, in the end, this tool demonstrates what went into the project for anyone who needs to know.

In my next post, I’ll break down the steps to the Discovery phase in the execution of a messaging process.

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Since February, my blog has been talking about positioning statements.  Positioning statements are important because they create the foundation for company, product or market segment messages.  All messages should link to the three sections of the positioning statement:  1) Target Market, 2) Value Proposition and 3) Competitive Position.  My posts over the two months have gone through each section in detail — and now we’re at the point where we can put them all together to create one positioning statement.
 
So here is an example of a positioning statement, in this case for a fictional company called Cable Company.  The particular market segment represented is “Families.”
 
Target Market Value Proposition Competitive Position
For: Our offering is: Unlike:
Families music, entertainment, and educational programming broadcast television or analog cable
Who Need: Including: Our Company:
programming suitable for children parental controls provides digital television technology that delivers parental control capabilities.
But: That:  
find that unfiltered content on TV can be unsuitable enable parents to filter TV programming by channel, rating, or programming type  
  Which:  
  prevents access to programming that parents deem unsuitable for their children.  
 
Stay tuned, because my next posts will talk about translating the positioning into messages.

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