Diana and I have had conversations with several customers on the topic of messaging. In each conversation, the business leader said they were having difficulty engaging the right customers. One of the first questions we asked them was “do you have a message map to support customer engagement?” When we ask this question, we often hear, “what’s a message map?”
A customer-centric message map is a tool that captures all of your primary claims about your company’s value proposition, your products, and services, that will resonate and engage your prospects and customers, along with the evidence to support your claims. It also captures potential objections and competitor responses to these claims along with your response to these and supporting evidence. A message map serves as a tool to ensure consistent internal, cross-functional messaging and external channels and touchpoints. It should be designed to support your customer-facing teams and prevent them from being ambushed when they engage with prospects and customers.
In the conversations that prompted this video, right after this explanation, there was consistently a pause. The variety of answers boiled down to this basic response. “Not really. We do have some messages written down that we use to some degree. But we don’t really have a message map per se.”
Messaging Confusion Drives Customers to Your Competitors
In a quick follow-up question, we often ask, “how do you decide what will engage your prospects and customers?” The answers we heard most often were, we do what:
- Our competitors do
- Worked in a sales conversation
- We see in comments to social media
- Emails get the most clicks
- Content gets the most download.
Essentially, we hear that they are pushing out messages, typically through email, social media, or some other platform hoping that something will stick.
Pushing out messages without a message map is like banging on an instrument. Lots of sound and noise but not necessarily appealing music. In fact, a lack of a message map opens the door for different parts of your organization to communicate different things, potentially to the same customer or communicating important things differently. It opens the door for competitors to enter.
The result, confusion.
Friction drives prospects and customers away.
How Do You Know if You Need a Message Map?
Compose your map like a musical score. The sheet of music tells what notes to play, which instruments play them, the tempo, and who jumps in when. A well-composed musical score will be pleasant to the ear.
If you don’t have customer-centric score that includes the flow of your messaging, with messages that are compelling, and that resonates with your target market and customer base, you’ll end up with the opposite of very good music.
How do you know if you need a message map? You need a message map If:
- People on your team, partners, or customer advocates, cannot repeat the key messages.
- Key team members do not know how to respond to potential objections and competitor notes (moves)
A clear, crisp message map, helps ensure everyone on your, and your partner’s team, are on the same page. Less confusion. Less friction in the customer buying journey and more alignment between the Marketing and Sales processes.
5 Key Steps to Create a Customer-Centric Message Map
Developing a customer-centric message map takes data and a process. And of course, we have a process which we’d be happy to discuss with you. Use these 5 suggestions to prime the pump:
- Begin with the end in mind. Frame up your message map so that your messages are tied to your strategy and include both product and non-product aspects. Sometimes it is the non-product messages that resonate the strongest, and are your key differentiators and value.
- Study your competitors. Good message maps lay ambushes and landmines for your competitors and help you anticipate how they might respond to your messages, so you can have your counter messages prepared.
- Prepare for customer objections. Track customer objections to support the follow-up messages to overcome them.
- Support your claims with evidence. Your messages are claims. Every claim should be supported with some type of proof. Some examples of evidence are customer testimonials or a third-party report.
- Connect customer-centric content and your map. Build content to support your map and weave your messages into all customer and market-facing content. A message map isn’t just about marketing. All content, for example, sales presentations, customer service scripts, and invoices should incorporate your messaging.
All of your messages bring your strategy to life. Your message map informs your organization how you will communicate with the market and what that sounds like. A message map sounds like smart business. And that’s this episode of One Good Idea.
An effective message map creates a competitive advantage. Message mapping is a science. Like science, it requires solid data. This includes gathering competitive intelligence, performing win/loss analysis, and facilitating a collaborative, unbiased, workshop.