Creating impactful B2B messaging that produces results

Why messaging Workshops?

In my many years of running product and marketing teams in the high-tech vendor community, I have tried various methods for getting better content out of myself and my teams. To that end, I have attended and organized many different classes and workshops to facilitate my teams to be more productive and aligned in the area of messaging – which is the foundation of creating good content for sales and marketing. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, there have been some workshops that seemed a waste of money, and some that really hit home.

For me, the ones that hit home, and were worth celebrating, were the ones around messaging where my team came away with a fresh understanding of our target customers and how to reach them. Just as important were those that delivered practical documents as part of the class and introduced new perspectives that would enable the team to produce the right, customer-targeted content.

For the highest return, the essential elements of a messaging workshop are as follows:

  • Who is the customer?
  • How do customers make decisions?
  • What is the customers’ compelling reasons to buy?
  • What are the alternatives to your solution?
  • What is the value to the customer of your solution?
  • How do you tell your story to the customer in a differentiated way?
  • What are your proof points?
  • Pulling it together and putting it into action.

Who is the customer and how do they make decisions?

In the high-tech world, you can get so caught up in your own technology’s features and benefits that you lose sight of what matters to a customer. Add to the mix that a lot of the people in product and product marketing teams tend to come from an engineering or technical background where they are most at home with technical features and perhaps benefits. Given this background, it is no surprise that they produce materials that target a technical buyer. For this reason, the foundation for a messaging workshop starts with a level set on how to view customers and what are the different classes of customers.

What is the customers’ compelling reason to buy?

Once you have the right view of your customers, you can start to understand their world and what is top of their priority list. This is where insights into the customer are discussed – what is the customer doing today and why are they doing it. As you look at the problem from the perspective of the customer and what problem they are trying to solve, it naturally brings in the concept of the complete solution, or “whole product” as Geoffrey Moore and Chasm Institute describe it.

What are the alternatives to your solution?

When you think of alternatives to your solution, the natural inclination is to focus on the biggest competitor in your technology category. However, when you look at it from a customer’s point of view, you may find the most common alternative is to do nothing or use a completely separate set of technologies.  Once the competition is understood, your value can be properly stated.

What is the value to the customer of your solution?

By starting with the customers’ need you can talk in terms of value that links to your product or solution. Customers will pay more for benefits than features, but they will pay a lot more for value. Being able to understand the value you bring to customers can shorten sales cycles, increase the sales pipeline and, increase the number and quality of testimonials.

How do you tell your story to the customer in a differentiated way?

When telling your story and creating messaging, it is important to be differentiated from other solutions. This can be easy from a feature’s comparison viewpoint and on many websites, you will see companies compare themselves to the competition feature by feature. While this is useful – especially to the technical evaluator – it does not translate well to the economic buyer. Your differentiation must primarily link to the customer value that you have identified and not your product features.

What are your proof points?

When sales are out in front of customers discussing the superiority of your solution, a customer will typically want proof. This can be in the form of testimonials, awards won, endorsements or product demonstrations. This is the one place where features and product functionality may come into play. You don’t lead with a feature, but you do use features to prove the value.

Pulling it together and putting it into action

The end result of a messaging workshop should be a messaging document that succinctly states all that has been discussed. This needs to be in a form that is useable by everyone throughout your company that is involved in messaging or talking to customers. Messaging needs to be used, not filed away. That means that there should be an action list that not only states what needs doing, but who is responsible for it being done and by what date. This includes things like web updates, new papers that need writing and sales tools needed.

Lastly, there is the question of “Who should run a messaging workshop?”

Messaging workshops can be run by someone inside the company or by getting an external consultant or agency to run one. While running the workshop internally may seem to be more flexible and have lower costs, it can, in fact, be less effective and cost more in the long run.

The problem with running them internally is that there is rarely the time available to create quality material and prepare for running the sessions. There is also the problem of NIH -not invented here. If the facilitator that runs it is not respected and valued across all departments, however good the content is, it will be met with resistance. Also, the internal facilitator will come with some preconceived ideas and outcomes that will hinder their ability to be impartial when it comes to mediating differences.

When we run a messaging workshop we provide a number of key functions:

  • Be an impartial facilitation that will tease out the customer value
  • Be a voice for the customer and challenge product-focused self-centered messaging
  • Provide an external perspective that will not be afraid to be a constructive critic
  • Guide the team through differences of opinion
  • Keep the team on track and topic to ensure the messaging document gets completed.

Sounds great, how do I get started?

If you have a messaging project you would like to get started on, complete the contact form from the contact menu or call on +1 408 912 9120

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Graham is a skilled communicator working with vendors, customers, partners, analysts and media, crafting targeted messages that bridge the gap between product features and the perceived needs of the audience. Graham runs strategic messaging workshops and creates content for high tech companies.

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About Me

Graham Melville is a marketing executive that has over 25 years in the security, networking and mobility space. He has extensive experience in sales, marketing, and technology. Graham has led both Product Management and Product Marketing at Symbol/Motorola, Nokia, Meru and Citrix. Previously Graham managed sales and software development teams.  He was General Manager of  a reseller providing networking, PC’s and accounting systems.  Graham holds patents in the WLAN space and has been a contributing member to global standards such as the IEEE802.11i security specification.

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