HomeBlog Three Steps to Creating Story-Based Messaging

Three Steps to Creating Story-Based Messaging

July 25, 2013 | By Grace Kraaijvanger

B-to-b marketers are storytellers, and buyers are the audience. The ability to tell a story that buyers listen to might be your most effective tool as a marketer.

“Once upon a time…” marks the beginning of many of our favorite tales. The best stories go on to evoke emotion, persuade, take audiences to a faraway land and mix intelligence, wisdom and wit through a thematic plot that builds, develops and then resolves.

B-to-b marketers are storytellers, and buyers are the audience. The ability to tell a story that buyers listen to might be your most effective tool as a marketer. There is plenty of information available on how to create and adhere to better messaging, but for today, let’s focus on three easy steps for better message development:

  • Understand your buyers and their needs.
  • Translate buyer needs into need-focused messages and resist product-based messages.
  • Create a thematic messaging story that follows the buyer’s journey through the entire buying cycle.

Let’s dive into the details of each of these steps.

One: Obtain a deep understanding of buyers, customers and their needs.

This first step is often the most overlooked, but you simply can’t get around it if you want to develop compelling messaging. Knowing who you’re talking to requires doing some serious homework on your buyers – e.g. what they value, where they go, who they trust and how they prefer to interact and get information.

This step requires overlaying all the industries, company sizes, roles and buying centers that may be involved. Do not rely on old pre-conceived ideas about what a buyer within a target segment looks like or make broad generalizations that paint all buyers the same way.

Buyer research can be complex, but skipping this step ultimately hurts demand creation performance, so consider it mandatory for message creation. Reach out across the organization, from sales to multiple marketing functions, for their perspectives on buyers, as buyer knowledge can vary from team to team.

Two: Translate buyer needs into need-focused messages.

Everything you learn about the buyer in the first step allows you to create messaging that focuses on their needs. You’ve heard this before, but don’t default to messaging about products and their features. While this type of information is easy to share, it won’t resonate with most buyers. Instead, deliver a buyer-focused set of themes that can be adapted across various audience segments and program types.

Keep demand type in mind, as the type of demand that you’re trying to create is linked to buyer needs. New-concept demand messaging needs to create a problem, new-paradigm demand messaging needs to create consideration of how the problem should be solved, and established-market demand messaging needs to create preference.

Remember, the key to need-based themes is to focus on problem-solving for buyers and outcomes that are meaningful to them.

Three: Create a messaging story that follows the buyer’s journey through the entire buying cycle.

Messaging needs to support the complete buyer’s journey. Marketers often make the mistake of developing messaging that is heavily weighted toward the awareness stage, which is like writing the beginning of a story with no middle or end. As marketing’s responsibilities extend to longer lead nurturing and even supporting sales enablement deeper into the buying process, message development must incorporate these phases’ different demands.

Messaging needs to support buyer concerns at each stage and map to trouble spots where leads tend to stall or fall out of the process. Finally, messages should be customized to anticipate the specific needs of different b-to-b buying roles and markets, including the ideal portfolio of programs and tactics required for each of them.

Of course, many considerations factor into developing effective messaging. But with these three steps in mind, you are well on your way to “happily ever after” messaging that ultimately drives b-to-b storytelling success.

Grace Kraaijvanger

Grace Kraaijvanger is Director of Learning for SiriusDecisions. Working with companies such as Charles Schwab, Intuit, Macromedia, Oracle and PeopleSoft, Grace brings over 15 years of experience to her role – providing best-in-class training to b-to-b marketers seeking to enhance their skills and knowledge. The focus is on creating measurable, targeted marketing strategies that align with sales goals and leverage the latest technology and best practices. Follow Grace on Twitter @grace_kraaijv.