4 Signs Your SaaS Startup Needs a Brand Messaging Strategy
A brand messaging strategy doesn't feel essential, does it?
You need content. The last thing you want to do is spend time on building an internal strategy document. Strategy seems like a luxury for later, not a necessity.
But think about this.
What do you need to connect with prospects?
How do you build trust?
How can every blog, email, or webpage maintain a consistent message without a documented strategy? Your only shot is having a single person write all of your content. Even then, is it optimized for your audience?
A brand messaging strategy is a data-driven set of guidelines for how to talk about your product. It can live in an elegantly designed book or a humble Google Doc. What matters most is its ability to clarify your product’s purpose in the market.
Like in sports, rules in messaging provide structure, purpose, and a way to recognize success. They make the game fun. Without rules, a player’s actions are random. Randomness for a business, especially those who are resource-conscious, can be an expensive game to play.
Here are four signs of wobbly brand messaging (and how a strategy gives you legs to stand on).
1. The core team is too close to the product
Leaders of small organizations often work closely on product development. This hyperfocus on features can seep into your marketing. Messaging might skew a little too heavy on feature benefits that your customers don't value much, or you may use internal jargon that customers don’t understand.
In working with SaaS founders on their marketing, this quote from Donald Miller, author of Building a StoryBrand, hits home:
“We know too much, and that knowledge does two things: first, it causes us to make assumptions in our marketing. We never spot the language and terminology that confuse our customers because those things are second nature to us. Second, it causes us to give customers too much information too soon. Customers get overwhelmed and tap out.”
A brand messaging strategy moves the microscope off of your product and reorients your marketing to customers.
There are three main layers to describing the functionality of a product.
A. Features (describes what a feature does)
Example: The web clipper grabs content from the internet.
B. Benefits (describes why your customers should care)
Example: The web clipper allows you to grab and save research from the internet faster than copying and pasting to a word doc.
C. Jobs-to-be-done (Jobs-to-be-done is figuring out exactly what you’re customer is trying to do, and describing how your product does that very thing)
Example: The web clipper grabs and saves research content from the internet faster than copying and pasting so you can finish your novel in less time.
Finishing a novel in less time is the job to be done. It could change depending on the segment of audience you’re speaking to. For example, a grad student might use the web clipper to complete his thesis instead.
A brand messaging strategy helps you keep an eye on the ball for what matters most to your customers using the language they recognize.
2. Too many unique answers to the question, “What does your product do?”
In a perfect world, every person in your organization would deliver the same short, articulate answer to this question.
Typically known as a value proposition—this statement should be known and shouted from the rooftops.
Take this one for example.
Acme Chef’s dinner kits help overextended families enjoy a home-cooked meal together by delivering 20-minute meals with curated recipes right to your doorstep.
This value proposition—arguably the most essential component of a brand messaging strategy—explains what you do, who you do it for, how, and why your customers should care.
Creating and designing a product, and knowing how to talk about it based on the pain points of your customers, are different skills. You created a fantastic product, but remember to go back, talk to your customers, and create messaging that both speaks to your product AND the specific problem it solves for your customers.
The value proposition becomes the beating pulse of every webpage, blog post, social media post, whether directly or indirectly. Without unity across your org, you might hear something like:
“Acme helps you make healthy dinners faster.” - That’s more akin to Blue Apron or HelloFresh. It leaves out Acme’s unique family-building value.
The value proposition in a brand messaging strategy is like the pacemaker for the heart of your marketing.
3. The tone and style of your content looks and feels different
Try this game: Scroll slowly through Instagram. Ignore the photos, and read only the descriptions underneath.
You can probably recognize the brands and people you follow based on the tone and style of their words. Does your marketing pass this test right now?
Consistency in the style of your copy relieves prospects of the mental burden of identifying who you are. As Donald Miller famously says, “When you confuse, you lose.”
A brand messaging strategy sets your style and tone so customers recognize your ‘face’ in the crowd.
4. You have more than one target audience but speak to them in the same way
Remember the jobs to be done from #1? Different audiences have different jobs they need to do.
In a perfect world, every landing page, ad, and blog post would focus exclusively on One Reader with One Problem (hat tip to Copyhackers).
If your product solves different problems for multiple audiences, you’ll want to take advantage of every touchpoint by tailoring your message to each reader’s unique job to be done. This might mean having multiple value propositions and positioning statements for your target audiences.
A brand messaging strategy helps you keep track of all the ways to engage your audience.
The cost of not having a brand messaging strategy can be hefty
There’s a reason the recommended first step for every long-term life endeavor involves starting with a plan.
Whether it’s saving for retirement, building a home, or celebrating your anniversary, you can always tell the difference between something thought out or fly by night.
Not having a brand messaging strategy can be like saying, “Here’s my company, Lady Luck. Do what you will.”
You give away a huge degree of control that could belong to you.
A lack of strategy hurts the marketing investments you do make. Content creators struggle to communicate value and do so consistently. Or, you rely on a one-size-fits-all approach and miss valuable opportunities to tailor your messaging.
A brand messaging strategy takes the undesirable (and exhausting) variability out of messaging your product so you—and everyone else creating content for you—puts the best foot forward every time.
Are you wondering if a brand messaging strategy could help improve your future marketing investments? Send me an email.
Annie Obergefell is a B2B messaging & brand voice strategist, copywriter, and founder of Copy Salt. Her specialties include brand messaging and voice development for clients, advertising agencies, and consultancies.
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