Persona vs. Solution vs. Vertical: Which B2B Messaging Framework is Best for You?

Every B2B messaging framework has strengths and weaknesses

Understanding all of the different B2B messaging frameworks out there is nothing like comparing apples to apples. In many cases it’s apples and oranges and we don’t even realize it.

Thankfully, choosing the right B2B messaging framework isn’t subjective. Your ideal customer profile should determine the framework you use. After all, a messaging framework is really just a blueprint for connecting your product to its target audience. 

In B2B messaging, three common ways to craft messaging are by:

  • Persona
  • Solution
  • Vertical

By the end of the article you'll be able to decide which of these messaging frameworks makes the most sense for your business.

In this article:

  • Persona-based messaging targets stakeholders' unique concerns and aspirations.
  • Solution messaging focuses on the benefits and features of products or services.
  • Vertical messaging tailors communication to resonate with the unique needs of specific industries.

B2B Messaging by Persona

Persona-based messaging uses detailed profiles for the various stakeholders involved in the buying process. These personas include a range of attributes like job roles, industry challenges, personal goals, and specific pain points. Persona-based messaging enables businesses to craft highly targeted messaging that speaks directly to the unique concerns and aspirations of each decision-maker.

Adobe segments its Creative Cloud offerings by targeting different professional personas within the creative industry, such as graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and web designers. Each persona receives messaging focused on the specific tools, features, and resources most relevant to their work.

For example, Adobe targets photographers with features and updates for Photoshop and Lightroom, emphasizing editing capabilities and workflow efficiency. This persona-based approach ensures that Adobe's messaging speaks directly to the needs and interests of each creative professional, enhancing the perceived value of their Creative Cloud suite.

B2B Messaging Framework - Persona example. Image of Adobe creative suite homepage for photographers.

Strategic Advantages of Persona Messaging

  • Personalization: Today’s marketing automation tools make it easy for businesses to deliver personalized messages to increase engagement and conversion rates.
  • Brand Differentiation: In competitive sectors, showing a deep understanding of your customers' unique challenges can set you apart, establishing your brand as a preferred solution provider.
  • Product Development: Feedback gathered through persona-specific interactions can offer invaluable insights, guiding product enhancements and innovation to meet market demands. (The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework nestles nicely here.)

Ideal Scenarios for Persona-Based Messaging

  • Diverse Decision-Makers: In scenarios where purchasing decisions are made by committees with varied roles and priorities, persona-based messaging sparks those lucrative ‘a-ha moments’ with every stakeholder.
  • Complex Offerings: For products or services that require a nuanced understanding, tailoring your message to fit the technical literacy and interest of each persona can demystify your offerings and highlight their value.
  • Extended Sales Cycles: With B2B sales often involving a lengthy deliberation process, persona-based messaging keeps different stakeholders engaged by addressing their specific needs at each stage of their journey.

Non-ideal Scenarios for Persona-Based Messaging

  • Companies with limited resources may find it impossible to perform the detailed research and content creation required for persona messaging. 
  • Businesses targeting a narrow or homogeneous market might not need the granularity persona messaging provides.

B2B Messaging by Solution

Solution messaging is the default approach for most B2B messaging. It shifts the focus from the buyer's personal characteristics to the specific benefits and features of your product or service. This strategy can be especially effective for companies offering complex solutions or those with a diverse product portfolio. With solution messaging, companies can articulate how their offerings address specific industry challenges.

Shopify uses solution messaging to target small to medium-sized businesses looking to establish or expand their online retail presence. Their platform is presented as an all-in-one e-commerce solution that simplifies the process of setting up an online store, managing inventory, processing payments, and analyzing sales data. Shopify's messaging focuses on the ease of use and comprehensive features of their platform, addressing the challenges of entering the e-commerce space without extensive technical knowledge.

B2B messaging framework example - messaging by solution. Showing Shopify homepage

Strategic Advantages of Solution Messaging

  • Highlight Diverse Offerings: For businesses with a range of products, solution-based messaging can clarify the unique value proposition of each offering.
  • Address Complex Challenges: When solutions are intricate, breaking down their benefits in a clear, accessible manner can help potential clients understand their applicability and effectiveness.
  • Clear Value Proposition: By focusing on the solutions your products provide, you can more effectively communicate their value and relevance to potential clients.
  • Market Segmentation: This approach allows for precise targeting, ensuring that your messaging reaches the most relevant audience segments.
  • Competitive Differentiation: In crowded markets, emphasizing the unique solutions your products offer can help you stand out from the competition.

Ideal Scenarios for Solution Messaging

  • Complex Solutions Offering: When your product or service is complex and requires a detailed explanation to convey its value proposition effectively. Solution-based messaging helps break down complex features into understandable benefits that directly address the customer's pain points.
  • Diverse Product Portfolio: For companies with a wide range of products or services, each designed to solve different problems or cater to different needs. Solution-based messaging allows you to clearly communicate the value proposition of each offering to its relevant audience segment, making it easier for potential customers to find the solution that best fits their needs.
  • Market Segmentation: In scenarios where the market is segmented by different use cases, industries, or customer needs. Solution-based messaging enables you to tailor your communication to each segment, addressing the specific concerns and requirements of each group with precision.
  • Educating the Market: In situations where there is a need to educate the market about a new solution or an innovative approach to solving existing problems. Solution-based messaging provides the structure needed to convey complex information in an accessible and compelling way, helping to boost awareness and understanding among your target audience.
  • Cross-Selling and Upselling Opportunities: If your strategy involves cross-selling or upselling solutions to existing customers. Solution-based messaging can highlight the synergies and added value of adopting additional products or services, encouraging customers to expand their engagement with your offerings.

Non-ideal Scenarios for Solution Messaging

  • Undifferentiated Products or Services: If your company's offerings are very similar to those of competitors with few unique features or benefits, focusing solely on messaging by solution can make it difficult to stand out in a crowded market. You might try focusing on company branding, customer service, or other areas where you can differentiate and add value beyond the product features themselves.
  • Complex Solutions Requiring a Broader Context: For companies offering complex solutions that need to be understood within a broader ecosystem or as part of a larger suite of products, focusing narrowly on individual solutions might miss the mark. Customers may need to understand how different products work together or how your overall company capabilities can address their broader business challenges. In these instances, you might consider a more holistic messaging approach that encompasses the entire value proposition of your company.
  • Early-Stage Markets or Undefined Needs: In markets that are in the early stages of development or when targeting new customer segments whose needs are not well-defined, focusing on specific solutions can be premature. Customers might not yet understand their own needs well enough to respond to solution-specific messaging. Instead, focusing on educational content, thought leadership, and broader industry trends can help to nurture these prospects until they are ready to appreciate the specifics of your solutions.

B2B Messaging by Vertical

Vertical messaging in B2B marketing zeroes in on industry-specific communication. It's about crafting your message to resonate with the unique needs, language, and challenges of a particular industry or vertical market. This approach is invaluable for companies whose products or services are especially relevant to certain sectors (e.g. agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing), allowing them to demonstrate a deep understanding of and alignment with industry-specific challenges.

HubSpot, known for its inbound marketing and sales software, offers specialized resources and pricing for nonprofit organizations. Their vertical messaging focuses on how nonprofits can leverage HubSpot's platform to increase donations, engage with their communities, and manage volunteers more effectively. By understanding the unique challenges nonprofits face, such as budget constraints and the need for community engagement, HubSpot tailors its messaging to demonstrate empathy and provide value-driven solutions for this sector.

B2B messaging framework example - messaging by vertical - HubSpot for nonprofits homepage image

Strategic Advantages of Vertical Messaging

  • Industry-Specific Solutions: For offerings that are tailor-made for particular industries, vertical messaging ensures that the unique benefits are communicated effectively and directly to the target market.
  • Building Expertise and Credibility: By focusing on industry-specific challenges and solutions, companies can establish themselves as thought leaders and trusted advisors within their target verticals (even if they specialize in more)
  • Navigating Regulatory Landscapes: In industries with strict regulatory requirements, vertical messaging can build trust by highlighting a company's compliance and expertise.
  • Competitive Edge: In crowded markets, a well-executed vertical messaging strategy can differentiate your brand by demonstrating a nuanced understanding of industry-specific challenges.
  • Customization and Personalization: For solutions that offer customization or personalization options for different industries, messaging by vertical can showcase how your product adapts to meet the unique needs of each sector.
  • Sales and Marketing Alignment: Vertical messaging equips sales teams with industry-specific narratives, enhancing their ability to connect with prospects.

Ideal Scenarios for Vertical Messaging

  • Market Penetration and Expansion: When entering a new industry vertical or looking to expand your presence within an existing one, tailored messaging can help in effectively communicating your value proposition to that specific audience.
  • Sales Enablement: Providing your sales team with vertical-specific messaging gives them the tools for impactful conversations with prospects, leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Customer Retention: For existing customers in specific verticals, vertical messaging can reinforce the value of your solutions and support upselling or cross-selling efforts by aligning with industry-specific trends and needs.
  • Content Marketing and SEO: Vertical-specific messaging allows for more targeted content marketing and SEO strategies, helping to attract and engage a more relevant audience through industry-specific keywords and topics. (e.g. ‘best CRM for small businesses’ compared to ‘best CRM for small agricultural businesses’)
  • Event Marketing and Sponsorships: When participating in industry-specific events, conferences, or trade shows, messaging by vertical ensures that your brand's presence and communications are highly relevant and engaging to the event's audience.

Non-ideal Scenarios for Vertical Messaging

  • Limited Resources for Customization: If your company has limited resources—whether it's in terms of budget, time, or people—to create and maintain tailored messaging for multiple industry verticals, attempting to do so can stretch your resources too thin.Without the necessary resources, your messaging might end up being too generic within each vertical and fail to resonate with the intended audience.
  • Broad Market Appeal with Uniform Needs: If your product or service addresses a problem or need that is largely uniform across industries, vertical messaging might overcomplicate your marketing efforts without adding significant value. In situations where the benefits and applications of your solution are universally understood and appreciated, focusing on a common pain point or benefit across all industries can be more effective. This approach allows you to streamline your messaging and marketing efforts, focusing on what truly matters to your entire audience, rather than diluting your message across multiple verticals.
  • Early Market Entry or Undefined Verticals: In the early stages of market entry, especially with a novel product or service, the specific vertical applications of your solution might not be fully understood or defined. In such cases, focusing too narrowly on specific verticals can limit your market exploration and potential. Instead, you could start with a broader approach to understand where your product fits best, gather feedback, and identify the most receptive markets. Once you have a clearer understanding of where your solution delivers the most value, you can then consider developing more targeted vertical messaging.

Integrating Multiple Messaging Strategies

For many B2B companies, the optimal approach involves integrating elements of persona, solution, and vertical messaging. This hybrid strategy allows for nuanced communication that addresses the diverse needs of various stakeholders, highlights the unique benefits of your solutions, and resonates with industry-specific challenges and opportunities.

The Best B2B Messaging Framework Depends on Your Customer

As you refine your B2B messaging framework, keep these mind:

  • Deep Market Research: Understand the needs, challenges, and language of your target audiences and industries.
  • Segmentation and Personalization: Use the insights from your research to segment your audience and personalize your messaging for greater impact.
  • Continuous Testing and Optimization: Regularly test different messages and formats to see what resonates best with your audience, and be prepared to iterate based on feedback and results.

Whether you choose to focus on persona, solution, or vertical messaging—or a combination of these—remember that the ultimate goal is to find a balance between personalizing your message to the extent that's necessary and what your company resources can successfully support in the long-term.

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About the author

Annie Obergefell is a messaging & brand voice strategist, copywriter, and founder of Copy Salt. Specialties include messaging, marketing strategy, and brand voice development for clients, advertising agencies, and consultancies.

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