Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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Key Point or Message?

When a startup company first begins to tell the world about them and the product(s)/service(s) they’re developing it’s best to have a framework set up to use as a guide for writing all the pieces you’ll need to use as sales tools, lead generation campaigns, end-user documentation for using the product/service and all the information you’ll need to share about your company as you begin to carve our niche in the market space. There are many people who will be interested in what you’re doing, unless of course you’re making a product that sucks or has no actual real-world use. But going under the assumption that you’ve done your homework and there really is a need or desire for your offerings, you’ll need to share information about your company, your product/service, the founders of the company and possibly other employees, as well as where you see your product/service fitting in the market space, how to use your offerings and so much more. All people won’t be your potential customers, but many others will be interested in it for other reasons: i.e. potential investments, analysts research for your industry, publications that monitor the market space for news, etc.

As a marketing professional I’m often surprised at how many executive-level people in business don’t understand the value of developing a comprehensive messaging document. In fact, I often run into very smart business people with different types of degrees that have served them well in their business careers who really don’t understand the difference between corporate messaging and key points or benefit messages and marketing tag lines. The misconception I find most amusing is that business professionals think corporate messaging is the same thing as key messages for press and analyst opportunities.

When a startup neglects to develop their corporate and product/service messaging before they start writing press releases, website copy, speaking proposals for industry events and subsequent presentations for those events, contributed articles for publications, blog posts, user documents, etc. they end up have a confusing mess of product or company nomenclature used in different ways, not to mention varying voice styles and multiple ways of talking about their company or product/service that only serve to confuse the readers. When you’re trying to get consumers to remember you, consistency is really important.

Here’s a breakdown for corporate communications messaging that I’ve found to be very useful. I urge all startup companies to put effort into creating a comprehensive messaging document. I’ll list these without definition as you can easily search for definitions and find ones that you feel most comfortable with. Remember, this type of work is inherently creative so use the definitions as a guide.

  1. Mission Statement
  2. Vision Statement
  3. Value Proposition
  4. 3 to 4 Key Corporate Messages
  5. 5 to 7 Key Product Messages
  6. Key benefits
  7. Elevator Pitch
  8. What Is It Statement
  9. What Does It Do Statement
  10. Corporate Profile Statement
  11. Elevator Pitch

After you’ve gotten these written out and gotten feedback on them and put them through your target audience filter to make sure they’ll resonate with the target audience, you’ll then be able to use them as a starting point and guide for everything else you’ll need to write. It will be rare that you’ll want to reuse one of the 11 items listed word-for-word, but you’ll definitely want to use some of the language and convey the meaning in many of your materials and collateral.

As an example, if you’re working with a PR firm, they’ll need these messaging document to help guide them as they write specific messages for press opportunities. Because the media are not interested in a company’s self-service messages about their product, a PR professional will be looking at what journalists are currently writing about in the industry and how your company/product fits into that. They’ll craft the press key messages accordingly, but with the corporate messages as a guide.

Finally, when you’re ready to write pieces such as web copy, brochures, advertisements, demo scripts, etc. if can really help you to have a branding and positioning document to also help guide you. This is a topic for another post, but in general, where the corporate/product messaging document acts as a guide on how to talk about your company and it’s offerings and benefits, a branding and positioning document will tell you how to write copy that conveys the corporate messaging in a voice and style that will resonate with your target audience. If you’re writing something for teens as the target audience, you don’t want to sound like lawyers or insurance documents.

Now, go write your hearts out, but establish a guide piece so that all your company communications talk about your company, your product/service and your industry clearly.

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As I drove off to college I never would have guessed I would end up here! But it’s been a fantastic journey. My career has been richly diverse giving me an advantage over marketers who are siloed into niche positions. I strive to be a true Renaissance person—I love to learn about everything and trying new things comes naturally. My career has been no different; I’ve successfully launched enterprise software and medical device development startups, improved communications processes for the regulatory department of a major financial exchange, increased client business and product development for several international exchange program companies and founded an international educational non-profit organization. My master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from Golden Gate University gave me a broad understanding of traditional marketing best-practices, but my BA in theater gave me the skills to understand how people communicate with one another and the importance of promoting a brand in a voice that is right for the audience.