Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article originally published to Medium on the essentials of strategic communication. This post has been edited and condensed for clarity. In this article, you’ll learn what makes certain messaging effective and discover a framework to help you evaluate your own messaging. You can read a primer on strategic messaging here.
The symptoms of ineffective messaging aren’t easy to spot. Organizations collect and analyze almost every imaginable metric, but how do you know your messaging is working? It is impossible to say that your sales process is prolonged by X% because prospects are too confused about your offerings. But there is a qualitative way to analyze your current messaging.
One of the main attributes of strategic messaging is consistency. Effective messaging is always simple and consistent. So, the best way to evaluate your current messaging is to look at how consistently your organization talks about your products and compare that with how your current customers talk about your product. Here’s a simple framework:
The Internal Evaluation
The answers you receive in the internal survey from different teams and even from members of the same team are often so different it will convince your organization to take messaging seriously.
When conducting one-on-one interviews with salespeople at one company, I was shocked at how different the product pitch and company description was from one interview to another. I interviewed one sales rep and then heard a polar opposite pitch from the next sales rep. In this extreme case, almost every sales rep had their own sales decks. I then shadowed their live sales calls with customers to compare what they said during interviews and how they presented to prospects. Some sales pitches were so far apart that if you didn’t know the company name, you would think the pitches were for different products. (Sound familiar?!).
But let’s imagine that your internal messaging is reasonably consistent, then the next step in the evaluation process is to interview a few customers and compare how they perceive your product and your company (the external evaluation). Remember, strategic messaging and positioning is all about the perception in your customer’s mind. So your messaging could be simple and consistent but still doesn’t match the perception in the mind of a customer.
The External Evaluation
External evaluation of your strategic messaging can be done in two ways: 1) customer interviews; 2) with a survey. Surveys are quicker and easier, but interviews are more valuable. If your internal evaluation was enough to convince your team to review your messaging, you probably don’t need to do an external evaluation.
You will talk to your customers and prospects when you start designing your new messaging. It would be very inefficient to interview your customers once for evaluation and again when you are designing the new messaging.
During interviews, the customer may respond that he/she likes or dislikes the product because of one feature it has. Always follow up with “Why?” questions. It is never about the feature of the product, it is about how this feature impacts their daily work and what value and utility it provides.
Now compare what message your organization communicates and how customers perceive your product. Most companies are very shocked to find out how far apart their internal messaging is from their customer perception.
Even though it’s difficult to calculate the ROI of effective strategic messaging, it’s important to realize that messaging has more of an impact than almost anything else in business. You can evaluate the consistency of your messaging using our messaging map template here. And in an upcoming post, we’ll tell you how to design and implement your new messaging.