Sheila is an international marketing specialist with particular experience in the market research software marketplace. She has worked for over ten years in high-tech multinational organizations – including SPSS, Toshiba and Xerox. Sheila has been a meaning associate since 2003.

Developing a set of key messages helps you achieve clarity in your marketing by ensuring that a consistent thread runs through all your company’s communication. Here we discuss how to create compelling key messaging, which is particularly important and useful if you have a complex technology product.

It is important to decide on a few basic messages that all your staff and promotional materials consistently reiterate. Hearing the same points repeatedly from different sources is more memorable and credible. The main thing to remember about your key messages is that they must be true!

You should aim to create around eight to twelve key messages, or key differentiators about your company or product. Any more and your message will get diluted; any less and you’ll sound lacking in substance.

Key differentiators are short factual statements, such as “business partner that truly understands clients needs”. These are backed up with qualifying information that supports your case and adds credibility. For example: you could explain that most of your staff used to work in the same industry as your clients, you have 25 people in Support who cover all global time zones 24/7, and you work with 15 of the 20 largest companies in the industry etc.

To come up with a set of key messages, set up a group of people – usually staff – who can brainstorm about your company. The group should represent a cross-section – different departments, levels of seniority as well as new and old employees. Each person should write down what they think is special about the company or product. Eventually, a marketing expert needs to arrange the notes into eight to twelve groups and summarise each group with a short key differentiator, such as the example given above. This stage is the tricky bit!

Having written your key differentiators, the next step is to review them, considering:

  • Do they fit in with your company strategy and goals?
  • Do they focus on what differentiates your company from the competition?
  • Are they broad enough in scope?
  • Are they compelling enough?

Bear in mind that the key differentiators should not be set in stone. Over the months and years, you should review them regularly. Things change!

Finally, remember that the key differentiator document is strictly for internal use only. It is a crib sheet, which will be primarily used by Marketing but can (and should) be used for any type of communications with the outside world. When creating marketing materials, the language and content should be benefit-led, consider the needs of the audience and should fit in with your corporate style. Never ever regurgitate the exact words from the crib sheet!

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