Okay, content marketers. You’ve done your homework. You have personas for your target buyers. You’ve laid out the assets you want for each stage of the buyer’s journey. What’s your next step? Do you go straight to writing the content? If so, beware. You may be missing the critical component that will take your content from meh to magnificent.
Messaging maps are the missing link that will make sure your content aligns with the thought processes of your buyers and addresses their concerns as they move along the buyer’s journey.
What Are Messaging Maps?
Messaging maps are not marketing messages that you can just plunk into your content as is. Rather, they seek to capture the thoughts, questions and concerns of your buyers as they look for solutions to a problem.
At Content4Demand, we commonly follow SiriusDecisions’ six stages of the B2B buying cycle:
1) Loosen the status quo – inform
2) Commit to change – trigger
3) Explore possible solutions – benefit
4) Commit to a solution – differentiate
5) Justify/ratify the decision – business case
6) Finalize the decision – confirm
At each stage, we develop the persona’s point of view as they identify a problem and look for a solution.
Where Do I Start to Create a Strong Messaging Map?
It all begins with well-developed personas. With the personas in hand, develop the messaging map in context of the keystone messaging that lays out each persona’s general role, mindset and priorities. Next, create primary messaging elements that focus on the personas’ perspective on the problem for which your brand can provide the solution.
What Belongs in the Map?
With this foundational work completed, you can create the matrix or map. While in actual practice the messaging must align with the specific persona and need, here are some general types of questions the buyer would have:
- Inform: What are peers doing? What do we need to do? How big is the problem?
- Trigger: What is happening right now in the market and/or in our business that has created the need to look for a solution?
- Benefit: What are the benefits of any solution for the problem?
- Differentiate: What are our options, and how do they weigh against each other?
- Business case: What hard facts and data are there to make the case to the ultimate decision maker?
- Confirm: What results have similar organizations seen? What results can I expect?
Here’s a sample we created to show you how that might look:
How Do I Use the Messaging Map?
With a detailed messaging map that specifically addresses the problem to be solved, you can begin writing your content.
If you’re writing the copy for an asset for the “inform” stage, for example, you might present industry trends and data.
At the “trigger” stage, the content could speak to the possible pressures the buyer may have internally that have initiated this search for a solution. For example, you might focus on aging applications that don’t provide the insights needed to make good business decisions.
This process continues throughout the stages of the buyer’s journey.
As you can see, the map helps you focus on how to speak to your buyers as they follow the logic of researching, evaluating and choosing a solution. Your job, as you write, is to answer the questions and address the concerns.
Don’t New AI Tools Eliminate the Need for Messaging Maps?
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can supplement the process but not replace it. These AI tools can give you insights to better target the messaging, but there must still be an element of human judgment. And, let’s face it, most of our companies aren’t on the cutting edge of AI with the luxury of using it to do all this deep analysis for us.
If you’re not creating messaging maps, you’re probably making your content development process more difficult than it needs to be. And who wants to do that?
If you have the resources internally, make sure you’re able to look objectively at your buyers. Too often, businesses fall into the trap of taking a company-first, product-focused perspective.
If you don’t have the resources internally to create personas and messaging maps, find a content marketing agency to help. A general PR or marketing agency will not likely have the extensive experience to create the in-depth personas and messaging maps that get to the heart of your buyers’ psyches.
Contact us any time if you have questions about personas, messaging maps or creating truly buyer-focused content.