October 5, 2022
Messaging

The art of B2B messaging: A step-by-step guide [+Framework]

Find out how to use a simple, step-by-step B2B messaging framework for developing messaging and positioning that's right for your business.

With workflow apps like Slack, Asana, Notion, and Airtable growing in widespread usage, Zapier understood the increasing need to connect these productivity apps and automate workflows for busy B2B professionals.

The company successfully identified their brand's value proposition through concise messaging. Their homepage header proclaims, "Automate your busywork," subsequently replacing the word "busywork" with a revolving carousel of tedious target customer tasks like "sales outreach," "lead flow," and "to-do list."

Their messaging explains who they are, what they do, and who they help. The company has gone from being a weekend project to $140 million in ARR with 6 million users. With an effective B2B messaging framework, this could be you.

This article will review the basics of B2B messaging and help you craft your own messaging through an 4-step framework.

Start with a messaging framework

A messaging framework, also called message architecture, is the bedrock for telling a coherent, strategically devised story to the outside world. 

A successful B2B messaging framework identifies your audience and is the foundation for how you think and talk about your company, your key competitive differentiators, and what problems your product solves. 

Marketing "messaging" shouldn't be confused with "copy" and "brand voice." Messages define your brand's offering and why it's valuable to the target audience, whereas your copy compels your audience to engage with your brand. Messaging is your big-picture message, and brand voice is your tone and attitude.

Let's use the Zapier example to compare the differences.

Messaging
We allow end users to integrate the web applications they use and automate workflows.
Copy
From side hustlers to enterprise leaders, Zapier connects your work apps so you get more focus and less frustration.

Although messaging and copy are different, once you develop your brand messaging, you can use it to guide your copywriting. 

Before you can craft compelling messages, you must know why messages fail. 

Lawson Abinanti, the co-founder of Messages That Matter, identifies three mistakes B2B companies make in their messages:

  1. Their target audience doesn't care about their message's claim.
  2. They fail to differentiate their offering from the competition’s.
  3. Their message isn't consistent throughout the buyer journey.

When a messaging framework is effective, 

  • Your customers will know who you are and why you're different from the competition;
  • Your sales team can use these differentiating factors in their pitches;
  • Marketing has a foundation to craft copy and content;
  • You ensure internal alignment with your company's mission and purpose. 
Screenshot of Messaging Framework
An effective messaging framework helps you create a cohesive message for your brand

The six elements of effective B2B messaging

To help determine a suitable messaging strategy, Natalie Nathanson, Founder & President of Magnetude Consulting, likes to synthesize questions around six key areas

  • Market landscape: Where and how does your company fit into the broader industry? This helps you find the right angle for your messaging. 
  • Competitive landscape: What is my competition doing, and how are they communicating their messages? This helps you find opportunities your competitors aren’t using. 
  • Path to market: How should our partnerships articulate our messages? This helps your message stay consistent across your marketing efforts. 
  • External stakeholders: How do customers, prospects, and other affiliates and influencers communicate our message? This shows you the most impactful features and the challenges users face with your products, which helps you refine your messaging. 
  • Present and future state of our products and services: What do we offer now, and what will we provide in the future? This helps identify the steps needed to take you from what you offer now to what you want to offer in the future. 
  • Internal environment: How does our communication with customers compare to what we’re communicating to our internal teams through documentation, training, and other reports? Is our message consistent across the board? This helps you stay consistent throughout all marketing channels which bolsters your credibility and reputation.

Having a strategy is vital to gaining direction. Your strategy also informs how you will measure success after reworking your messaging. For example, if you want to differentiate your company from the competition, how will you know how to do this if you haven't analyzed your competitive landscape? 

So, before continuing to your messaging framework, explore these six key areas and use your answers to shape your messaging. 

A 4-step B2B messaging framework to reach your audience

After determining your messaging goals, build your messaging framework. A framework gives consistency and clarity when communicating your message to internal stakeholders and your target customers. 

Step 1: Identify your target audience

The first step is defining your prospect and determining their thinking. 

One of the best ways to determine your target audience is to conduct customer interviews with at least five existing customers. Find out:

  • Their pains and struggles;
  • Their needs and desires;
  • Objections and hesitations;
  • Big picture benefits.

Conduct surveys using only open-ended questions that elicit more than a "yes" or "no" response. This qualitative research provides insight into how and why your customers buy. 

Also, examine your existing customer base. Who are your current customers, and why do they buy from you? Future customers likely share common characteristics and interests with your current ones. Consider the following demographic factors: 

  • Age;
  • Location;
  • Job role;
  • Budget.

And more personal characteristics of a person, called "psychographics," like:

  • Personality;
  • Attitudes;
  • Values;
  • Interests;
  • Lifestyle.
Screenshot of psychographics and demographics
Demographics and psychographics are crucial to understanding your audience

Examine how your product fits into your target demographic's life. How will they use your product? What features will appeal the most to them? How does your product make their life easier? 

Next, analyze the competition. Who are they targeting, and who are their existing customers? Tread carefully as you don’t want to copy their marketing messages, but in this research, you may find a niche audience they aren't marketing to. 

When defining your target audience, Diane Wiredu of Lion Words recommends getting as specific as possible: 

“B2B brands should improve on going too big and too broad with messaging—trying to please everyone, speak to everyone, “we’re for everyone.” That’s a one-way ticket to an obsolete ocean. 

For example, if you're a company trying to target Microsoft 365 customers, that's over 50.2 million people. How do you target when you try to speak to everyone? 

However, approach specificity with caution. You can have more than one niche market, but if you can reach multiple niches effectively with the same message, you've fragmented your audience too much. 

For example, GANT defined their specific target audience as "25-45-year-old males and females with university degrees, cosmopolitan lifestyles, and a hunger to explore and grow." With this audience, they created a digital marketing strategy centered around a YouTube series called "Couple Thinkers" and promoted this on Esquire UK for additional reach. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaUhmVAnTZu/ 

This strikes the perfect balance because it covers a broad range of ages (25-45) and genders but maintains specificity in terms of "university degrees, cosmopolitan lifestyles, and a hunger to explore and grow."

Too broad
Males and females with university degrees.
Perfect balance
25-45-year-old males and females with university degrees, cosmopolitan lifestyles, and a hunger to explore and grow.
Too specific
25-year-old males with a bachelor’s degree, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, and a hunger to explore and grow.

If you break down your target audience too much, you won't have enough customers to market to. Find the balance between broad and specific.

Step 2: Differentiate yourself from the competition

Product differentiation distinguishes your company's products or services from your competitor's offerings. But it takes more than a unique selling proposition to set you apart.

Gone are the days when a company could differentiate itself from one attribute alone. 

“And back then [in the 1940s], there was so little competition that by saying ‘my toothpaste whitens your teeth,’ that's your unique selling proposition right there. Everybody else was like cavities or fresh breath, and they all have their unique thing. Now, every single toothpaste is whitening, and fixes the cavities and breath, and everybody does everything. So, the world has dramatically changed. You cannot own a single idea—that’s gone.” - Peep Laja

If one attribute won't differentiate you from your competitors, what will? 

Kevin Pugar, the founder of Brightside, follows a few guidelines to stand out in a sea of competition. 

Find your market gap 

Pugar turned his own problem into a product idea. One day, he purchased two pairs of luxury sunglasses for over $300. Because of their value, he didn't even want to take them to the beach. But, he came up short in a search for quality sunglasses at an affordable price. Lower-quality and higher-priced products existed, but little-to-no middle ground. 

“I just felt like there’s a gap in here, some room for a brand to come in and grab this segment of the market, so I started researching.”

By identifying this gap, Pugar launched Brightside, luxury sunglasses without the markup. He built his brand on differentiation by finding a market gap.

Provide social proof throughout the customer journey

Illustrate your product's credibility by offering excellent reviews and testimonials. 

The Good, a conversion rate optimization company, uses social proof indicators on its homepage. 

Screenshot of The Good Homepage Showing Social Proof Indicators
The Good provides social proof by showcasing the brands in their portfolio

Scroll down from the above-the-fold content, and this chart greets you. The Good strategically places well-known companies on its homepage, like Xerox, Bell, and Swiss Gear, along with concrete results. It's a short, snappy way to provide social proof. 

Buffer, a social media management tool, uses a review carousel to show credibility on its homepage.

Screenshot of The Buffer Homepage Showing Review Carousel To Show Credibility 
Buffer proves their credibility with testimonials and data 

Along with this, they show how long they've been in the business, their number of users, how many blog readers they have, and their social follower count (necessary for a social media tool). 

These features evoke trust in the customer: they know they will receive top-notch results from such a reputable company. 

Understand your competitors

Pugar said that the best investment he made was in analyzing his industry, learning about the industry, finding cost-effective models, and finding photographers and designers to present his products in the best way. 

Research what your competitors do and what they don't do. 

Laura Roeder, the founder of MeetEdgar, a social media management tool, was frustrated with how tools like HootSuite, Buffer, and others wouldn't save her content after she published it. Roeder wanted a way to save her content to a library and use it in the future. 

After analyzing all of her competitors and what they offered, she founded MeetEdgar, a tool designed to schedule, automate, and save your content. 

Differentiation isn't a clever sentence that sets you apart. Instead, it's a combination of market gap research, competitor research, and providing opportunities to show your customers that you can give them the results they want to achieve. 

Step 3: Identify how to map out the journey to customers

Once you identify your target audience and differentiating factor, map your customer's journey, determining what messaging should go on each page and where. 

You can have a generic hierarchy but you need to create unique messages for different assets. For example, your messaging and layout on your homepage will look different from your features page. 

Determine your customer's journey based on your target audience research. 

When Diane Wiredu was rewriting the messaging for a B2B development company, she completed customer research and used this research to inform her messaging. She found that phrases and words like "how are you different," "trust, and "why should we believe you," kept coming up, along with questions about speed and how involved they could be. 

So for this project, she placed a strong emphasis on social proof, led with customer testimonials on the page, and went heavy on her differentiation messaging because that's what that audience wanted to see and hear. 

Customer research can come in the form of multiple qualitative methods like:

Blog comments

If your company has a blog with high engagement rates, reading your blog's comments can provide helpful insights into your customers' needs and problems. 

For example, Docparser, an OCR scanning SaaS company, uses its blog's comments section to turn customer inquiries into a frequently asked questions section on its help page.

Screenshot of Blog's Comments Section on Docparser Website
The Docparser team mines their blog comments for messaging ideas

Other than mining your own blog, browse comments on popular blogs related to your industry to find common words or terms. Search blogs featuring your product or service and learn from what reviewers say. Blog comments are a treasury of customer knowledge–draw from it. 

Customer surveys 

Collect customer insights from short- or long-form surveys through email, your blog, or social media. Create your survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey or send your survey directly in the email's body or as a link in a blog or social channels.

The average survey response rate is around 20-30%, so either offer incentives like a gift card or couple this strategy with other customer research methods to increase success rates. 

Qualaroo also offers pop-up surveys on your website so you can ask qualitative or quantitative questions about the customer experience.

Screenshot of Qualaroo Pop Up Survey
Pop-up surveys can help you gain insight into customer needs

Review mining 

Reviews offer free, unsolicited customer opinions about your company and its offering. Review mining is the process of analyzing the reviews section on popular testimonial websites like Trustpilot and turning them into useful information like your messaging. 

For example, a search for A2 Hosting on Trustpilot returned many reviews touting A2's superb technical service. 

Screenshot of TrustPilot Homepage Showing Reviews
Reviews are a huge source of unbridled customer feedback—perfect for message mining

Now we know that A2's customer base needs superb technical service. We can use this insight to craft our messaging and our message mapping. We'll put terms like "knowledgable support team" closer to the above-the-fold material on their website and can use this in our marketing messages across the customer journey. 

Analyzing these third-party reviews uncovers qualitative insights that guide your messaging.

Step 4: Analyze the success of your messaging 

You should have set your goals at the beginning of this process before identifying your target audience when you synthesized your questions. This way, you can measure your goals at the end. 

For example, if your goal is to increase engagement but you never set a strategy to measure this, how will you know if your new messages increase engagement? 

Establish the main goal in the beginning and work towards this goal. 

There are various methods to measure your success, including:

  • Heat maps: These are visual representations of data showing where users click on your webpage. They identify user behavior patterns like what buttons customers click and where they linger on your website;
  • Website polls: These are questions that pop up as a customer navigates your site. Use tools like Hotjar, Mentimeter, and Qualaroo;
  • A/B testing: This method tests two different versions of your message on your website against one another. 
  • Message testing: With message testing, you can see whether your messaging speaks to the heart of your ideal customer profile. You can test already published pages or even before you go live with people who belong in your target audience.

For message testing, you can use a platform like Wynter to test your messaging resonance with the help of professionals in your niche. 

Wynter will form a panel of validated B2B professionals related to your industry. They’ll audit your website's messaging for data like how your audience perceives your messaging, what's confusing or unclear, and what’s most convincing. 

We deliver these results within 12-48 hours, so it's the quickest way to test your messaging with a real audience. 

Learn more about Wynter.

Craft your B2B messaging framework

Creating a B2B messaging framework is an important first step in any successful B2B marketing strategy. Developing a well-crafted messaging architecture ensures alignment across the customer journey to tell a consistent story about your company and what makes you different. 

Know exactly what your buyers want and improve your messaging

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