Brand messaging is often a kind of an afterthought in product marketing teams. Which, when you think about it, doesn’t really make sense.
Even if you are in a relatively un-crowded space and might think you don’t really have competitors, they’ll come, sooner or later, with the same product (or better), maybe at better prices.
(And you do have to face the fact that basically anyone can copy your product and then tweak it or add a feature or two.)
And when they come, and all you talk about is “getting leads,” “growing your business,” or “taking it to the next level,” you’re not really giving your audience any specific reason to choose you or stay with you. Because everyone else is talking about the same thing.
The solution? Brand messaging that differentiates you. The kind that’s your brand’s and no one else’s.
And also, the type that speaks specifically to your audience – what they want, what they’re looking for, what problems they need solved. And does it in a way that makes choosing you a no-brainer if you tick all the boxes for a prospective customer.
So let’s talk about how to get there.
Can you imagine a SaaS brand without a visual identity or a marketing team without a lead designer?
And yet those same teams often overlook brand messaging strategies (not to mention hiring messaging strategists.)
And I’m talking more than just copy. Brand messaging is what guides your copy across all marketing channels and all company departments including sales, customer service, product – anywhere you’re talking to your existing or prospective customers.
It often impacts the design, too.
Having a clear brand messaging strategy also lets you:
Not to mention, when it comes to conversion rates, messaging can be twice as impactful as design.
What I do with my clients is put together a brand messaging guide that describes essentials and guidelines. Here is the short version of how to make one:
To validate your message-market fit, you’re going to need to know your ICP – or ideal customer profile.
Or profiles because there will probably be more than one. And if you’re in B2B, you’ll also most likely need different messaging for decision-makers and end-users.
Your message needs to speak to your customer’s pains and challenges and how you’re solving them with your product. (One way to find out what they are is by using Wynter’s B2B buyer intelligence surveys.)
And this needs to go first for a simple reason. However great your product is, there is no way to create successful messaging (or successful marketing) without thoroughly knowing your audience.
Look for anything your customers say about you – or about your competitors – to find the exact words they use to talk about their problems.
This knowledge is gold when it comes to creating messaging that’s on point. Because when you use the actual words of your customers, you show them you get them.
So you’re not really convincing them to buy, but rather joining a conversation that’s already happening in their heads.
You can find voice-of-customer data through:
And collecting it should be an integral part of your customer journey.
Here’s a more detailed article on collecting and using voice-of-customer data.
When you know your audience, decide what the core elements of your message should be based on who you are and what you do as a brand.
What I do to define them with my clients is a workshop based on Margot Bloomstein’s message architecture tool. I use a card sorting exercise that helps us arrive at a set of brand attributes that later create the pillars of the brand message.
What I take away from the workshop – and maybe most importantly, from the conversations that happen between team members during the card exercise – is the foundation for the brand messaging guidelines.
Once you have the above, prioritize them and decide what your primary message and secondary messages are. With the messaging architecture tool described above, it may look something like this:
Look at how your competitors communicate. NOT to copy them, but to find ways to set your message apart. What unique message can you send that’ll clearly position your brand against the competitive landscape?
For the brand messaging guides that I create for my clients, I like to focus on 3-4 key competitors and their key messages.
Now it’s time to turn everything you’ve collected in the previous steps into your unique value proposition. It’s a statement that should clearly communicate:
At this stage, it doesn’t have to be your homepage headline or a catchy tagline yet – you’ll tweak it later. But it WILL help you create those immensely.
Your unique value proposition is the essence of your brand – your brand promise. But there are usually many other secondary benefits and selling points, especially if you have a comprehensive product or serve several audience segments.
So define those in relation to all your target audience segments (or customer personas), focusing on real-life benefits and not just the software features you offer.
Now that you know WHAT you want to communicate, define the how.
Your brand voice should be based on your brand personality (which you should have nailed down while defining your brand messaging pillars) and the voice of your customers.
Are you more easygoing? Or maybe more formal? Do you use humor, or maybe like to stick only to facts and stats?
Define the different tones for different channels, if relevant – these days, as we’re primarily communicating online anyway, a consistent tone of voice often works across channels, with maybe slight nuance when, for example, talking to upset customers on chat.
If, after all of that, you want to be sure your messaging resonates with your audience, make messaging testing a part of your brand messaging strategy. Even if you have great marketing instincts, you’ll only know if your messaging actually works when you put it in front of the right audience.
Customer personas many companies make are pretty much useless from a messaging standpoint. I’m talking about the usual “fake name, age, and job title” set here that doesn’t really tell anybody anything.
So for your ICPs, focus on their problems (you should have a good idea of what they are by now) and how they talk about them.
Plus, match the relevant messages and selling points to them. This is what’s going to make them really helpful when creating any kind of content for any channel.
Notice how Figma addresses the different user types on their homepage, reinforcing the benefits with direct customer quotes:
Your positioning statement is an internal tool that clearly indicates where you position your brand in your market segment.
It can look something like this:
<blog__custom-tooltip>For [target audience], [product name] provides a way to [do something that solves their problem], so they can [get key benefit.]<blog__custom-tooltip>
You can have several positioning statements for the different target audience segments.
This is an actual example of a positioning statement you could find on a SaaS website:
Your mission statement is like the background to your value proposition. While the UVP focuses on what you offer, your mission is your “why” – your brand purpose.
For example, Miro’s mission is “to empower teams to create the next big thing.”
And ConvertKit’s mission is: “We exist to help creators earn a living.”
A unique value prop can be a part of the positioning statement. It’s the brand promise you make to your customers, and it should be:
The subheading on NapoleonCat’s homepage could be an example of a value prop:
This is where you can get creative.
Think of the headline and subheading together as the articulation of your value proposition.
The headline can be the more eye-catching/creative bit, while the subheading can add the clarity and down-to-earth details (plus maybe some keywords for Google that you didn’t get to squeeze into the headline.)
Like in this example from Loom:
An elevator pitch is a helpful tool to know how to sell your product and organize your message. Think of it as your sales presentation but done in maximum 30 seconds.
Tip: Don’t start by talking about yourself. Start with the problem your customer faces and work towards presenting yourself as a solution. The perfect copywriting framework for this one is PAS:
One example of a very simple elevator pitch that’s made its way onto a homepage is this:
Your brand messaging guide should include the mechanics of applying your brand voice to your message in writing across the different channels. This includes things like:
ConvertKit is one of the many email marketing platforms on the planet. But what they seem to have done is decide on a specific audience segment – creatives and all sorts of content creators. This is the first thing you learn about them when going to their website, leaving no doubt as to whether it’s a platform for you.
This is obviously a decision that goes way beyond brand messaging itself and most likely defines their product strategy, too. But clearly communicating the benefits relative to actual, real-world use cases is a great move, especially in this industry.
As with email platforms, there are tons of survey tools out there, but Typeform stands out for sure (again, with more than “just” the messaging). What I like about it, especially when compared to others in the space, is the way they talk about their tool.
Less focused on the product and its features (sooo common in the SaaS space), more about the end-user experience. All in a conversational, clear, and human way devoid of buzzwords.
(Okay, I was a little disappointed coming across this page from a Google ad and seeing the usual “get leads with ease” stuff. But I’m sure – or at least hope – that they have a reason to use it.)
This could be another platform with “leading-slash-easy-to-use project management software” in the headline. But what they seem to be going for is tailoring their messaging to the actual reality their customers experience.
Plus, coming up with “Work OS” feels like a genius move.
This is a clever use of voice-of-customer data on a homepage.
Plus I also really like the comparison in the headline, so much so that I’m willing to turn a blind eye to the ever-present “all-in-one” that you can probably find on every other SaaS website.
Coda really steals the show for me with their headline – that could’ve so easily gone wrong (and I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count.)
Their messaging is smart and funny, precise at describing what it is in the subheading (kind of looks like they used one of the positioning statement templates here 🤔) and speaking to a problem their audience likely faces. Plus, it goes super well with the design.
(Though I liked the previous version much better.)
I’ve gone through several e-signature software websites, and few stood out. This was one of them. I not only like the way the headline speaks directly to the reader in a conversational way. It also captures what’s likely their value proposition – the simplicity of the process – in an unusually creative way (they could’ve just said “easy-to-use” or worse, “e-signature made simple.”)
And the simple design goes so well with the message, enhancing it even more.
Speaking of simplicity, Notion does a great job of explaining a tool that, at first glance, might look a little overwhelming.
I do appreciate how they acknowledge that fact in their onboarding email sequence. This is exactly why researching your audience and “getting inside their heads” is so important. You then have ways to address their concerns and objections with your messaging – and ultimately encourage them to use your platform, the goal of any onboarding email sequence.
And to be successful, you need to build it based on thorough target customer research. It’s the only way to talk about what’s important for your audience.
And don’t forget to make regular check-ins and reassess your message-audience fit. As the world changes (somehow even faster these days), the needs and problems of your customers will change, too. And so should your brand messaging.