Create a powerful message map: A step-by-step guide [+Templates]

Message maps can be exceptional tools to help drive a consistent message, but is the language in your message map actually hitting home with your target audience?

Marketers and managers are struggling more than ever with their product messaging. That’s because it’s difficult to tell if their message is hitting home with their target buyers. Many are frustrated when they see lower-than-expected engagement and higher bounce rates on campaigns they spent months developing. 

But there’s no surprise that this is happening.

It’s challenging to stand out in saturated markets and any marketing efforts to do can take months to get insights as to if they’re working or not. 

In short, there’s a LOT of guesswork. This leads to a potential loss of time, money, and any competitive advantage. 

The answer to this growing discontentment? 

You can save time, money, and frustration by creating and testing a strategic message map before making a big marketing move, such as: 

  • A product launch
  • A rebrand or company launch
  • Writing content for a new website, webpage, or landing page
  • Trying a new marketing feature
  • Considering expanding to a new social media platform
  • Creating a podcast
  • And more!

So, what is a message map? 

A message map is a template that guides how a company should craft all future external communications. They are used before a product launch or rebrand as a way to efficiently test their message before going live, and then after, as a tool to ensure all communication is aligned and cohesive.

Creating a message map can be complex. You should consider branding, customers’ needs and motivations, as well as the company’s core message. 

In this article, we’ll go over step-by-step how to create an effective message map and provide you with a free strategic message map template.

The vital first step of message map development: Understanding your audience

The initial stage of message map development is one of the most important ones. Buyer intelligence is invaluable in creating an optimized company message. After, and only after, you thoroughly understand your target audience can you create the core part of your messaging grid.

So what are we all missing in our go-to-market process?

Buyer insights go well beyond demographics. 

Yes, it’s important to know what percentage of your buyers are women vs. men and what their buying habits may be. But what we are talking about here goes deeper than that. 

Create a buyer persona for each of your ideal customers. A persona is a description of who is buying from you. This includes demographics, such as gender identification, age, and what they do for a living, but also includes important details, such as pain points and motivations. 

Begin by asking these questions to really know your buyers: 

  • What pains are they trying to avoid? 
  • What irritates them?
  • What are their top goals this year? 
  • What are they trying to do this year? 
  • What are their goals/desired gains?
  • What other brands do they pick? 
  • Why do they pick the brands they pick? 
  • How are they choosing these brands/vendors?
  • What makes them doubt a company? 
  • Why would they hesitate to buy [X] from a company?

You need to paint a complete picture — really tell a story about your audience. 

Wynter specializes in providing in-depth buyer insights in as little as 12-48 hours from professionals in your target market. 

This lets you learn everything you need to know from a specified, vetted audience pool we question using well-researched, psychology-driven survey templates (or from your custom questions). We have verified B2B audiences that can be niched down to their job title, industry, and seniority level. 

Use your map messaging to solve their problem

Once you're confident that you understand your target audiences’ problems and goals, it’s time to move on to the next step: framing your product to be the solution they’ve been searching for. 

Why should your audience care? What problem are you solving for them? 

getting to the core - problem-solving template
Download this Problem-Solving Template

If you’re looking for a product message that connects, compels, and engages, you MUST clarify how you’re solving their problem in this step of your message map. 

Talk about your features 

When thinking about your product feature, we need to push beyond mere “benefits” and reframe each feature to solve a problem or help your target audience reach a goal. 

Let’s say that a kitchen supply company has a commercial microwave with True Convection Technology.

This feature is great… but it's far more compelling for a restaurant owner to read something like: "Never ever get stuck with food with a cold center and burnt outside, thanks to our True Convection Technology.”

Calendly does a great job at this. Instead of listing “Rescheduling Options” as a feature, they write: “rescheduling is a breeze for everyone.”

It can be exceptionally helpful to use your competition to help inspire you here.

This leads me to our next step!

Build a competitive edge into your messaging

Use your competition to hone your message and get a competitive edge. Find out how you’re different from your competition by asking:

  • What is your competition doing? 
  • What is your competition’s message?
  • How does your target audience feel about their message?
  • What reviews are they receiving? What are they doing well? What complaints are they getting? 

To find all this, test their messaging against yours using preference testing. See which part of their message gets people to convert and what makes them hesitate when it comes to making a purchase. Discover what is really resonating with them and use this as inspiration in your future marketing messages. 

Develop one core message

Creating one core message is another foundational step to creating your message map. The core message is the seed from which your message map will grow and all future communication will spring. 

To create your core message, start with an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short description of what you do, intended to be understood in a very short amount of time.

Begin by listing who your company is, what your company does, how you’re different, and how your company benefits your target audience. Then, put it together and slim this down to 1-2 sentences max. 

Example:
“We help business owners protect their customers' information from cyber-criminals without costing them a fortune.” 

elements of an elevator pitch
Get your free Elevator Pitch Template

A few examples of great core messaging? 

Drift helps “connect companies with buyers using real-time, personalized conversations to help build trust and accelerate revenue.” 

Atlassian helps to “create agile tools for agile teams”. 

Gong is “passionate about unlocking reality with revenue intelligence to help people and companies reach their full potential”.

It’s important to note that a company should only have ONE core message. Adding multiple messages dilutes the impact of each message. A company can have multiple products, but more than one core message can seriously affect the power of your company messaging. 

Determine your brand voice 

A brand is more than word choice, tone, logos, colors, etc. It’s also your principal goal or message. Brand messaging is essentially your core message converted into your “brand voice”. This is the true center of your message map. 

Many of you will already have your branding tone, colors, and other elements solidified. Take what you have created with your core message and “convert it” to your brand tone and style. 

Let’s look at Zoom for a quick example. 

Their core message "Using our frictionless video communications platform, we help you express ideas, connect to others, and build toward a future limited only by your imagination" converted to their brand message is "Video communication empowering people to accomplish more.”

Test your message map

Creating a message map makes it easy to test for message effectiveness before it goes to the public. Many of you will be tempted to skip this step, but doing so might be a devastatingly costly one. 

Message maps are a template, but what if the template has a fatal flaw in it? In that case, every message that springs from it will carry that same flawed element with it. Testing at this stage will allow your company to know if your message is powerful enough to engage, compel, and connect with your audience without wasting thousands of hours and dollars. 

Wynter’s message testing allows you to test your messaging in as little as two days. Learn if your tone, positioning, call to action(s), and benefits are truly relevant to your audience. Get real answers from niched-down B2B audiences fast. 

As you’re testing your message map, keep an eye on:

  • What’s resonating with them? 
  • What are they getting out of your message? 
  • How does it make them feel? 
  • What benefits grab their attention? 

Learn about this before your message goes live and then keep testing to see if your message remains relevant with the changing times.

Build a habit of testing 

Now that you’ve completed your message map, it's time to share it internally. 

Make sure all members of your marketing department and those responsible for external communication know and understand how to use this template.

However, just because you have finished your message map doesn't mean the work is done. 

Testing before your message goes out is a must, but so is testing regularly after your message map is finalized. 

Why?

Because the rest of the world is not sitting patiently while you run your business! It’s vital to adjust to what the competition is doing, how the world is changing, what additional pain points your audience has, what their jobs-to-be-done are, and more.

Let’s look at monday.com.

This company started its message centered on helping teams stay productive. After the pandemic disrupted the workforce, they shifted their messaging to be more centered on being a tool for remote work.

Get rid of the guesswork with message maps

steps for building your message maps
Build your message map one step at a time 

Message maps, done right, are more than a guide to keeping a company message cohesive.

They become a powerful tool to develop a product message that actually resonates with your audience. Whether you are starting your company, about to do a product launch, are rebranding, launching a website, or creating a landing page, consider creating a message map before you start! 

We created a message map template to make it easier for you to create your own message map. Gather the information about your audience’s pain points and motivations and begin to flesh out your message. 

messaging map template
Download our Message Map Template

To get you started, we’ve compiled a simplified list of the steps involved in creating a message map: 

  • Learn vital details about your target audience. 
  • Determine what problem(s) your company will solve for your audience.
  • Highlight how your company’s features will solve this problem.
  • Check your competition’s message in communication and how their audience feels about it. 
  • Develop your brand's tone of voice and convert your message to suit your branding. 
  • Test your message to make sure it hits home with your audience. 
  • Share the completed message map internally to be used as a messaging guide for all external communications.
  • Continue testing your message and tweaking your message map!


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