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The message is the customer experience

Messaging: Defining Customer Experience

The platform for all marketing communications is your messaging, an ugly word for an essential concept: All of your marketing communications must state a consistent formulation of what you technology is and why it creates a valuable customer experience.

Messaging is not merely slogans, nor should it be littered with jargon and buzzwords. What it should be is a concise group of statements that clearly express the value of your technology to your target market. In essence, messaging conveys the customer experience your technology produces.

Most important, you start with where you audience is now and how will your technology change their lives. What are their perceived needs and their problems? You developed your technology for this group and to solve their problems; so you’ve done your homework and made something that solves a problem in an unexpected way. Your innovation will bring on a surprising improvement in customer experience. You message defines this new experience.

You show (not tell) people how completely different your technology is from your competitors’. This is often called “positioning,” but it’s really differentiating the customer experience your offer. There is no lasting place for a “me too” technology company—not with market information now literally at buyers’ fingertips. Your messaging must specify the new and surprising customer experience it provides.

Once you’ve defined your market and how your offering is life changing, it’s time to frame your messaging. I like the problem-solution and feature-benefit models. In a B2B context, they go like this:

  1. Problem: The companies in X sector can’t find or spend too much on a to achieve Z.
  2. Solution: Our new Y solution takes X companies to Z more quickly and economically, allowing them to race ahead of the competition.
  1. Feature: Our A and B comprise a thunderbolt new Y.
  2. Benefit: Because no existing solution has our A and B, your company will now become Z (miles ahead of your competition) with our solution.

When I worked Global Integrated Marketing for IBM, one of my jobs was to write spec sheets for new hardware. It was our practice always to drive home the superiority of the IBM brand and its technology, naming specific features and benefits that outstripped the competition. For instance, every spec sheet had a list of three pullout messages beside the sheet’s copy and the product’s specifications.

These messaging statements encapsulated the problem-solving, competition-beating benefits of IBM hardware. The first bullet most often served as an umbrella value statement that the second and third bullets supported by describing specific features and benefits of the hardware. Here’s an example:

    • New Memory eXpansion Technology, exclusive to the x330, provides high levels of performance while helping you save money
    • C2T InterconnectTM cable chaining technology eliminates multiple cables and simplifies installation and setup
    • Loaded with systems management features, the x330 offers exceptional availability*

Messaging is not complicated, but it must be creative—an equal to the creativity of your technology. And it must be disciplined, something people wrongly assume creativity isn’t. Outstanding messaging requires careful thought, exact execution and strict consistency, always remembering that time, place and medium requires creative variations on this theme.

The aim of your communications is to see that the message remains the same while adapting to time, place and medium—again, avoiding the use of soon-to-die buzzwords and jargon, or the tempting bells and whistles that are available in different “new media.” In the end, real creativity embodies clarity (which always beats pizzazz), concision (which always beats hyperbole) and, most important, truth (which inevitably wins over lies).

You have the new technology. Your messaging should embody its superior value—how it will revolutionize experience for the people who matter, your target audiences. This will bring meaning to your innovation.


*© Copyright IBM Corporation 2001


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