Should marketing create a message strategy for each buyer?

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With every sales opportunity, sales usually needs to sell to multiple buyers. But does marketing need to follow suit and create a message strategy for each buyer? Contrary to popular belief – my answer is NO!

I advocate that you pick just one target buyer. In fact, I almost got axed from a project because of this belief. The client insisted that every deal is different with different buyers, and it was even suggested that we needed to message to the end user, not to mention the CEO, COO, CFO, line of business manager, and others.

My approach is to create a positioning statement for the most influential buyer that can adapt to other key players in the buying process.

Selecting one target buyer initially simplifies the positioning process, and makes it go a lot faster. Creating one message strategy that everyone buys into is no easy task. Creating multiple message strategies usually isn’t necessary and can really slow you down.

Why is it so important to select one target buyer for your message strategy?

I tell clients that their positioning statement should articulate a high-level benefit that addresses the target buyer’s No. 1 problem. But it’s hard to determine the No. 1 problem when you believe the CEO, COO, CIO, CFO, etc., all have an equal role in the purchase process. The CIO’s problems are likely to be different than the CFO’s, etc. It becomes a tangled mess with no clear choice for the No. 1 problem. Thus the positioning process has the potential to get bogged down. It becomes a disaster when you try to develop different messages for different buyers.

What’s wrong with messaging to multiple buyers?

  1. Multiple messaging works against effective positioning. You have no position when you make a different claim depending on the buyer. Which one is your position? It depends on who gets the message and what message they get. It’s like shooting a shot gun when you need a lot more precision.
  2. Multiple messaging works against one of the most important aspects of claiming a position in your market – consistency and repetition. You can claim a position over time by consistently executing and repeating your positioning statement. You can’t do this effectively when you have different positioning statements for different buyers.
  3. Most companies really don’t have a need or the budget to create buyer-specific marketing materials.

Select a positioning statement targeted at one buyer that can easily adapt to others in the buying process.

A good positioning statement should adapt to multiple buyers. When it requires a lot of work to adapt to a target audience, like the end user, remember that the message strategy is conceptual, and is not intended to be used verbatim. For example, you might say to the CIO, “we help accelerate how business gets done in your company.” For the end user, the same idea is expressed “do more in less time.”

A company that offered commodity trading software positioned its product as helping “maximize the value of every trade you make.” It was expressed in advertisements as “no profit left behind.”

The best positioning statements have meaning to multiple buyers depending on how you use them. For example, a business intelligence solution provider “helped accelerate decision making throughout your organization.” It was expressed in marketing materials as “see how fast your business can run,” which appealed to multiple buyers.

There are many potential missteps you can take in the positioning process. Failing to select a target buyer has the potential to get you off track early in the process, making recovery particularly challenging. It is a lot easier to pick a target buyer, and create a positioning statement based on that decision. Then adapt it to others in the buying process. If the positioning statement can’t be adapted with relative ease, start over and create one that can.   For more information about my business process for positioning, download my free eBook: http://www.messagesthatmatter.com/ebook-on-positioning/