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Article -> Delivering Messages to Align with Market Positioning

Date Added: September 2005

Communicating clearly with customers can be difficult. Many organizations struggle or are unsatisfied with their current messaging strategies. Few organizations are consistent with their messages, and others are confused as to whom to aim the messages at. Messages are extremely important for any organization because they correlate with the brand, the customer and the firm's competitive advantage.

Utilizing a message that the target audience will not understand is useless. To develop a proper message that is received and understood by customers, a firm must first recognize their customers' needs. There are five steps in the process to effectively understand customers' needs. These are1 :

  1. Identifying customers to target.
    • This should include current customers, lost customers and/or prospective customers.
  2. Understanding customer needs and perceptions.
    • This step is the foundation for success and growth. It involves primary research to focus on items such as demographics, buying behaviors, budget size, competition, decision makers, etc. to determine customers' needs related to these items.
  3. Developing brand messages (positioning statements).
    • Once needs and perceptions are known, messages are developed to align the market positioning and strategic plan to customers' needs, delivering what the customer really wants.
  4. Aligning the organization.
    • As the external view of the customer is determined, this information and market positioning much be shared internally with employees so they understand it and are involved in the process.
  5. Measuring the impact.
    • Ongoing analysis to ensure both customers and employees understand this positioning, to determine if and when customers' needs change, and to measure increased productivity and success.

Delivering an inconsistent message to customers is damaging for an organization. Marketing and sales should collaborate to develop messages that are similar to how sales representatives sell and how customers respond2 . This mutual effort will help improve message consistency and accuracy. The message should be a reflection of the organization, and encompass the brand.

Here's an example of how an organization went through this process:

First, the organization identified current, lost and prospective customers for each market (geographic region), product line and industry. Second, the organization conducted secondary research on competitors to determine their positioning; and qualitative, quantitative and primary research with current, lost and prospective customers to create a baseline for customers' current perceptions about the organization, its messages and its brand. In addition, they compared this with competitors' messages.

Third, based on the research, the organization obtained an understanding of customer needs and what they wanted in a supplier. Working with internal teams, the organization created its messages and positioning. Fourth, through internal branding efforts, the organization educated employees about the market positioning and messages.

The fifth and final step for the organization was to perform qualitative and quantitative research on an ongoing basis to measure changes in perception by market, product line, industry and overall.

The Results... this organization was selected as one of the five best in the nation in brand management and integrated marketing communications.

Improving an organization's message strategies is a continual process. Once a message is developed, it is critical to review how the message performs for the firm, i.e. how customers respond to the message. Sales team audits should be conducted to verify if the marketing materials are satisfactory. If the materials are determined appropriate, the next step is to conclude if the marketing materials are being properly used and finally, if they are working.

Once an organization has identified their customers' needs, the firm can then proceed to develop messages that clearly communicate the organization to customers. These messages are vital to organizations because these are what customers will first associate your company with. Maintaining a strategic messaging process will ensure that a consistent and accurate message is delivered to customers.

1 Yeghiaian, David. "Truly understanding customers' needs is key to success." The Business News. August 16, 2004.
2 Glazier, Bill and Riesterer, Tim. "Message Maps and Gaps." Marketing Management. May/June 2005: ADV 1.

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