“Without positioning, you’re like a traveler without a roadmap. You’ve got big dreams to see the world, but without clear direction, you’ll eventually find yourself lost and wondering where you were going in the first place. So, write that positioning and let it serve as your roadmap to all the things you want to accomplish.”
This great quote highlights the need for a document that builds the necessary alignment inside your organization. Vanessa Meyer, VP Growth at Craft Docs, is an expert on this topic, having built strategic message maps multiple times. She has shared her valuable insight on why the strategic message map is so important and what you should include when building yours, which we’ll cover now.
A Typical Startup Journey
The symptoms of not having a clear map of your direction can be displayed in this relatively common startup journey:
You start out small with a tiny team where your founders are very involved and can educate everyone. During this stage, everything is relatively straightforward, since the goals and what problems you’re targeting are clear. There has yet to be any time for major distractions, and the small team shares the same views.
The funding comes and customers start to pay, but the competition also grows. Now you’ll hire experienced leaders needed in your organization, and the team will grow to over thirty people. These leaders are often fantastic, but they bring many opinions with them.
The founders will become less accessible now and can’t keep reminding everyone of the direction, which often causes misalignment. However, that’s not to say that founders can’t run in the wrong direction, which they certainly can if they, for example, get bored with the current projects.
Eventually, your growth will slow, which in many cases is a result of a misaligned organization. During this time, the bureaucracy usually builds up, making fast-paced decisions and reiterating more challenging and time-consuming. When the strategy is now very messy and opportunistic behavior in the form of acquiring the wrong customers is taking place, your churn will undoubtedly grow.
More Focus Is Needed
When your growth is slowing and the health of your organization decreases, you’ll be forced to focus. Now, clear goals need to become a priority, along with tighter controls regarding efficiencies. Your company can get out of the slump when clear and consistent messaging is nailed. It’s crucial to create a strong competitive position and USPs, and have a clear strategy for growth that is measured around strong KPIs.
Most companies craft their version of the strategic message map around the stage after slowed growth and when the increased focus is needed. That’s not ideal since much of the pain of that stage could have been significantly reduced by building the map before any new opinionated leaders were brought in.
In other words, your first strategic messaging map should be created right after experiencing product-market fit, your founders are still involved, and the direction is clear.
Why Does It Matter?
The reason for the strategic message is quite simple: Without a clear strategic roadmap, you’ll most likely lose your way as you’re scaling. When you don’t have a clear direction, it’s also easy to get distracted with things like product development that don’t actually bring you forward.
Another reason for the message map’s importance can be seen in a study done by consulting behemoth Bain and Co, which showed that, on average, subjective and emotional elements of value are worth more than fifty percent more than functional values in the eyes of SaaS buyers. Functional values are easy to discuss, but will only persuade some buyers to try your solution.
Higher-level decision-makers, such as the C-suite, rank values like purpose and responsibility much higher than purchasing people lower on the corporate level. That’s why it’s crucial to create and deliver your message clearly if you want to obtain enterprise customers, which is easiest done by having a strategic message map.
The 3 Core Sections of a Strategic Message Map
To help you in the process of building your strategic message map, here are the three crucial sections that need to be included, along with what typically goes inside them:
- Vision – How will the future of your targeted landscape look if your company achieves its mission?
- Mission – Why does the company exist? What is your true purpose?
- Who we are – Describe the group of people behind the brand.
- What we do – What problem does the product or service solve?
- How we do it – How does the product or service solve the problem? What is the technology behind the product?
- Competitive positioning – Can be described in many ways, including key differentiators.
What are your differentiators? In your strategic message map, you should explain the three core values the market should remember about your solution. These values are what separate you from your competitors.
What is your brand story? Leveraging storytelling is a great way to make your brand more memorable. That’s why the brand story is an essential part of your strategic message map, which could include the following parts:
- A buyer has a specific problem or wants to pursue an opportunity.
- The buyer has a problem that is standing in their way.
- Your company approaches the buyer to help them solve their problem and gain their trust by showing empathy and competence.
- You call the buyer to action by taking a meeting or something similar.
- Value is delivered, and the story ends in success.
- The avoided failure is displayed by showing the character transformation: At first, a buyer with a struggle and at last, a buyer that’s thriving.
The third and final section of the strategic message map covers the persona-based value proposition with proof points. This takes some time to put together and evolves when your company matures. There are many available templates showing you how to do this, but in short, this section includes every persona your company is targeting with the pains they have.
Then you line up your value propositions for each persona and the proof points supporting that proposition. Having clear and data-backed proof points is crucial to gain the prospect’s trust. The proof presented can come in two formats: functional evidence like a specific feature, or market statistics provided by a third party. Each proposition should be ordered after its importance, starting with the ones with the biggest impact.
How to Build a Strategic Message Map With Impact
Building your strategic message map shouldn’t be done in haste. Instead, let the process take its necessary time, which is usually between 6-10 weeks, with another 2-3 weeks of revisions. There are many steps involved in this journey, including the following:
- Kick-off – Start the process by setting a timeline of when the project is supposed to be finished. After that, invite the key stakeholders to let them know what’s expected of them moving forward.
- Primary data collection – Interview founders, customers, employees, and all other significant stakeholders to understand your current USPs, differentiations, and competitive positioning.
- The origin story – What insight led to the company’s creation? The origin story is crucial for successfully executing brand storytelling.
- Discuss feedback and reconcile discrepancies – After the critical findings have been found, they should be presented to key executives to discuss any potential discrepancies to what they believe is correct. Challenge any assumptions and air out concerns.
- Persona building – Work with the people in contact with your customers and include primary research insights to build your buyer personas. Also, include the pains that your product addresses.
- First draft broadly circulated – Once the first draft has been completed, share it with your organization to gain more feedback. Do most employees agree with the statements, or has something gone wrong?
- Value propositions – Your PMM and PMs work together to find the proof points to support the value propositions. They also need to agree on the priority proposition for each persona.
- Launch with a bang – Host a special event to engage your company and get them committed to the messaging.
- A strategic message map enables you to remember your purpose and increase alignment throughout your organization.
- Many companies make the mistake of creating their strategic message map too late, which would’ve helped them out earlier.
- Research shows that higher-level leaders care a lot about subjective and emotional values like purpose and responsibility, which further underlines the importance of a strategic message map.
- There are three sections of a strategic message map. First, you cover the basics of who you are and what your mission is. After that, the three most significant differentiators and your brand story are discussed. Lastly, create personas with suitable value propositions backed by proof points.
- Many steps are included in the process of building a strategic message map, including kick-off, establishing the origin story, persona building, and gathering feedback.