Personas, Positioning & the Message Box
When lead generation programs fail, they do so mainly because the
messages communicated are irrelevant or ill-timed for the
target audience. Our
target customers are bombarded with thousands of messages
every day. Unfortunately,
we (as a society) have become so used to information overload
become the white noise of the marketplace. As a result, the
knee-jerk reaction from companies is the "ready, fire" execution
of promotional offers. It's easy for marketers to fall into
the trap of believing that volume replaces the need to "aim."
the good news: it's easier than you think to get out of this
cycle of noise-producing marketing that feeds the black hole of spam filters
everywhere. All it takes a small bit of back-to-basics marketing discipline
with three key exercises designed to help you understand the buyer. After
all, in our competitive business climate, whoever understands the buyer the best,
wins. Hands down.
The key to maximizing ROI of any marketing investment (big
or small) is to truly understand buyers, what makes them
tick, and the business problems they are trying to solve. The best,
most effective lead generation programs always start with an investment
in these three disciplined exercises:
- Creating the Persona,
- Tuning the Positioning Statement, and
- Crafting the Story (with customer-friendly messaging)
Here's an example of each and how they build off of each other.
1: The Persona
Figure 1: an example of a Persona.
on the image to enlarge.
a fictional representation of a set of real people who share
similar traits or experiences. A client I was working with
was interested in reaching IT directors of the Global 3000 companies.
That's a fairly wide range of folks. We needed more specific information
in order to construct an effective integrated marketing plan.
To help narrow the field, we built the persona illustrated
in Figure 1. "Technology is cool" became the rallying
cry of our poster child who came to represent the sweet spot
within our target market segment.
Key to each persona is more
than just basic demographics. We also want to include information
about what they think and how they make purchase decisions.
Include notes on their psychographics, work challenges, pain points,
and search preferences. To get started, chat with a few sales reps
to get their thoughts on how customers behave. You might also interview
a few friendly customers to get some direct insights. Persona building
is not a one-time static exercise. It's intended to help you shape
a hypothesis about a target market sweet spot. As you market to these
folks, you'll learn more about them and how they engage with you.
Based on feedback and further insight, you'll want to change and adapt
the persona over time.
2. The Positioning Statement
Figure 2: a simple yet thought-provoking template
for crafting a focused
Click on the
image to enlarge.
a keen sketch of our target persona in mind, we next rallied
for a core positioning
that would focus our attention on the benefits
they find most valuable. We used a common positioning statement
template illustrated here in Figure 2. It's important to
remember that the Positioning Statement is a tool intended
for internal use only. It's used to help focus our product strategy
in order to address the key problem(s) the target personas are dealing
with. The Positioning Statement is not the message to the prospect
or customer; however, customer-friendly messaging can be derived
from a carefully crafted Positioning Statement.
While I'm not at
liberty to share with you their specific positioning statement
created for the above persona, I can tell you the following:
- The few words describing the "persona" in their positioning
statement were pulled directly from the persona illustrated in Figure
- The "product name" is literally the product/service
the customer ends up buying. This is not intended to be generic
or intangible. It's on the price list and has a product
number or code associated with it.
- "Category" allows for a lot of creativity. With
a nod towards industry trends and the shifting requirements of our
target persona, we were able to create a new, logical category where
the product is unique.
- Customers realize many "benefits" from the product. However,
we focused on the one key benefit we felt was most imperative to
our target personas and the problems they are trying to solve. While
our messaging will unfold over time to address many benefits, we
want our central benefit to be thematic and resonate continuously.
- The "nearest competitive alternative" is where we
highlighted a few key points of differentiation.
3. The Message Box
Figure 3: the "Message Box" template.
the most effective exercise for drafting an "elevator
pitch" that tells your story.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Successful marketing today is less about direct selling and
more about story telling. And
people pay attention when the story is about them.
Message Box is the best technique I know to craft a concise "elevator
pitch" using language the persona will understand. It's
a relatively simple technique but it takes a bit of practice
to get it right.
In the center of the Message Box is the product
being promoted. The "story" is
comprised of four messages that build off one another, and
they are numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4.
- Message 1 is known as the "engagement message." A
hook — usually expressed as a problem or opportunity – designed
to literally engage the target audience in a dialog. This
statement must be simple, yet relevant and clear.
- Message 2 is the "solution message." This message
suggests a criteria that must be met to address the problem
or opportunity shown in the engagement message.
- Message 3 is called the "reinforcement message." Now
is when we introduce our product by name. Whereas the engagement
and solution messages are about the buyer, reinforcement
is about our product and how it is the best option for
satisfying the conditions stated in the solution message.
- Message 4 is all about "value." Literally, this
message is designed to show how life for the customer will
be better than before by using the product. It's benefit
When combined, these four key messages create an effective 30 second "elevator
pitch." With a solid persona and positioning statement
in hand, the Message Box exercise takes about 45 minutes. Of
course, this is just the beginning of a messaging strategy. Use
the Message Box to create a solid foundation from which to build a
strategy that will help you map the right messages (and
the required content) to each stage of the prospect's buying
Even Tiger Woods needs his practice
While many of us will recognize a good target market assessment,
positioning statement, and messaging strategy when we see
one, the basic truth is that it is hard to do. Challenge your marketing
team to sharpen their pencils and apply these techniques.
As you plan the next generation of your integrated marketing plans,
take a few minutes to run through each of these exercises and critique
your work. I guarantee that your efforts will be well rewarded
with a better understanding of (and more empathy for) your
target markets, crisper positioning statements, and more relevant
messaging that will successfully cut through all the clutter.
About the Author
KickStart Alliance's marketing operations practice where he conducts team-based "practical
application working sessions" to improve the effectiveness of lead generation
campaigns and product launches. His fun, practical approach and roll-up-his-sleeves
attitude energizes teams, helping them to get "real work done" while
guiding them to the next level of excellence. Mike is
the author of the book, Marketing
Campaign Development, and his methodology is being used by San
Francisco State University's College of Extended Learning
of Integrated Marketing."
2010 KickStart Alliance www.kickstartall.com