What is a message map?
A message map is a document that outlines your company’s positioning for your product or offering by focusing on the benefits the customer will obtain using strategic and consistent messaging. Message maps are crucial because they help define your brand's unique voice and enable customers to easily differentiate your products from your competitors.
Why you should create a message map
Message maps play an important role in market intelligence because they act as a foundation for strategic planning and decision-making. Through message mapping, companies are able to identify their target audience, understand their customer needs, discover how competitors are positioning their products or services, and anticipate potential opportunities or challenges in the market. Message maps also help organizations craft a unique and consistent message that can be used in different marketing channels, such as digital, radio, or television advertisements.
By utilizing message mapping, companies can stay ahead of their competition and make informed decisions based on sound market intelligence. Message maps are instrumental in helping businesses understand their target audience better, create effective campaigns that resonate with consumers, and stand out from the crowd. Message maps also serve to communicate key messages within the organization itself—from management to frontline employees—and ensure everyone is delivering a unified brand message to customers.
In a nutshell, message mapping is an important tool for gathering market intelligence and developing effective strategies for success in today’s competitive attention sparse environment.
How to create a message map
Creating a message map begins by clearly understanding your target customer and defining your company’s objectives to match the customer demand. Then, you should identify the key messages that will be used to deliver those objectives to your customer persona. Message maps should also include competitor analysis and insights into customer needs and behaviors. Finally, you should create a structure for your message map—such as themes or topics—and use visuals, like diagrams or charts, to make it easier for others to understand.
Creating your customer personas
Creating customer personas is an essential step for creating an effective message map. A customer persona is a fictional representation of your target audience that helps identify the needs and preferences of individual consumers. To create a customer persona, start by gathering information about your target customers such as demographic data, buying behaviors, goals, values, motivations, and challenges. You can also conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups to get a deeper understanding. Once you have a better understanding of who your customers are and what they need, you can use this information to create an accurate customer persona document. Hubspot has a fantastic free tool that you can use to templatize your customer personas: https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona
This information will be vital for crafting effective messages that resonate with the target audience and help inform your message map. Message maps should be based on customer needs —not just company objectives—and should provide valuable insights into how best to reach consumers in order to maximize ROI.
Focus on benefits that have emotional ties (Not Features)
Your messaging should focus on benefits that have emotional ties, rather than features. It’s important to distinguish between the two when crafting your messaging strategy. Features are what a product or service has—like technical specifications and capabilities—while benefits are the positive outcomes customers can experience when using these features. Message maps should highlight how what you’re offering can make the customer’s life easier, save them money, or daily tasks more productive. Use emotive words that trigger deep human instincts. Words that elicit hope, fear, or a sense of urgency such as; Thrilled, Boost, Revolutionary, Instant, and Urgent.
Study your competitors' messaging (Digital, Print, etc.)
Particularly in markets that are ripe for disruption or have low competitive moats, it’s important to be aware of your competitors’ messaging across channels. Analyze what they’re doing right and wrong and look for ways to stand out. You can scour the web and ask your sales team to collect print materials at trade shows. This can be tedious which is where Wide Narrow comes in. Our customers utilize our platform to collect digital information and contributed intelligence from the field to provide you with a holistic view of your competitors' messaging. But enough about us, back to message maps.
Message maps should communicate a clear differentiation between your product or service offering and the competition. It can also provide valuable insights into how best to reach customers in each channel you are using—and which channels you may need to explore further. It is highly likely that different messaging is being used by your competitors, or that they are even testing new messaging, so competitive messaging in your message map is pivotal.
Your brand tone is everything
Your messaging strategy should be built upon your brand tone and style. A consistent and recognizable brand tone will help you stand out from the competition and make a memorable impression on potential customers through all channels. Identifying your brand’s tone can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by understanding your target audience first—who are they? What motivates them? How do they speak? Answering these questions can help you determine the best way to communicate with them as we discussed before. Once you have established this baseline, consider how you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors; what makes your product/service unique? Message maps should highlight any existing differentiators as well as new ones that may need further exploration in order to create messages that will resonate with customers. The key here is to find the balance between emotive copywriting and conveying a consistent brand tone across all messaging.
For example, at Wide Narrow, we work with Strategy, Regulatory, and Intelligence professionals at large organizations. Due to this fact, we work hard to strike a balance between a professional and a human-centric tone. At the end of the day, no matter how educated we are or how complex the industry we operate in, we are all people and we have similar problems that our solution can solve. This is why sticking with a consistent brand tone is so important. Your tone speaks directly to your target persona and speaking their language has a direct impact on sales and customer engagement.
Share your message map
Message maps should be shared with decision-makers throughout your company so that everyone is working from the same playbook. A great way to do this is to distribute your message map using a platform such as Wide Narrow that has integrations into all of the places your stakeholders work. Send the message map as a PDF to your executive board via email, or provide them with a live dashboard embedded from Wide Narrow. Share your message map with sales and marketing by embedding it into the CRM. Share your message map with your whole organization using our chat platform integrations such as Microsoft Teams.
Digitizing your message map and making it accessible to all relevant stakeholders allows them to have access to the most up-to-date version of your message map, which is essential for keeping your messaging up-to-date and consistent across all channels. That is the magic of a digital message map, you update it on a scheduled basis as your market and competitive landscape changes, without the need to create it from scratch.
The 5 steps to a successful message map (Summary)
In summary, message maps are an integral key to marketing, product, customer service and sales initiatives. This map is a byproduct of:
- Clearly understanding your customer persona and their buying triggers
- Having a clear picture of your market and competitive landscape, particularly as it relates to their product message and brand tone.
- Understanding your own brand tone and being consistent.
- Digitizing and sharing your message map so everyone in your company communicates consistently.
- Updating your message map as your market or competitive landscape changes to ensure your messaging is still resonating with your customer base and differentiating your solution in the market.