Is there a right and wrong way to do anything? If you’re driving in the US, the right way to drive is to stay in the right lane. In the UK, the right way is to stay in the left lane. Within each country there’s a right way to drive, based on rules and conventions that are meant to make driving safe for drivers, riders, pedestrians, and property. So rules and conventions define the right way to drive within each country. However, between the two countries, the driving conventions are merely different, with neither one being wrong.
Consider a simpler example. The way Susie learns to tie a shoe may be different from the way Juan does, but neither one is wrong. As long as they get the same result, that is, shoes that are safely tied, their methods can be completely different and still both right.
Now think about corporate or product messaging. There are different ways to develop key messaging, with personal preferences, thinking patterns and communications methods influencing how one person or team approaches this activity over another.
Top Down or Bottom Up
With the top-down approach, you know what messaging you want to end up with, so you start there, and build your products and company to support that messaging. Your prospects will push back on anything that seems too good to be true, so if you say you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you better actually be the best thing since sliced bread. Empty promises are the fastest way to lose credibility with your target audience.
Using a bottom-up message development method, your product or service is already developed and your company established. You do a thorough assessment of your product and business, asking a series of questions. What are your target market segments? What do you do for these potential customers? How do you and your product or service stand out from other suppliers? Are you the cheapest, fastest or best in some way? With the answers to these key questions, the messaging begins to come together, to define your offering and company in way that highlights your strengths and builds your appeal to the target customers.
Dictate or Collaborate
The top-down approach to message development often comes from a single person, many times the visionary who starts a company. The message may actually begin as the vision for the company. With a few adjustments, that vision becomes the driving concept for all activities within an organization, so the product or service lives up to its messaging. Some marketing consultants take this approach, and develop messaging based on what they think will stand out in the market and what will sell. This approach can cause confusion and delay within a company if the dictated message is not really aligned with what the company does. It can give you a fast result, “This is the company’s message,” but if that message is not valid for the company as a whole, it will leave chaos in its wake.
The collaborative method instead has marketing and communications teams working across departmental boundaries. As a team, they get inputs and answers to key questions from a group of people, then synthesize the answers into compelling and meaningful messages. This method typically takes longer than the top-down and dictated message, yet results in real, defensible messages that the entire organization can understand and support.
At Marketing Habit, our approach to message development is the bottom-up, collaborative method. Working with a group of people to gather inputs and test draft messaging gives many a chance to be heard during the process and results in messaging that is aligned across the organization. While the top-down approach may work for some people, it would give me that feeling I get when driving in the UK – this doesn’t feel quite right!
Contact us to learn how we can help your organization develop strong messaging so you stand out from the crowd!