Regardless of whether you’re a 20-year-old company or a ‘fresh off seed funding’ newcomer, the IoT can be a daunting place. There are so many companies with similar-sounding products that even industry insiders get confused about “who does what.” That’s why messaging is critical to the success of your marketing efforts and thus your IoT company.
You may think your messaging is all set, but is it? Messaging is actually two-fold. Side one is your value proposition—your key attributes—and the proof points and successes that you’ve shown for each of those attributes.
Side two is how you compare your company with the competition. You should be able to complete the sentence “Unlike Competitor A, we…” or “Compared with how Company B does this, we do x.”
Much like developing an annual marketing plan, a Core Messaging exercise helps your entire team speak from the same playbook. They’ll know appropriate clients and success stories to mention because they are listed for them in the messaging document. They’ll be able to articulate the company’s key differentiators because they are spelled out in the messaging document. They’ll have access to a 30-second elevator pitch because…well, you know.
Don’t have a Core Messaging Document? Your PR firm should be able to work with you to develop one. To get started, make sure you are ready to answer these six key questions:
- What is our unique value proposition? This is by far the hardest question to answer. Not only do you have to articulate your differentiators, but you have to be able to pass the “so what?” test. Keep asking that question to everything you write down until you can answer it with a few sentences that truly differentiate your company. Be warned, this isn’t a 15-minute exercise.
- What are the key benefits to our customers? This is the second-hardest question to answer. Many people will automatically point to product features, but product features do not always translate to benefits. Ask yourself how your customers actually benefit from a product such as yours. It might be time, money, efficiency, results—whatever the benefits are, make sure you list (and quickly explain) them all.
- What do we do? No, seriously, tell me what your company does. This is the elevator pitch and it should succinctly explain in 30 seconds what your company does so the average person can understand it.
- Who are we? (a.k.a. the Boilerplate) This is take two of the elevator pitch, but instead of high-level elevator pitch language, you’re using language that tells the who, what, when, where, how and why of your company. This is the paragraph you see at the bottom of press releases to describe your company. It’s also great to use this language on the About Us section of your website. Media or analysts that are looking for a way to describe your company in an article do not always contact you directly. Give them a really good 7-10 word descriptor of your company. This can be used as the first sentence of your boilerplate.
- Who are our customers? These can be both current and aspirational customers, but keep in mind that you need to be talking to each of these customers in your messaging. These “buyer’s personas” will help you talk to multiple layers of your target customers.
- Who are our competitors, and how are we different? Last, but not least, you need to differentiate your IoT company from your competition. We have had plenty of clients who have successfully differentiated their products which may have been second, third or fourth to market. We helped them dig down to find their unique characteristics that separated them from their competitors. They were able to answer the question “So how are you different from Company A?” through their Core Messaging work.
We recommend IoT companies undertake a messaging exercise at least once a year. Even more frequent updates to messaging documents means there’s change going on in your organization. Updates—we call them Messaging Refreshes—do not need to be a wholesale change in messaging, but rather an update to what’s new with your business: new customers, new partners, new success stories, and so on. If there’s a shift in the company or product’s direction, that also can be accounted for in a Messaging Refresh.
One final component that people often forget is external validation. It’s important to get a third-party critique of your IoT and other messaging so that what you think is great, others will think is great as well. This can come from your PR agency, if they are not working with you on messaging, an analyst firm, an advisor or other third party.
Messaging is tough, and it can take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get it right. The end result, however, will truly have your company standing out in a crowded IoT market.
Need your help with your IoT Core Messaging Document? Contact Calysto.