Financially Responsible Marketing

Step 2 of B2B marketing: the 6 steps to creating the right marketing message

Posted by on Apr 26, 2018

You’ve defined your marketing targets, the people you need to reach. You’ve created the personas. Excellent work!

Now you’re on step 2 – creating the message. Get ready for three parts perspiration, one part inspiration. It’s not easy.

Over the years, I’ve learned that iteration is key to finding the right message, or to put it another way, time. Start with an idea, discuss it with one or more colleagues, move forward, argue, rethink, rehash. Lather rinse repeat.

Note – we’re not talking about the actual words in your content here. We’re talking about the message you want to get across, the idea and feeling your brand leaves in a prospect’s mind. Messaging exists on at least two levels: high-level overall messaging, and the more specific messaging for a given piece of content.

Following, 6 tips to help you get it right.

1.   Talk about your client’s concerns, not about you

It seems so obvious!

And yet so much B2B messaging makes the same mistake. Focusing on “who we are” and “what we do” and “why we do it so well.” It’s everywhere.

Excellent marketing starts from the customer viewpoint. The above points are secondary. Nothing matters more than a customer-centric focus, a focus on your customer’s pain points and problems.

Because people:

  • Care about their business, not yours.
  • Absorb the concrete better than the abstract.
  • Are focused on the now – today’s ugly problem.

As a quick check, look at your homepage. Is it all about you? Or about your prospect, and their pain points? Do your sentences start with ‘we?’ Or ‘you?’

2.   Make sure your marketing team gets your business

Marketers – internal or external – often don’t truly understand their client’s business. That’s why you see all that dull bland copy that has no hope of engaging.

Sometimes it reminds me of Hollywood movies – have you ever noticed how far off the mark they are in presenting daily business scenarios? Work objectives are starkly clear – people get fired in two words or less – there’s never any confusion, anywhere – not how the business world actually operates!

To get a B2B marketing message with resonance and residue, hire marketers with a keen nose for business. People who will ask the right questions, over and over. So they can really learn what’s going on, and what your edge is, and what the customer cares about. Then and only then, create messaging that you would have built yourself, but better.

3.   Choose which truth

Truth works like a charm in marketing. The challenge is to figure out which truths to emphasize, to focus on.

Years ago, the Imaginis team was crafting the overall marketing message for what was then a new client, a global manufacturing consultancy. We knew from competitive research that the 3 keywords that resonated with prospects were A, B, and C. We could have gone with the overall strategic message of: “This is how we help you in A, B, and C.”

But instead, we took a hard look at the industry, and our client’s skillset, and went with “Guiding you on the journey to World Class Manufacturing.” It’s still working. In an industry that’s evolving daily, our client is still using the same foundational message, and it gains real traction. Our clients are expert guides; the journey is never over; and world-class manufacturing is what every manufacturer at every level hungers for, and defines in their own way.

4.   Make the sales team happy

The sales team is your litmus test for your messaging. If they’re not comfortable, if they can’t or won’t use the messaging and content your marketers create, it’s time for a re-think and a reboot.

5.   Getting gritty – content is a partnership

How do you make the sales team happy?

Let me ask another question first. How often have you seen a piece of professional content that was actually a set of platitudes (“In today’s competitive workplace, it’s important to …”)? Or that consistently speaks about the business at a high level, likely created by someone who knew little about the industry?

You make the sales team happy by ensuring they’re engaged in the process. Great marketing is a partnership, where the marketing team is willing to put in the time to ‘get’ the business at more than a surface level, and the client stakeholders put in the time to provide guidance and pushback. Reluctance on either side creates the generic marketing that you’ve already seen too much of. It’s not convincing. Because it’s empty.

Think about this with the next piece of professional content you read. Likely, it will show you how closely the sales and marketing teams are connected.

6.   Resonance and residue

When it’s all done (before you post and analyze metrics) how do you judge good messaging? And the content derived from it?

Great content has resonance and residue. It creates the former in the prospect’s mind, it leaves the latter.

Let’s say the content is a whitepaper or blog. Your target’s reaction should be at least one of:

  • That’s what I wanted to understand better
  • That’s something we have to get working on
  • That’s something I didn’t understand before – I’m going to send this to Gary and Anna
  • That’s an interesting way to look at it. Hmmm, I wonder if we could take that route.
  • These guys sound like they really know what they’re talking about. Maybe they’re the people to help us with the issues raised in the TPS report.


You see a whitepaper with good art direction, typography, colours, and imagery. You think – quality work!

Maybe. But the critical factor is ­– does this piece speak to your target market? Will they care about and respond to the message? Does it actually say anything that they hadn’t thought of and didn’t know before?

Will they be engaged and want to know more?


What next?  Watch this space for the next blog in this 4-part series: in the right medium