Marketing is a big job with a lot of moving pieces. Your social team is handling engagement. Your content marketing team is creating valuable building blocks. Or maybe it’s just one or two people–spread oh so thin–differentiating your content and keeping the train moving ahead.
In theory, it’s ideal: specialists each doing what they do best to affect your ROI and drive revenue. In practice, dividing responsibilities can lead to a disconnect in your messaging from one channel to another.
For strong execution across every discipline, all of you should agree on this: the message comes first.
I can tell you need convincing.
The Case for a Message-First Strategy
More than ever, consumers are in control of their buying journey. They are more digitally sophisticated, and — usually with a smartphone in hand — they have access to overwhelming amounts of information about nearly everything. All of this has fundamentally changed the way customers make purchases.
For marketers, this means consumers can and will encounter your brand across different channels—from social to search to broadcast—and on different devices, such as smartphones, iPad or TV. They might encounter you first on Pinterest, before looking you up on Facebook and then googling reviews. The last thing you want to do is confuse them with mixed messages, inconsistent terminology or shifting tones.
Old SEO vs. New SEO for the Modern Buyer
Up until now, the general approach to SEO focused on being the #1 search result for specific, high-volume keywords. Keyword density loomed large, and search engines rewarded those pages–training consumers to search by keyword.
Things got better. Search engines grew around customer experience to recognize themes and topics rather than single words. For example, you might search “best time to buy cheap flights” instead of “cheap flights.”
Great marketers create valuable content that speaks to humans, not keyword-counting bots. They communicate these search terms without writing stuffed sentences that jump up and shout, “I’ve got some keywords in here. Look at me!”
This approach to SEO gives you reason and opportunity to build consistent messaging strategy into your content.
Messaging Sets the Tone
Remember, you customer chooses different ways to interact with your brand before making a buying decision. Your execution should complement the other elements of your marketing like text ads, video scripts, social and blogs– all working to communicate messages that support each other and carry a similar tone.
If you have an established brand, chances are you have voice and tone guidelines outlined in your brand book. If not, this is a good place to start. Work with marketing leaders and content creators to establish a consistent writing style.
Develop a Messaging Framework
Your messaging framework should be developed as a team effort involving stakeholders from different areas of marketing.
Of course, much of this will depend on the particular makeup of your team, but generally you should involve people in areas of content creation, marketing strategy, social media and paid media.
Step 1: Develop Key Messages
The first step steals a page out of PR’s book. Work on 5-10 key messages that your teams will collectively—that’s important—communicate across channels. This is your opportunity to outline your main benefits, best features and biggest differentiators.
Good key messages are typically a meaty paragraph each, outlining a key benefit based on customer needs and how your company satisfies that need.
Step 2: Create Stories from Your Messaging
Again considering your audience, break down each key message into a story that speaks to the customer experience. Remember that this is less about what you want to say (that’s your key messaging) and more about what the customer is looking for to help make their decision. These stories become an excellent jumping off point for content development, from SEO-rich website or landing page content to banner ads and social content.
To get really nitty gritty, you can break it down even further into stories that pertain to different spots on the purchase cycle, or stories that specifically fit into the early, middle or late stages of your funnel. For example, a technical school may have early-stage messaging around why technical schools are a good option versus four-year schools.
Step 3: Parse It Down to Topics or Themes
Your messaging strategy will need to suit a lot of content needs, from long-form web content to short-and-sweet PPC. So once you have your key messages and stories in place, you can look at what you’ve developed and break out topics or themes that can inform word choices during content creation.
You can absolutely tie in traditional SEO keyword research here by looking at these topics and identifying common phrasing related to searches for them.
Marketing works best when every tactic is working from the same playbook. While most companies interpret this strictly from a general strategy standpoint, the importance of an overarching messaging strategy shouldn’t be discounted. With consumers forging their own buying path and experience brands across multiple channels, a message-first strategy helps ensure their experience is consistent from first search to all the way to purchase.