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Branding Exercise for Websites

June 12th, 2009 Comments off

I have been doing a lot of websites lately (last one to go live was Loopfuse). One of the first exercises is always to do a messaging/branding exercise. I thought I would share a quick and easy exercise to help you focus your brand message.

I find it is usually best to have a couple key executives and your star sales rep answer the following questionnaire:

  1. What are the biggest problems your customer want solved when they come to your business?
  2. What are three gaps or complaints customers have about your industry?
  3. What positions do your competitors take in addressing customer problems? (identify competitors if possible)
  4. What three things could you do that are different from what others are doing in your industry?

The questions are positioned in a friendly way that helps extract a market profile and competitive positioning. Each question helps approach the challenge of messaging from all angles:

  1. Customer pain. The biggest problmes helps identify the customer point of view, by identifying their pain points. Its useful to have the sales folks answer this question because they can best assess why customers are typically arriving at their doorstep looking for your products or services.
  2. Gap assessment. Next we take the first step to differentiation here – what are the gaps in the industry and are you actively working to close them. Many times this question leads to new product ideas and services. If you can answer this successfully, then you have a successful edge in messaging where you can offer something that is critically lacking in your industry.
  3. Competitive edge. Understanding your competitors helps in a variety of ways. One, for a marketing consultant like me, it helps to narrow down a lexicon of terms that are popular. But for businesses, it helps to map out competitor positions so you can find the specific area/sub-segment that you compete successfully in. This is critical to help attract customers and to stand out in a crowded marketplace – especially if your market is primarily driven through the web. This can identify keywords that are needed in your message to better power search.
  4. Differentiation. Many companies think they can’t come up with three – but usually when they sit down, they can come up with many more. This question is easily answered once you get through the previous three, and helps to solidify the three key points you want to emphasize in your value proposition.

OK, so now you have those answered. What’s next? The messaging exercise itself. While the survey helps to kickstart it, its very important to remember that this is a process – and its usually not quick. Many companies review/revise messaging one or two times a year. Its really hard to get perfect. My best advice is to timebox it (say 2 weeks) and to make sure stakeholders get their say (the questionnaire is a great way to involve them). Then promise to continually review. While a perfectionist myself, I am also a pragmatic believer in the 80/20 rule when it comes to messaging. Get the majority of it done to where you are comfortable – and then try it out. Your customers and prospects will be the best litmus test of how they respond to the message, and often times its more important to have a message than to wait for the perfect one. You can always evolve that message over time – and evolution is going to happen anyway, so embrace that.

Here are the key points that you should try to cover in the messaging exercise:

  • Mission Statement. What is your company trying to do? This message is sometimes used publically, especially in blogs (our mission at XXX is to ..) and in the About Us page of the website. Mostly, however, it is an internal message. It helps to keep focus on what market you are trying to serve and what kind of a company you want to be. When developing this message, it is useful to remember the old PR mantra of F-B-O – try to be the first, best or only in your market. This assures that your mission is unique and noteworthy.
  • Value Statement. This is an external message. This is what you say to your customer. It should be used in your PR slug, in your elevator pitch, and it should be prominent all over your website. Be sure to keep the message directed to a customer, and articulate what value you provide to them. Think about how you save them time, money, or worry.
  • Value Propositions. Identify three specific statements describing specific value that your products or services bring to a potential customer. These are the three legs of the stool that support your value statement. You can have more if need be, but consider that this then becomes really long to describe. Keep it simple, and your customers will grab onto the messages more readily.
  • Call to Action. This one is typically overlooked, but especially in developing websites, its critical to force action into your site. The goal of a website is to attract potential customers – and to do so, you want to spur them into action. Again, it should be short and think of selling the value and then what reaction you want – a free trial, a talk with one of your experts, or just straight out buying your product.

Good luck, and of course, if you need any help – the gang here at Silicon Spark are available to help you with your messaging exercise.