Most CEOs and even VPs of marketing think messaging is about a good tagline. That's probably 1% of the value-add of smart messaging work. And it's also not a quick hit with the executives: It can take weeks of very hard work to distill the essence of a company/product into hard-hitting words.

Here are some recommendations for you to consider when hiring a messaging firm. But first let me contrast good messaging versus mediocre messaging. Here's an excerpt from Oracle's newly acquired unit, Siebel CRM on Demand, which competes against Then below is's story.

Siebel CRM on Demand

Siebel CRM OnDemand is an innovative, low-risk, flexible, hosted customer relationship management (CRM) solution brought to you by the company that invented CRM—Siebel Systems.

With Siebel CRM OnDemand, you can easily evolve your customer relationship strategy using the industry's premier CRM solution—with little or no up-front IT investment. More robust deployments can take advantage of Siebel's extensive services offerings—based on leading CRM best practices—to assist with custom implementation and integration requirements.

The result is that Siebel CRM OnDemand provides businesses of all shapes and sizes with a centralized repository of customer data and a real-time snapshot of all customer interactions. So no matter what your CRM requirements are, Siebel CRM OnDemand accelerates business value and lowers overall Total Cost of Ownership. is the worldwide leader in on-demand customer relationship management (CRM) services. More companies trust their vital customer and sales data to than any other CRM company in the world.

Why? Perhaps it's because we deliver integrated, completely customizable enterprise applications for companies of all sizes. Or maybe it's because Salesforce is so easy to learn and use, and it can be up and running in weeks or days—not the months or years required by traditional client-server CRM software. Or it could be the unprecedented speed with which our customers see real, tangible ROI. Or maybe it's because of our 100% dedication to the success of our customers.

In fact, more than 399,000 subscribers at 20,500 companies worldwide depend on Salesforce to manage their sales, marketing, and customer center and customer service.

OK, you get the picture. You can see right away that there's a huge difference between the two. does a far better job of messaging, in the following ways:

  • Use of simple, plain English... no technical mumbo-jumbo jargon

  • Focus on customers and their pain points

  • Hard-hitting facts that support claims

  • Conversational style that entices you to learn more

It's Powerful

Messaging is not copywriting. Messaging is the work that precedes copywriting and all other executions, such as taglines, ad copy, Web sites, datasheets, corporate brochure, sales scripts, etc. It's a simple framework that answers three basic questions:

1. Who are you?

2. What do you do?

3. Why does that matter?

The deliverable is a one- or two-page document that is the source document for all ensuing marketing work.

It's expensive

Good messaging work is not cheap. Some of our clients have spent six figures on getting superb corporate messaging and positioning. Of course, not all companies can afford that. But we recommend you avoid the quick, one-time facilitated executive session approach to messaging work.

I've yet to see breathtaking work for less than $20,000, and the minimum is probably more like $50,000.

It's demanding

Messaging work requires a time commitment not just from the marketing management team but the executive team and some field personnel. Great firms will want to interview your staff (execs, managers, sales, product marketing), customers, lost sales, and industry analysts. Then they'll do their homework on the industry, including customers, competitors, and other players in the market.

The goal is to devise messaging that makes you stand head and shoulders above the masses. The process is also a way to build internal consensus, since everyone has an opinion on what the tagline should be or not be.

It's disruptive

Messaging work will shine a bright spotlight on how well you have your act together in terms of business strategy, go-to-market plans, understanding of your target customer, product value proposition, and sales approach. Don't blame the messenger (sorry) if your strategy is flawed. Thank them.

Go back to the Siebel vs. example and you can readily see some strategy issues gaping through. For example, is clearly about being a service not software. Oracel/Siebel waffles on this because there's internal conflict on its strategic intent: software versus service. So view messaging work as a litmus test of sound strategy and execution.

It's galvanizing

You want messaging work to unite everyone in the company behind a simple message. Some companies have used messaging work to create and sustain a corporate identity or purpose.

For example, look at how these companies use taglines (an outcome of great messaging) to focus on customers and call their employees to be their best:

  • Avis: "We try harder"

  • Southwest Airlines: "Highest quality customer service with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit"

  • Symantec: "Helping ensure the security and availability of your information"

  • Google: "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"

  • Seagate: "Whatever your storage needs, Seagate has the perfect drive for you"

  • Nokia: "Nokia connects people to each other and the information that matters to them"

  • LinkedIn: "Open doors to opportunities using the professional relationships you already have."

It's urgent

Your competitors are already spending bucks on messaging and brand building. And we all know that mind share precedes market share.

Here are three more resources for you to review before you plunk down the big bucks to get your messaging right:

• Guy Kawasaki blog entry "The Art of Branding"

• C2 LLC's "The Story Book"

• Kevin Randall 's "Brands Matter in B2B Markets"

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image of Sridhar Ramanathan

Sridhar Ramanathan has 25+ years' experience in tech, from startups to blue chip firms. At HP, he was lead marketing executive for its $1.1B Managed Services unit. Sridhar co-founded Aventi Group because he saw a need for proven expertise in B2B product marketing and go-to-market planning.

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