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What is messaging?

Messaging strategy

When talking with marketing and PR pros, you hear a lot about marketing or sales “messaging.” This post will explain what messaging is and how to develop a strategy for communicating your value to clients and prospects.

Think about the last time you posted an update on social media or wrote an article. What was the message that were sending to your audience about you, your skills or your firm either intentionally or unintentionally? As a professional services salesperson, you want to be identified with your core strengths.

The Professional Services Superpower

The good news is, lawyers and other professional services providers have a messaging superpower: the ability to take a thorny business problem and create a clear call to action, such as defining the immediate next steps after a new law is passed. Messaging strategy for professional services providers can be broken down into three components:

  • Your value proposition

  • Your target audience

  • Top of mind topics

Messaging as a concept has been around for a long, long time. Before newspapers and snail mail, our ancestors received messages from smoke signals, carrier pigeons or the town crier. Today, the word in a marketing context means:

“a system or process of transmitting messages, especially electronically, by computer, telephone, television cable, etc.”

It’s important to pay attention to the word “system” in this sentence. The word implies that there is a strategy or process around creating and delivering messages. They are not random acts of marketing. Quite the opposite, they provide absolute clarity about who you are and how you can help.

Today, we communicate almost exclusively through electronic communications channels, i.e. email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. In addition, your potential clients might actually find you rather than you finding them. In the age of social media and mobile phones, messages have to penetrate quickly. Ideally, they will have a visceral impact on your target. Once you’ve gone through the steps below, messaging must be repeated, refined and renewed. The three R’s of messaging!

Let’s go through a few short steps to build your messaging strategy:

  1. What is your value proposition? I want you to take 15 minutes and write this down in long hand. Extra credit for narrowing it down to less than 140 characters and using our messaging worksheet to get started. No reason for your hand to ache after writing it! Every message you put out into the world, regardless of the subject, should relate back to your value proposition. If it doesn’t, then don’t bother sending the message. An example I hear a lot with lawyers is, “I’m a corporate lawyer helping companies of all sizes with financing and commercial agreements.” Okay, good, that’s nice and short, but there isn’t anything in this message about value or perspective. Your goal is to do more than simply describing your services. It is also to relay what is unique about you. What do your clients value? Why do they come to you instead of the three million other corporate lawyers? How about: “I help start-ups with the legal side of corporate structure, IP and contracts, helping them make smart legal decisions early on so they can be successful in the future.” Once you’ve defined your value proposition, write it down and pin it to the wall near your desk. If you love it, then frame it too!

  2. Now that you’ve established your value proposition, who would be interested? Your messaging should be customized to your audience. For example, based on the value proposition above, you are trying to reach start-ups. You might want to think even more specifically about your targets. Which industries are they in? What do they read and which economic/business issues do they care about most? Which industry groups do they below to? What are some of their personal characteristics, i.e. age, job title, where they live, etc. If you already have clients that are similar to your targets, ask them about their challenges and interests too. If you have two or more target segments, think about their differences and whether there is or is not overlap between them.

  3. Now we can get more granular with our messaging strategy. Based on your unique offering, how can you help your targets on a daily or weekly basis? What are the trends impacting these companies? Are there threats from regulation, the economy, demographics, etc.? It’s likely that you and other members of your firm are producing content that relates back to your core message. Use this content to convey your message, and it’s also a great idea to support a colleague at the same time. You can do this by posting a link to your colleague’s article on LinkedIn but also relating the topic back to your core value proposition. There are really only a handful of lawyers who do this successfully, so if you commit to it, you will really stand out. Check out the ABA's Web 100: Best Law Twitter. Good stuff there.

  4. If social media is not your thing, you can put all of your helpful, targeted advice into a regular email alert or newsletter with brief introductory language to a variety of articles that you, your colleagues or others in your clients’ industries have authored. Email can be a great way to reach your clients. In fact, in the upcoming Zeughauser/GreenTarget "2018 State of Digital Content Marketing," there seems to be renewed interest among in-house counsel in receiving email communications.

  5. Add your perspective when you share an update on LinkedIn or Twitter, even if you are sharing your firm’s update or a colleague’s article. Demonstrating your perspective for your audience is key, and helping a colleague is always a great thing to do.

  6. A picture is absolutely worth a thousand words. You’ve got your core message down, so make sure that you post a photo reflecting that message on every single update. Everyone loves photos. There is plenty of research to back this up. Check out this article.

  7. If you’re using social media, remember to include hashtags with your messages. Hashtags have been used on Twitter since its inception, but LinkedIn is now encouraging their use as well. LinkedIn will provide suggested hashtags if you write your post on their platform. It is also helpful to search for hashtags on the channel you are using to see if they exist or are popular.

  8. Create a schedule of posts with these themes. It’s very helpful to create a Google search on the topics you want to post about. It is also helpful to look on Twitter or LinkedIn for relevant posts that your colleagues are sharing. Make sure that you communicate with your targets regularly, which I would define as once or twice per week. More is even better. Remember that you don’t have to create all of the content, you just need to comment on it.

  9. Watch the engagement. You can do this yourself by looking back at your posts to see if people have liked and shared them. You can also get help if your firm has a marketing group. They will be tracking these stats. If you are not getting much engagement, take some time to think about why. Are your posts too technical? Are you really trying to get inside the heads of your target audience? Maybe your posts are focused too much on awards and accolades? Sometimes looking at big global issues can lead you to topics that are interesting to a very specific audience. For example, protectionism in the US may seem like a political issue, but it may be impacting your clients’ ability to accomplish their strategic goals.

  10. Always strive to be helpful through the lens of your unique set of skills and services.

  11. Start now! It’s easy, and don’t tell anyone, but I think it’s just as good or better than creating a business plan.

To get you started, go to my Messaging Strategy Worksheet

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