June 13, 2011

Extending the layered messaging model

Some time ago, I introduced the layered messaging model for enterprise IT marketing, to address the challenge:

Two things matter about marketing messages:

  • Do people believe you?
  • Do they care?

It’s easy to meet one or the other of those criteria. What’s tricky is satisfying both at once.

My essential recommendation was:

the two fundamental templates of layered technology marketing:

Enterprise IT product (proof-today messaging stack)

  • Tangible benefits
  • Technical connection
  • Features (and perhaps metrics)*
  • Persuasive details
  • Customer traction or proof-of-concept tests


Enterprise IT product (sustainable-lead messaging stack)

  • Tangible benefits
  • Technical connection
  • Features (and perhaps metrics)*
  • Technical connection
  • Fundamental product architecture

The lower parts of the stack demonstrate differentiation, most directly addressing the “Why should I believe you?” question. The upper parts demonstrate value, answering “Why should I care?” But ultimately, credibility rests on the whole flow of the story, and is no stronger than the weakest of the five layers.

*In the original form I just said “features and metrics”. But truth be told, metrics — speeds/feeds/scale/whatever — are only as important as features in a minority of market segments.

Since then, consulting engagements have shown me there’s actually a third template; happily, it’s synergistic with either or both of the other two. That one goes: 

Enterprise IT product (focus and commitment messaging stack)

  • Tangible benefits
  • Technical connection
  • Features (and perhaps metrics)*
  • Dedication
  • Focus on a specific set of use cases

Here “Focus on a specific set of use cases” is a lot like “Commitment to a specific market or class of users.”

Extreme examples of what I mean include:

Less extreme forms include many vertical market strategies, many “we’re t-shirted coders just like you” messages, and McCormack & Dodge’s long-ago pitch “Buy our financial software because we have lots of Certified Public Accountants on our staff.”

The point of such a story is that, if you’re dedicated to solving a particular set of problems, it stands to reason that you’ll put a lot of things into your product to address them that somebody less dedicated might not bother with. Often, that’s actually true, and perhaps to a greater extent than a simple feature list could easily convey. Sometimes, you can even say that your competitors’ features that benefit other use cases show they aren’t as committed as you are, but usually that crosses the line into overhype.*

*It’s rare that having additional capabilities is truly a bad thing.

Variants of the focus-and-commitment argument include:

So why wouldn’t you use a focus-and-commitment argument? First, it might not be true. 🙂 Second, it might haunt you when you later claim to be competent in other use cases as well. So in some cases you might want to suggest the argument rather than say it explicitly, or at least confine it to individual sales presentations that are unlikely to be quoted later. But despite those limitations, focus-and-commitment can be an important part of a credible and differentiated messaging strategy.


7 Responses to “Extending the layered messaging model”

  1. Infobright 4.0 | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on June 14th, 2011 3:46 am

    […] been Infobright’s strategy from the getgo, but it is these days, with pretty good focus and commitment. While some fraction of Infobright’s customer base is in the Sybase-IQ-like data mart market […]

  2. The marketing of performance | Strategic Messaging on April 25th, 2012 1:13 am

    […] Actually, the middle layer of the layered messaging model may be more important than the top one. Your “metric” kinds of benefits may be clearer […]

  3. Marketing communication tips | Strategic Messaging on December 9th, 2012 5:45 am

    […] telling a focus and commitment […]

  4. Messaging and sales qualification | Strategic Messaging on February 12th, 2015 4:20 pm

    […] the layered messaging model, whose wording I’ll update […]

  5. Messaging and positioning | Strategic Messaging on March 19th, 2018 12:29 am

    […] for Z as well.” But “We’re entirely focused on segment Y” — while it can be a powerful story — puts you in a trap you may not escape later […]

  6. Modifying beliefs | Strategic Messaging on June 26th, 2018 6:41 am

    […] to help one’s messaging? For starters, I spend a lot of effort on helping my clients be more credible. For if you’re not credible, how confident will the targets ever be in your […]

  7. Patterns of political persuasion | Strategic Messaging on September 16th, 2018 3:08 am

    […] Indeed, I believe that a political version of the layered messaging model could be based on a consequences chain […]

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