The ultimate guide to writing a communication strategy
Master the art and science of writing a communication strategy with these explainer videos, templates, tips and downloadable resources.
Ignite your B2B PR with the focus and clarity a communication strategy delivers.
Brands need a communication strategy
This idea isn’t new. What has changed is the emphasis on marketing communications, being accountable and reportable, on an increasingly granular level.
A communication strategy enables you to be more efficient and impactful, reducing the potential for waste. If you know what, where and how you should be communicating with your target audience you can improve the focus of your marketing communications, including your public relations.
Why is this important? If you don’t have a fully formed communication strategy, you’re probably falling behind your competitors. You’re certainly leaving the playing field open for them to dominate and lead the sector. Don’t be overly concerned; crafting your communication strategy can be achieved swiftly, by following the eight simple steps, detailed below.
And there’s more good news – you don’t need to invest in expensive and long-winded customer and sector research. All the expertise and insight you need to develop your communication strategy exists within your business – if you know where to look. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide.
So let’s start with the basics…
What is a communication strategy?
A communication strategy defines how you are going to deliver your business strategy. It defines what you’re going to say, to whom and when you are going to say it. It is rooted in fact and expertise – never hearsay.
Why do you need a communication strategy?
If you want to increase your brand awareness, strengthen your competitive position, command share of voice and accelerate sales – you need a communication strategy.
If you’d like further clarification or more detail, you can watch our video for more guidance on your comms strategy.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about communication strategy, or you can use the links below to quickly jump to a specific section of interest.
How does your communication strategy accelerate sales?
A communication strategy ensures you’re speaking to the right people with the right message at a time they need to hear it. This makes your brand relevant and compelling to your target audience right now.
It sounds simple doesn’t it? But the problem arises when you fail to be specific and try to be all things to all people. This leaves your target customer wondering where your expertise really lies and considering whether your brand is really relevant to their specific needs.
Remember, focus equals funds.
What are the key components of your communication strategy?
A communication strategy comprises five critical elements. All of which are of equal importance. These 5 elements are:
- Value proposition
- Sector priorities
- Target personas
- Positioning statements
- Messaging (for each stage of the buying cycle)
How to get it right from the outset
Traditionally, we’ve talked about 7 steps, but over the years we’ve found that if the right people are not involved in the development of the communication strategy, two things will happen. Firstly, the strategy will be flawed, lacking in insight and expertise, and secondly, it will not be implemented properly. In both instances, it will fail and your time and effort will be wasted. And we don’t want that to happen!
For this reason, we’ve added a formal first step, which is emphasising the importance of getting the right people on board with your initiative from the outset.
The essential 8 steps to a communication strategy
There’s a lot that goes into developing an effective communication strategy. This section will walk you through the detailed process of producing a robust and comprehensive communication strategy for your technology business. The 8 essential steps are:
- The dream team: Recruit your expert task force from across the business
- Objective setting: Document your sales lead requirements
- Value proposition: Articulate your value proposition and purpose
- Audience prioritisation: Identify your low hanging fruit – we want bread and jam!
- Target personas: Craft your target personas and name them
- Positioning statements: Tailor a positioning statement for each persona
- Messaging: Develop messaging for each stage of the buying cycle.
- Validation: Validate your assumptions amongst your trusted customers and advisors.
1 Who should be involved, recruit your dream team
Before you start storming through your communication strategy, you need to get the right people involved in the process. The success of each element of the communication strategy depends on securing high quality insight and expertise. Subsequently, ensuring your strategy is deployed and adopted across the business requires the involvement of an influential and persuasive, senior champion.
Who should be involved in developing your communication strategy?
Your communication strategy puts your customer at the heart of everything your company says, does and develops. To identify the right experts from within your business, start by highlighting the names of key people representing all the departments responsible for anything to do with the customer experience.
Use this checklist
- Designing it
- Building it
- Setting the sales targets
- Marketing it
- Selling it
- Servicing/Repairing it
- Training customers in using it
Finally, identify the board/SMT member you would most like to champion your strategy – with specific focus on the role you want them to play in developing, embedding, and activating the strategy.
How to recruit the dream team for your B2B communication strategy project
Having identified your ideal task force, you need to send out formal invitations. This invitation needs to be expressed with gravitas and forethought.
When you invite the participants, make sure they understand why you have asked them. Share your dream team with all participants together with your rationale. This will help them to understand how important you regard both the project and the value you believe they can contribute.
You may want to approach the people that you think will be the hardest to secure first so any adjustments to your list can be made with each confirmation.
Logic, logistics and flattery – how can you fail!
DOWNLOAD: our 8-STEP GUIDE TO COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
2 Document your sales lead requirements
The purpose of your business communication strategy is to help you to deliver the business plan. A comprehensive understanding of board approved sales goals and targets are germane to this.
Ask your task force sales lead to outline the goals for the next quarter. We say quarter because it makes the entire communication strategy process more immediate, promoting a sense of urgency.
The likelihood is that targets can be multiplied by 4 to get the annual requirement. In any case, the salespeople involved in your project will most definitely be more engaged if they see the entire communication strategy dream team are focused on helping them hit their numbers, this coming quarter!
The sales targets you need to explore include:
- Territories – where in the world is their focus/spread.
- Market penetration – what growth targets have they been tasked with.
- Competitive creep – what defensive tactics have they been asked to secure.
- New customers – how many and of what type/scale size.
- Existing customers – up sell and cross sell goals.
- NPD – what new initiatives are they expected to support
- Conversion rate and lead time.
- Finally, bearing in mind #7 – how many leads do they believe they need to deliver their numbers next quarter, from both existing and new customers.
Stay concise and keep it high level. Capture this information in no more than two flip charts. You will use this data to keep your communication strategy work focussed and commercially relevant.
Point #8 is going to be your touchstone.
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3 Articulate your value proposition and purpose
What is the point of a value proposition?
A value proposition is a simple statement that summarises what benefit someone will receive as a result of buying from you, that they cannot get elsewhere. It captures why you exist and why your customers should care.
Your value proposition should form the rallying point for everything the company says, does and develops. It keeps your communication, both verbal and written, focused and relevant.
What are the characteristics of a meaningful value proposition?
An effective value proposition will:
- Identify the most compelling benefit your product/service offers.
- Describe what makes this benefit valuable.
- Identify your target customer’s main problem.
- Connect this value to that problem.
- Differentiate you as the preferred provider of this value.
Constructing your value proposition
Don’t expect this process to be quick or easy. Everyone will have a different perspective, particularly if you’ve got the right task force working on this project. Unless you have been talking about this frequently, and recently, it is unlikely you will have immediate consensus.
The value proposition template
Replace the bold text below in brackets to create your own Value Proposition or watch our video for more details.
4 Identify & prioritise your low hanging fruit – we want bread and jam today!
Unless you have bottomless pockets, you’ll need to prioritise and focus your sales and marketing resources. Identifying your target audience’s sweet spot is the most effective way of achieving this.
Start by gathering insights about your ideal customers, by capturing their key characteristics:
- who they are – identify a target segment.
- where they work – document business attributes.
- why they are a good target – include psychological attributes
Look for clusters of overlapping common characteristics. (Don’t be lazy when articulating why a target is a good one for you, be specific.) Where these three characteristics overlap; this is your sweet spot or your low hanging fruit. For more in depth help and guidance on identifying your sweet spot, you can watch our video below.
5 How to craft your target personas (and name them)
What is a target persona?
A target persona is a representation of your ideal customer. They are not a real person, but they should feel like one.
The sweet spot exercise will have helped to shine a light on who you should be targeting and why. Now you need to put some flesh on the bones of the decision makers (and maybe an influencer).
You will probably start with more personas than you end up with. This is normal. You’ll likely end up with three or four. These three or four are going to be the specific personas that are going to help you deliver the sales requirement detailed in step 2 above. Don’t lose focus.
Remember, focus equals funds.
What attributes should be in a persona? Our persona template includes:
- Persona name (make it memorable and relevant)
- Gender and age
- Education level
- Responsibilities within the business (not their job title as this can be misleading)
- Role in purchase of your goods/services
- How are they perceived by colleagues?
- What key capabilities they are looking for in a supplier (consider expertise, skills, regional reach and outcomes)
- What they want to achieve (professionally/personally)
- Where they work (size, region? industry)
- Values (what cultures or behaviours are important to this person)
- Fears (significant concerns or drivers)
- Irritations (what is guaranteed to annoy this person at work)
- Information sources (where do they go for professional insight and guidance)
6 Tailor a positioning statement for each persona
A positioning statement is a subset of the value proposition which speaks directly to the heart of the individual target persona.
It defines the target audience, the product and its category, a single specific benefit and is differentiable from the nearest competitive alternative.
Positioning Statement template
You can use our template below, by replacing the bold text in brackets, to create your own brand positioning statement. You should complete one of these for each of your personas.
7 Develop messaging for each stage of the buying cycle
The four stages of the buying cycle are well documented, with the most common being represented in the acronym AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire Action). This is also known as the customer journey or the decision making process. Some journeys may be short, with a buying decision made in weeks, whilst some may be much longer and take months or possibly years! However long your customer journey is; your messaging always needs to be specific, relevant and compelling to each of these stages.
In the first two phases of the customer journey, you are generating and earning their trust, whilst in the latter two stages it’s about working on their consideration and desire to purchase. No stage can be skipped as each plays an important role in the journey and building that relationship.
Some people move through their decision-making journey at great speed, whilst others will hover and hesitate, go in reverse before finally making the commitment to purchase. The four different versions of messaging need to be communicated constantly, and in harmony, to secure traction and inspire interest amongst your target audience.
Let’s consider each stage of messaging in more detail:
Your target persona has entered the buying cycle. They are becoming aware that they have an ‘issue’ (something that needs solving) but they’ve not yet started considering possible resolutions.
Your communications objective, to create engagement, is to get them to perceive you as the experts, with in-depth understanding of their sector challenges. This stage is not about flogging a solution or your brand, but rather, positioning yourself as an authority that they can trust.
Your target audience should then start to investigate possible solutions to their issue/s. This is where you can help your target audience better understand the specific nature of their challenges and begin to formulate the ideal solution for them – whilst still curbing your desire to reveal your self interest. You need to be informative and helpful.
Your challenge is to build trust by advising and guiding them through a myriad of possible options and highlighting the pros and cons of each, maintaining an independent stance, while steering them
towards your solution as the ideal fit.
Once you’ve engaged them and you’re on their consideration list, it’s ok to talk about you and put your brand on a pedestal. This stage is all about reinforcing, in the mind of your target audience, how your offering is the most desirable for addressing their specific needs.
If you’ve spent time nurturing them through phases one and two, this should be a logical and natural progression of the conversation.
This is the close, the finesse! At this stage, the prospect is possibly down to considering two options – you and one other. Relentless telephone calls and emails are not going to nudge you over the line. In fact it may have the opposite effect and drive them away, as you may come across as desperate. No-one is a fan of desperation!
This phase is about boldly communicating the value you can add, the difference you can make , and the successes you’ve delivered to other businesses. Don’t be afraid to shine a light on the advantage of working with you over anyone else – but be specific in regard to the problems they’re experiencing.
Validate your assumptions
Once you have completed the first iteration of your communication strategy – and your task force believes it is ‘good enough’ – run it past a small group of trusted customers. Ensure there’s a good mix representing your different personas to ensure the feedback is balanced.
Remember, you’re not seeking to present your comms strategy to them in its entirety and asking if they agree with it – this is more concerned with validating any assumptions you have made.
You want to explore:
- persona descriptions
- pain points
And finally, once you have your comprehensive communication strategy, you just need to implement it. This usually starts with a review of your existing brand assets, such as your website, thought leadership articles, white papers, insight, presentations, LinkedIn profiles, news, events etc.
Ensure that every message is current and accessible to your target audience, and then finally, you’re ready to start planning your campaigns!
8-STeP Communication strategy guide
A comprehensive guide to delivering your business goals using intelligent and relevant messaging.
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