The ultimate guide to writing a communication strategy
How to develop a winning B2B communication strategy
Tips, templates, and videos to help you devise a communication strategy that delivers your business plan
What is a communication strategy?
A communications strategy outlines how you will deliver your business plan from a marcomms perspective. It focuses on what you are going to say, to whom and when you will say it and is the key to nailing communication with your target audience. Your communication strategy is also the backbone of any brief you give to an agency. It should not be a long, complex document, it should be clear, considered, and easy to understand – with clear strategic signposts.
Why do I need a communication strategy?
Your comms strategy ensures you’re speaking to the right people with the right message at the right time. You need one to make sure you achieve your business targets. Your PR agency also needs to know about your ‘what, to whom and when’ so that they can tell how to communicate with your audience for maximum impact and effect.
A robust comms strategy enables you to be more efficient and effective across all business operations and will help you get the most out of your PR budget. Without a communication strategy, you risk falling behind your competitors and leaving the door open for them to dominate the sector.
Watch our video for more guidance on your comms strategy.
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)
You will only have an implementable strategy once all five components are fully developed.
Where do I start?!
Fortunately, the expertise and insight you need to develop the key components of your comms strategy already exists within your business if you look carefully. In fact, crafting your strategy can be done quickly, and painlessly, by following the eight essential steps we’ve devised. Do this, and you’ll ensure you get your strategy right from the outset.
The essential 8 steps to a business communication strategy
There’s a lot that goes into developing an effective communication strategy. To make yours robust and comprehensive, you need to pay attention to the following eight essential steps:
- 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
- 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 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 attaching the names of key people representing all the departments responsible for anything to do with the customer experience.
- 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, highlighting the 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 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.
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 critical to this.
Ask your task force sales lead to outline the goals for the next quarter. By saying ‘quarter’, it makes the entire communication strategy process more immediate, promoting a sense of urgency.
The salespeople you involve 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 – their global focus
- Market penetration – the growth targets they have they been tasked with
- Competitive creep – the defensive tactics they have they been asked to secure
- New customers – the number and type/scale size
- Existing customers – to up sell and cross sell goals
- NPD – the new initiatives are they expected to support
- Conversion rate and lead time
- Finally, bearing in mind #7 – the number of leads they believe they need to deliver to secure next quarter’s targets, from both existing and new customers
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
This process is rarely quick or easy and you are unlikely to have immediate consensus.
The value proposition template
Download our value proposition template below or watch our video for more details.
4 Identify & prioritise your low hanging fruit
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
Watch our video for more help on identifying your sweet spot.
5 How to craft your target personas
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!
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 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 download our template below to create your own brand positioning statement. Complete one of these for each of your personas.
7 Develop messaging for each stage of the buying cycle
There are four stages of the buying cycle, and you may know of them by 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.
During the first two phases of the customer journey, your focus is on 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.
The messaging for each of the four stages needs 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 comprehensive understanding of their primary challenge/pain point.
Your target audience should then start to investigate possible solutions to their issue/s. This is where you can help them 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.
Once you’ve engaged them and you’re on their consideration list, it’s ok to talk about your company 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.
Finally, your prospect is perhaps 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.
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.
Validate your assumptions
Once you have completed the first iteration of your communication strategy which your task force is happy with, run it past a small group of trusted customers. Ensure there’s a good mix representing your different personas so that you get balanced feedback.
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 you’re ready to start strategically planning your campaigns!
8-Step Communication strategy guide
A comprehensive guide to delivering your business goals using intelligent and relevant messaging.