Marketing Messaging and Copy Are NOT the Same Thing (…And Why You Should Invest in Professional Copywriting)
Your Messaging Strategy sets the foundation for what your brand needs to talk about and why. Your Copy however, is more about the how. It’s an outcome of the strategy or general approach you’ve decided about the key messages that need to come across to your audiences.
Consider this: There are often four tiers of planning that drive decisions about the phrases, words, tone and style used in marketing communications (depending on how strategic the company is trying to be).
- Brand Strategy –who you are as a company, what you stand for, what you want to be when you grow up, and how you want to be perceived
- Brand Identity – look and feel of your company, including your logo, colors, image library, and general visual style
- Messaging Strategy –the general approach to messages that you want your customers and potential buyers to see, hear and love
- Marketing/Sales Strategy and Plan – your company’s plan of attack for getting noticed in the marketplace, getting leads, making sales, making customers happy, and growing the business
More About How Copy Fits In
Again, your Copy is an outcome or delivery of your company’s messaging strategy (so is graphic design; so are videos; so is the message you play when customers are on hold).
However, if copywriting is not your strength, it’s best to recognize that and get the help and results you need. That’s what I do.
For example, I do some writing (obviously since I’m writing this post), but I do not consider myself a professional sales copywriter. My strengths are creating a messaging strategy, and determining what stories and content themes need to be “out there” to drive business results. I’m also pretty good at business writing, scripts, core website copy and narrative content.
However, when it comes to putting pen to paper for promotion channels requiring short, sharp, pithy copy that hits someone over the head with value and relevance in seconds, I’m okay but certainly not great. This to me requires a unique talent.
When I want to ensure true greatness in the copy, I get help from those who are freakishly talented at distilling messaging and writing compelling, tight copy that truly speaks to an audience and drives immediate action.
By the way, often it’s not marketers that are best at this stuff: One of the best thought partners I ever had for tight succinct copy was on our tech team. He was a master at listening to or reading long narratives, and pulling out the most important message and true intent (he’s brilliant at it without even trying).
With that said, my suggestion for companies (particularly startups) struggling with building a website or other critical corporate communications is to agree on a strategic framework for your story and corporate messaging first, then use that to tackle copywriting and content development. The messaging simply informs the latter. You’ll see how much easier development is and how much faster you get business and help sales when you have a foundation that is clear.
To take it even further, here is some additional advice to consider as it relates to copywriting (shout out to my writing peeps):
- Invest in great copy. Many spend thousands of dollars and months of time on research and strategy, but expect great copy to be delivered in a couple of days. None of the work means anything if you don’t get results, so invest at least as much if not more in great copy as you do on other things. Isn’t copy after all, the “product” that may ultimately get people to take action? Why would you not invest heavily and thoughtfully in that? Try it and see what happens.
- Do some due diligence as you dive in, e.g.: a) consider and incorporate the company’s style guidelines as well as best practices in the marketing industry; b) consider best practices for each delivery channel (website vs. email vs. blog vs. PPT, etc.); and c) assess what’s worked for others in your business or company.
- Seek out those on your team, in your company or in your network who are great at listening and digging for or picking out the nuggets and underlying point/value of a story or message. Even if you are good at this, it may be better to get help from someone who is great at it, or at least not as close to the messaging.
- Get feedback from those who can immediately scan a page and dissect its true intent, and who understand the target’s mindset. These types of folks can often make you aware of where you may be missing the mark, even if they aren’t writers who can fix the copy.
- Get feedback from customers and frontline representatives. Ask them point-blank how/if they would respond to said copy.
- And of course, test and refine.