Value Proposition, Positioning, Messaging: What’s the Difference?

I confuse the terms value proposition, positioning and messaging very much like I confuse the purpose of the liver, spleen and kidneys.

They’re all super important, but they serve very different functions. I’m guilty of lumping value proposition, messaging and positioning into one big bucket of “what we want to communicate.” And this causes just the opposite: miscommunication.

My favorite thing to do when I don’t understand something? Deconstruct it. Here goes.

VALUE PROPOSITION:

A value proposition describes the overarching promise of a product, service or company to the marketplace:

  • What do people “buy?”
  • What need do you fill in the marketplace?
  • What’s the advantage over similar products/offerings in the marketplace?
  • (In some cases) What’s the cost benefit?

Think of the big-picture, clear articulation of why prospects should engage with your business, and the basket of benefits they’ll receive in return.

A value proposition is often the output of your business strategy.

There can be multiple positioning statements for a single value proposition. Positioning is critical to your marketing strategy.

POSITIONING:

Positioning statements reflect a subset of the value proposition. Unlike the value proposition, positioning is targeted to a highly specific segment or persona. Positioning is:

  • Tailored to the unique needs, propensities and mindset of a single persona. It demonstrates empathy and understanding of the individual.
  • Inclusive of targeted competitive differentiation that is meaningful to the persona. It helps them understand why your product is best suited for their needs over other options.
  • Highlights only the benefits most relevant to the persona, unlike the more general and wider reach of the value proposition

Tip: If you’re having trouble building internal consensus around benefits, consider building a prioritization schema.

Positioning is an integral part of persona-based marketing, especially as you formulate your content strategy and messaging.

MESSAGING:

Messaging is a subset of positioning. It’s the art of defining what you will say to the personas you’re targeting and what form that messaging will take. Messaging serves as the intermediary step between positioning and content creation.

It also helps to think of breaking down messaging into three categories:

1. Core Messaging:
Core messaging serves as the foundation for the execution of your content. This is most often a short, memorable statement, but not quippy, like a slogan. It’s clear, concise and targeted, and should connect to a call-to-action.

We highly encourage that you test your core messaging!

2. Storylines:
From your core messaging, you can tell multiple stories that your audience cares about. A storyline is the theme of the story you want to tell. You can create multiple types of content based on a single storyline.

If you learn something new about your audience, you can quickly craft a storyline for creators to use a baseline for content brainstorming, since your storyline always connects back to your core message.

3. Hooks:
Every good storyline has a hook: something that draws the reader in. A hook is critical to your storyline, and should be customized based on the type of content you create (article, video, tweet, etc.) and the channels you plan to use. The way you grab the attention of your audience in a Facebook post is different than how you’d get their attention in an online publication.

We’ve only scratched the surface here! We’re excited to share more information about this topic, including some case studies and templates to download.

What do YOU think? Does this resonate? How would you describe these differently?


Originally published at https://www.caitvsmith.com on May 26, 2016.