How to do brand messaging for startups: a framework

Janessa Lantz
Sep 12, 2016 · 3 min read

For background on where this framework came from read The Problem With Tech Marketing: Action-First vs. Strategy-First.

This framework was built by a startup marketer, and if you’re a startup marketer, you’ll most directly benefit from this. Startup marketers are working in resource-constrained, super fast-paced environments. Your primary goal is to deliver crisp, consistent messaging across every touchpoint.

There are two scenarios where this framework will be most useful:

  1. Marketers crafting messaging for a product that is pre-launch: This toolkit was built for this exact use case, to help us shape pre-launch messaging for Stitch . The exercises in this toolkit are designed to help you craft a strong value proposition, speak elegantly about your product, and tell your story to the press. It will help you craft a strong go-to-market message.
  2. Marketers looking to refine their messaging: Once a product has been out in the world for a year or two, you’ll have a rich body of knowledge about messaging that works, your target audience, and where your current messaging is weak. If you know it’s time to refine that messaging, but don’t have three to six months for a whole brand overhaul, this process is lightweight enough to get you there.

Table of Contents

Here’s the accompanying Trello board for this framework. It contains all of the templates needed for this work along with links to the individual blog posts.

  • Yellow tag = accompanying blog post
  • Blue tag = accompanying template
Click to access the trello board

Phase 1: Laying the Groundwork

One of the fundamental challenges of messaging is alignment. The words you use to describe your business are one of the powerful branding tools a startup has, you need it to be consistent at every single interaction. But many of these interactions are person to person. If someone thinks your chosen messaging is stupid, they just won’t use it. That’s the kind of brand inconsistency startups can’t afford.

The first stage of the messaging framework is focused on building alignment in effort to eliminate those inconsistencies. When I did this work with Stitch I approached this stage as more of a facilitator than an arbiter. My goal was to provide the team with the needed data and research to make decisions. It was more important to hear people out and build alignment then just make a call. The exercises at this stage are designed for just that purpose.

1 Customer Persona Definition

2 Brands We Like

3 Terms We Use

4 Market Trends

5 Value Proposition Exploration

Phase 2: Core Message Development

At this stage, you’ll start turning your research into usable, but internal facing only, documents.

6 Company Descriptions

7 Voice and Tone Guidelines

Phase 3: Asset Development

I don’t have any accompanying posts for these, but the Trello cards share some templates and detail that will be useful as you think about how to translate your messaging into a coherent story.

Contributions Are Welcome

I’m calling this an open-source marketing project. If you have questions, send me an email. If you use it and make improvements, write about it and let me know. I’ll gladly update the cards (and these posts) with links to your additions. If you have feedback on how to make it better or links to resources that people might find helpful, post them in the comments.

Let me know what you learn!

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