Managing your brand’s messaging is a crucial aspect of your business’s marketing efforts. A messaging matrix provides your company with a solid foundation for building strong connections. It accomplishes this feat by translating your brand into the business languages of your target audiences.
The messaging matrix gives all personnel involved in marketing your business a target on the horizon and offers a common path for marketers and outside resources to achieve that goal. It’s a strategic reference document that aligns efforts and keeps everyone on the same page. The messaging matrix is a mighty tool in your organization’s marketing arsenal that provides a pathway for long-term growth and development.
This post will provide you with a brief overview of messaging matrices, including what they are, what other types of brand and messaging tactics they’re often confused with and why your business needs to start incorporating one into its marketing and messaging strategy. Throughout the post, we’ve also included visual examples of key portions of a typical messaging matrix.
What is a messaging matrix?
A messaging matrix is a summary of your brand’s communications that helps organize and guide how everyone at the company speaks about the organization. CoSchedule describes it as, “a simple chart that summarizes and systemizes your brand’s positioning and messaging so your content can better align with your core value proposition.” At Elevation, we describe it as an internal document that’s designed to be the center of your marketing efforts. It provides every person involved in marketing your organization with everything they need to keep any type of messaging about what your company does consistent across all your communications.
A typical messaging matrix at the brand level defines the following three areas and that’s it (see Fig. 1):
- Who your brand is – brand positioning
- What your brand offers – key benefits
- How to talk about your brand – target audience segments
Simply put, a well-crafted messaging strategy that includes a messaging matrix helps you identify who makes up your target audience, the topics that engage them and the tone, voice, vernacular and style of messaging that matches their own. For example, you wouldn’t instruct your marketing team to create content for the operations team at a major construction management company that’s full of technical jargon more suited to their IT department.
Marketing plans, brand guidelines, messaging guidelines, style guides, messaging matrices and buyer personas – what’s the difference?
While a messaging matrix is an integral part of your brand communications strategy, businesses should not make the mistake of confusing it with more specific marketing strategies and tactics. It is not the same as your company’s marketing plan, its brand guidelines, messaging guidelines, style guide or buyer personas. To help you understand what we mean, let’s look at the definition for each of the tactics we just mentioned.
- Marketing Plan – Your business’s marketing plan is the outline of your company’s marketing strategy. Your organization might create one annually, quarterly, monthly or at all major intervals.
- Brand guidelines – Your company’s brand guidelines include your brand’s history, mission, values and vision statements, its letterhead, the style guide (see style guide entry below) and brand voice.
- Style guide – Your organization’s style guide is the part of the brand guidelines that communicates how brand communication appears. It’s information and direction on file formats, logos, logo usage, brand color palette and color codes (RGB and CMYK), typography (fonts, facing, sizing and spacing), imagery, voice and tone, as well as examples of dos and don’ts for all the above.
- Messaging guidelines – Your company’s messaging guidelines aren’t the same as its messaging matrix. Remember, the messaging matrix is how your organization talks about the business. The messaging guidelines are what you say about it. Unlike the matrix, which almost never changes, your brand’s messaging guidelines will change. If you’re constantly changing the messaging matrix, you might be confusing it with your messaging guidelines or another marketing communication tactic.
- Audience/Buyer Personas – An audience persona is a data-based, fictitious profile of an ideal group of buyers. Audience personas are used to create content targeted to the challenges, wants and needs that are specific to that group. These personas aren’t part of the messaging matrix, but they help inform its creation, and utilize it when anyone at your company creates specific messaging for a particular persona (See Fig. 2).
One more point before we move on to why your company needs a messaging matrix: It’s not a script. It does not dictate specific words or phrases to be used in outside communications about your brand, a product, service or project. It isn’t brand guidelines nor a style guide and does not restrict visual approaches or mandate how content and messaging are distributed.
Why your business needs a messaging matrix
The purpose of a messaging matrix is to guide how everyone from leadership to employees, agencies, contractors and freelancers talks about the business. It helps everyone speak and write harmoniously about the organization to increase brand alignment, awareness and equity.
Your company’s marketing efforts must reinforce and support your brand to maximize continuity, consistency and a clear, strong message. As the old saying goes, “the brand walks on two feet.” That means your marketing team aren’t the only people who speak and write about your brand (if they ever were). A messaging matrix provides a reference point that keeps your marketing, and everyone at your organization, focused on the long-term, general direction that builds valuable brand equity.
The challenge all businesses face is that each audience segment speaks a unique language. Plus, they also view and value your key benefits differently. The messaging matrix defines the translation of your brand messaging for each audience persona, so they will all come to view your brand the same way.
Having and using a messaging matrix ensures your brand has a single, powerful identity that is universally understood and valued among your prospects, customers, employees and the market-at-large. It does not change unless your brand, products, services or markets change.
Now that you know a bit more about why your brand needs a messaging matrix, let’s move on to how your company can use one to create and maintain alignment across all forms of its marketing communications.
How to use a messaging matrix
Your organization’s messaging matrix is not a “plug-and-play” template for creating marketing communications. It directs your business’s general approach and provides a picture of how you want your target audiences to view the brand. Ideally, your company should have a messaging matrix that covers the brand as a whole. You can also create matrices for any products and services and/or new projects. The document itself should not encompass more than a single side of an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper. Furthermore, the most effective, user-friendly messaging matrices are laid out in chart form. If you like, you may also include a top page that lays out how you want your employees and any marketing agencies to use the messaging matrix.
To keep things simple, use your brand’s messaging matrix in the following three ways:
- Reference your messaging matrix before every marketing project.
Use it to confirm the needs of the target audience and the best ways to frame your brand’s position and key benefits to that audience segment.
- Create communications that reinforce brand positioning and benefits by audience segment.
Build your marketing communications based on the best ways to reinforce your brand and key benefits with each of your target audiences (See Fig. 3).
- Review communications to ensure your teams are building equity in your brand.
Check your final project against the strategy to ensure your messaging reinforces the ongoing strategy for building your brand with each of your target audiences.
If your teams are trying to add more types of information or use the messaging matrix in other ways, you might find they’re really needing to look at one of your organization’s other marketing communications documents, such as the brand guidelines, messaging guidelines or buyer personas. If you don’t have any of these in place, it could also be a sign that your business needs to create them, rather than add extra elements to the company marketing matrix that do not typically appear on it.
With proper use, your company’s messaging matrix will become a key pillar of your overall messaging strategy. Your brand’s messaging matrix will serve as starting and reference points for every communication about your business to ensure you continue to build long-term equity in your brand, while shortening the sales cycle.