Content marketing is a major focus for business-to-business marketers everywhere. Articles, blogs, reports, white papers, guides, briefs, e-books, infographics, and even video tutorials are created every day to explain the role of content marketing in an effective marketing strategy. In the process, content marketing has generated its own content marketing program, as can be seen on the Content Marketing Institute website. If nothing else, all this content about content marketing proves that content marketing works.
But one thing that seems to be lost in the continuous flow about content marketing is the role of the message house in the process. So it’s worthwhile to consider the message house within the context of a content marketing strategy.
Back to Basics
The importance of the message house was reinforced recently during a client engagement. The client we were working with didn’t know what a message house was. At first, I was shocked. After all, as a marketing agency, we expect that senior marketing managers on the other side of the desk are well-versed in the nuts and bolts that make effective marketing. When a client is confused by a fundamental element, it throws us off track. In this case, we offered an explanation. But what the incident enforced for all of us is that, sometimes, it’s worthwhile to go back to basics to make sure that knowledge that we take for granted is still part of best practices.
A quick Google search shows that not only is the message house alive and well in the marketing world, it has generated its own fair share of online content marketing. Marketers from around the world have offered their insights into what an effective house is, how to create one, and how to use one. There are tutorials and templates available for marketers looking for a refresher and for those new to the process. Definitions are everywhere, as well as images that offer a snapshot of how this key marketing tool is structured.
While definitions and structures vary slightly from one author to another, the underlying point is the same. A message house is a tool marketers use to capture and present messaging and positioning statements that use simple and compelling business language to:
- Position what a company offers
- Explain the value the offering provides to customers
- Itemize the benefits the offering delivers
- Outline the proof points that support the positioning
Building the House
The structure of a message house will vary depending on purpose. Some message houses are simple and straightforward, while others are more complex. Typically, a comprehensive message house that can be used for concerted B2B content marketing of a company and its products will be structured around an umbrella message, a series of core messages, and the supporting points, as shown in the diagram below. The scope of the messaging and positioning statements will depend on the complexity of what the company is marketing.
The Message House and Your Content Marketing
As noted by Smart Insights, “Message houses are a simple but effective tool for helping your teams stay on message in their marketing communications across different channels. They can be applied not only for general company marketing and brand positioning, but also for other projects (such as events and conferences) and even for the messaging of an organization as a whole.”
What does this mean for your content marketing strategy?
A message house should be the cornerstone of your content marketing program. It should be the foundation upon which a seasoned marketing writer builds effective content.
While your content marketing strategy focuses on how you’re going to use engaging content to position and market your business and your product. The message house establishes what you’re going to say with all that content.
So, your message house is a “toolkit” or a “guide” that presents the “story” you want to tell about the company. It positions all the unique selling propositions that make your company stand out in the market and the key messages marketing will deliver to emphasize the value and benefits of your offerings to the target audience. Once completed, the message house ensures everyone in your organization is on the same page about all positioning points. There is no need to figure out positioning and messaging for every piece of content.
Can you conduct content marketing without a message house?
Yes, of course. But without a message house to guide your efforts, your marketing is just churning out content for the sake of content with no clearly defined positioning that can be delivered consistently through all marketing channels. Your content marketing will not achieve all the goals you have set for your program. And there will be no defined positioning you can use to determine whether your messages are getting across. So, blog and Tweet away.
Ultimately, developing a content marketing strategy without a message house is putting the cart before the horse.
So, when you’re thinking about your content marketing program, start by thinking about the message house first. And as Woody noted about the importance of moving buddies in Toy Story: “If you don’t have one, get one.”