By Jeanne Tiscareno, Chase Marketing Company
Business partnerships are critical to any organization’s success, but communicating the value of that partnership in ways that attract and retain mutual customers takes a special knack. Each partner typically has its own communication culture and marketing agenda, and has equal (and sometimes conflicting) input on how best to talk to a customer. It’s no wonder that partner messaging can get so diluted and mundane that it fails to create customer stickiness for either company. Our team recently helped two major software companies create unified, compelling customer messages that reflected the partners’ joint strengths and advantages. Here are the lessons we learned.
Create a truly unique joint value.
To avoid “me-too” and cliché messages, ask yourself: Why are we partnering in the first place? What does our partnership offer that each partner can’t provide individually?
There has to be more to the partnership than what it means to your business goals. Rather, the partnership must bring something unique to the table, and your messaging framework must reflect that uniqueness to the customer.
Your writer/marketer team can help you zero in on the top value points. Run the messaging through a two-part litmus test. First, does it state each partner’s contribution? And second, is it presented from the customer’s point of view?
Create a common voice for the partner message.
Two unique partners will seldom have the same corporate voice, so it’s important to focus on creating a common voice from the outset.
The more distinct each company’s culture and communication voice, the more time and effort it will take to create blended messages. Think of it as a marriage. You’re not giving up your company’s individuality as much as you are focusing on your combined strengths — and in the process, compromising a bit and leaving your egos behind.
In our clients’ case, one partner’s voice was very personable and approachable (using “we” and “you” and a friendly tone), while the other’s voice was more formal and distancing (using “the company” and “customers” and a businesslike tone). As a neutral team, our role was to expose the differences between the two groups and set a common tone that could serve them both.
Fairly balance each partner’s contribution.
This goes back to the idea of looking at the partnership from the customer’s perspective. Your message needs to focus on the value to them, not to you. An effective messaging framework will show a balanced view of each partner’s contribution and how the customer can achieve what the partnership is promising.
One idea is to incorporate joint storytelling. This can be as simple as showing a customer’s experience with your combined product or service. Or you may need to find out how a mutual customer’s life is better now that they are implementing the joint solution.
Bring the right team together — early.
Each company’s marketing group knows their own offering, but leaving them to grapple over a unified partner message without the help of an external writer/marketer team often leads to rework, wasted time, and wasted resources.
A neutral team that includes a skilled writer and communication strategist can help minimize the tug-of-war between two corporate cultures and fuse two distinct marketing messages into a joint unique selling proposition for the customer. We recommend engaging this team from Day One. If you bring them in much later, they’ll have to spend additional time trying to fix conflicting content, smoothing ruffled feathers, and sifting through a collection of usually disjointed (but well-intentioned) messaging to find the common threads.
Avoid writing by committee.
We’ve all been there. Internal teams get so excited about their ideas and possibilities, and everyone is eager to contribute. But why do you think the phrase “too many cooks spoil the pot” is so popular?
Writing by committee leads to wordy, watered-down messages that lack clarity, have little cohesion, and are rife with hackneyed terms (“TCO,” “robust,” and “empowered” come to mind).
A hired writer can bring a fresh point of view and lead the way to elegantly crafted messages that blend input from both sides and yield the best joint messages and storyline.
Utilize your third party as a “tie-breaker.”
Despite your best efforts to manage the partnership, impasses will happen any time you have two distinct partners with strong cultures. This is where your neutral team becomes critical. Use your writer/marketer as a broker in this process. Their external, non-biased view can help expose reasons why one approach is better than another, or point you toward a compromise in wording or messaging that perfectly captures your customer value in ways neither of you may have thought of before.
All these lessons combined are a sound set of practices for creating joint marketing messages that really mean, and say, something to your readers. Focus on what the partnership — not the individual companies — bring to the customer, and hire a skilled third-party team to navigate you through the process. When you engage this team early in the process, they can be an invaluable aid in helping your two businesses achieve success together.
Jeanne is a Principal of Chase Marketing Company, a marketing services firm focusing on technology, healthcare and philanthropy. You can reach Jeanne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-799-2746.