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How to create your best elevator pitch March 13, 2015

Posted by Mike Gospe in Messaging.
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Mike Gospe's message box in action

Learn how to create a compelling elevator pitch for your new product. This is a new online course created by Mike Gospe.

The “message box” technique is a fun, fast way to create a compelling elevator pitch for your new product or service. For the month of March, this new online course is available for free.


It’s time for a marketing assessment — here’s what you need to know January 16, 2014

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations, Marketing Persona, Messaging.
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January is the perfect time to conduct a marketing assessment. Take a moment to look back at last year’s plan.  How well did your marketing campaigns work last year? What worked well? Where were your surprises? What elements of planning and execution require improvement? Whether you decide to conduct your own assessment or hire an outside expert to facilitate the process, here are a few tips to get you started.

Personas, positioning, & messaging – a highly effective 1/2 day workshop May 8, 2013

Posted by Mike Gospe in Marketing Persona, Messaging, Positioning, workshops.
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Want to rally your marketing team? Marketing is a team sport, not a solo activity. This half-day workshop, which you can run yourself, will help align the team and unleash untapped sources of creativity and positive energy. Here’s how it works. (more…)

Coaching tips on the “message box” technique – the fastest way to producing customer-ready messaging October 31, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Messaging.
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If you are an occasional reader of this blog, you know that I am a strong advocate of three powerful marketing best-practices that are required to anchor any marketing strategy. They are: building personas, crafting carefully targeted positioning statements, and drafting customer-ready messaging. For the later, I learned through much trial and error that the message box technique work best because it’s a fun, engaging exercise that strengthens sales/marketing alignment while always keeping an eye on the customer. Here’s more on the subject, including some coaching tips to guide you to success.

Available now: The Marketing High Ground May 5, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Marketing Operations, Marketing Persona, Messaging, Positioning.
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Dear readers,

My new book, The Marketing High Ground, is now available on Amazon! It is a playbook for B2B marketers, with focus on persona-development, crafting focused positioning statements, and creating messages that will engage your prospects. Lots of illustrations, graphics, tables, and examples.

Link to book page on Amazon

Link to book page on CreateSpace   

Check out it, and please let me know what you think.  Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

Kind regards,


Preview “The Marketing High Ground” March 23, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Marketing Persona, Messaging, Positioning.
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Download an excerpt — The Marketing High Ground

If you are interested in the best practices surrounding persona development, drafting crisp positioning statements, and crafting messages that are relevant and meaningful to your persona, you’ll want to read The Marketing High Ground. Available in May 2011 on Amazon.com, this book is the essential playbook for B2B marketing practitioners.

The mousetrap the world has been waiting for? May 11, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Marketing Operations, Marketing Persona, Messaging, Positioning.
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Conceptually, the theories of persona-building, positioning, and messaging are easy to understand.  However, sometimes it’s helpful for a marketing team to critique a real example and then discuss the parallels to their own business.  An example that everyone can easily relate to, and that is separate from the business you represent, is also an effective way to diffuse any emotion that may hinder folks from seeing the lessons associated with trying to execute a poor go-to-market strategy.

The following is a true story: the case of a better mousetrap.  In 1955, an eager entrepreneur introduced  a revolutionary new product that was destined to change the world of “rodent control”.  In addition to producing leaflets, promoting through friends and family, this ad (click on the link below) ran in  a variety of publications at the time.

Ad for a better mousetrap, circa 1955

Issues and Opportunities

You can infer a lot regarding the marketing strategy by looking at an example of the execution.  While the product design clearly is creative (and not for the squeamish), the entrepreneur fell into several traps that are common today, especially in hi-tech marketing:

1) Failure to focus on a clear target segment/persona

Who is the target audience/user/buyer?  It looks like pretty much “everyone.”  For fear of leaving a sales opportunity on the table, the entrepreneur attempted to be all-inclusive.  In a single swoop, he went after farmers, restaurant owners, food processors, meet packers, ships, homes, and orchards.    Although the confusion of trying to address multiple audiences at once maybe obvious to us gentle bystanders, one wonders if anyone asked the entrepreneur the following questions:

  • Who is most likely to buy your product? Who is the persona?
  • Do all these audiences look alike? behave the same way? have the same concerns?
  • What problem(s) are you trying to solve?
  • How well do you really understand the target buyer?

2) Failure to properly position the product

Every product needs to have positioning statement.

What’s in a name? Clearly, not all “mousetraps” are alike.  In 1955 (and even today!), the top-selling mousetrap is the Victor snap-trap.  In 1955 the snap-trap sold for 5 cents.  Our entrepreneur’s mousetrap sells for $29.95.  Branding the product against a generic “mousetrap” nomenclature will not serve his marketing interests.  (Although, a branding effort would introduce its own set of challenges.)

A new category? He’s attempted to establish a new category of mousetraps, namely, the “sanitary, self-setting, portable” mousetrap.  This is good, and goes a long way to justifying such a massive price increase over the competitive alternative. However, what you can’t quite make out in the photos is the following:

  • The mousetrap’s dimensions are 3 ft long, 8 inches wide, and 18 inches high.
  • It holds 3 gallons of water, and is quite heavy (especially if loaded with 102 mice!).

NOTE: Years ago, when I developed my first Positioning Workshop, I had the opportunity to view and touch this actual, very real mousetrap.  Unfortunately, it is actually neither, sanitary, self-setting, nor portable.  We have a category mis-match.

Benefit?  Which benefit? There are many benefits floating around in the ad.  Which one is most important?  Some seem hard to believe.  Again, it’s the “everything for everyone” approach.

For a benefit to be meaningful, it must be relevant to the target audience.  It must also be single-minded, clear, substantiable (e.g. you can prove any claim with data), and differentiable.

Differentiation? We come back to the 5 cent snap-trap alternative.  If anything, this ad makes the competitor’s product look better.

3) Failure to have a crisp, clear “elevator pitch”

Because there was no positioning statement to guide the marketing strategy, the messaging is a confused mess.  The entrepreneur would have greatly benefited from the Message Box template where he could underscore 4 key messages:

  1. An “engagement message” designed to establish relevance with the target audience and their primary “rodent control” pain points they are trying to address.
  2. A “solution message” that illustrates why not all mousetraps are the same, and certain applications require something much more than the standard snap-trap.
  3. A “reinforcement message” that shows how his invention is superior to alternatives.
  4. A “value message” that describes how the target’s life will be better than before after using his new, revolutionary product.

Critique your own work

How well does your ads/direct mail/website stack up?  Use the mousetrap example as a teachable exercise.  Never be afraid to critique your marketing strategies with regards to your persona, positioning statement, and messaging.  It’s not about placing blame; it’s about reaching the “next level” of marketing effectiveness.  Otherwise, your success may be limited to selling 4 units to your brother-in-law.

Good luck!

The search for “evidence” February 26, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Messaging.
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What makes you credible in the eyes of your customers and prospects?  It comes down to proof points.  In a word, evidence.

Evidence is undisputable facts that establsh credibility by offering substantiation that your message is accurate and true.

Evidence may take the form of customer testimonials, benchmark studies, analyst reviews, 3rd-party product comparisons and analysis.  However, in our rush to maket, we sometimes take shortcuts that result in common evidence mistakes.  How many of these have you run into?

Common evidence mistakes can cripple a marketing campaign.

The best place to start our search for evidence is not by asking “What evidence is available?”  Instead, we should ask, “What evidence is needed to support the strongest, most credible value proposition?”  To that end, there may not be a short answer.  The team may need to develop an action plan to get the evidence we need.

But please don’t confuse this we manufacturing evidence!  Like an investigative reporter, the team may need to interview customers to understand what ROI and metrics they have achieved, or they may need to arrange for 3rd-party product comparison testing, or undergo a rigorous round of new benchmarking. 

What’s at stake here is nothing short of a company’s ethics.  Customers and prospects can tell the difference and will act accordingly.

Searching for Product Comparisons January 14, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Persona, Messaging, Social Media.
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Want to get some quick market research on how your product stacks up to a competitor?  Ask the Internet.

I teach a course at San Francisco State University entitled, “Essentials of Integrated Marketing.” In that course, I have a case study that has proven to be a lot of fun as well as very insightful when it comes to gathering “product comparison” data.  The case study is called Video Game Wars and follows the exploits of the Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii.

In developing the case study, I needed to somehow find a way to educate the class on these products quickly.  So, I turned to the Internet.  My first course of action was to do a Google search on each of the products.  This yielded the expected corporate-esk press releases, data sheets, and website info.  All of this was helpful in building “awareness.”   But I wanted more practical information when it came to comparisons.

So I tried a search variation.

I went to Google and Youtube looking  for specific product comparisons.   As an example,  I typed in “Xbox versus PS3” and “Why buy a Playstation?”  This produced an “Aha!” moment.

The search results provided a perfect example on how the dynamics of search have changed the way people gather and process information.  Here’s what I mean:

  • Much of the “product comparison” data I gathered was produced by users, not corporate executives.
  • I couldn’t help but feel that the more “unpolished” the presentation, the more genuine the information.
  • Many of these search results also included some sort of social media commentary, meaning that the material was actually being used and discussed.

Lest we think this is only useful for consumer products, I started testing this “product comparison” research tactic on a few projects I’m working on with B2B clients.  I’d do the same thing: go to Google and YouTube and search on “product A vs product B”.   In every case, I found very interesting information.  Now, while I don’t take everything I find to the bank, I do find that the results have added to my cumultative knowledge.  It’s helps to further my skills as an investigative marketer in order to discover which product differentiators are true and meaningful, and which are bogus.

Lesson for marketers

Based on this insight, it is important for marketers to consider a couple things as they are architecting their integrated marketing campaigns:

  1. Producing only the traditional marketing datasheets and collateral is no longer sufficient.
  2. There is a mountain of “awareness” information available; but customers are also keenly interested in product comparison data (see Content & the Buying Process blog post).
  3. Consider adding your own product comparison articles and videos.  Some companies do this already, and I applaud them for it.  Prospects are looking for this information.  Why not provide them with short snippets of useful information?  Otherwise, someone else might do it for them.
  4. As you develop your own marketing materials, do a comparison search to see what people are talking about.   Do your expectations match up to the user community’s reality?  Might be worth checking out.

A Word about Messaging January 5, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Messaging.
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In straightening up my office, I ran across a gem buried in my filing cabinet.  It was an early “aha!” moment for me in my marketing career.

Marketers need to guide the target audiences up the messaging pyramid. To jump to the close before establishing awareness and relevance will only lead to heartburn.

Years ago while working on a product launch, my team ran into some messaging trouble.  Our task: to introduce a new product to a new market segment and steal marketshare.  Clear enough.  Yet we struggled to understand why our marketing efforts weren’t getting enough traction.  After a dismal quarter, we stepped back to do a complete post mortem on our launch activities.  The problem we found was with our messaging.  Specifically:

1)  While our product was well received in market segment A, segment B had no idea who we were (even though we thought they did), and

2) When we did an impromptu segment B focus group, we found they were confused and disbelieving of our messages.  Thus, they ignored them.

The team was incredulous.  After all, we were one of the biggest companies around.  To solve our problem, we had to check our egos at the door and focus (again) on the business problem the prospects were trying to solve.  After much gnashing of teeth, we realized that we couldn’t just go for the quick sale.  We needed to invest time with the new segments in order to earn the right to sell to them.

We needed to establish awareness (and relivance!) for our company in segment B.  Only then would we have a firm foundation on which to compare our new product with the various incumbents.  And only then could we showcase our differentiators with confidence.   

To keep us on track, we produced a message hierarchy chart similar to the one shown here.  This helped keep us humble and helped us to define a winning marketing blueprint that worked.  And it worked very, very well!