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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Message Map- a Cool Tool

How many times in your career did you have to make a presentation and had trouble hitting the mark?  Either your pitch was off point, did not cover the essential elements or you just rambled without having the focus you knew was needed to get your message across. Think about your having to make a presentation for funding for your pet project or presenting a strategic plan to your Board, dealing with an unruly press (of course the press is never unruly!!) or even presenting your credentials in an interview setting.

This is where message mapping can help prepare you for such presentations. I have used this template in different situations in my career and I want to send my thanks to Tripp Frohlichtstein, a media guru and founder of Media Masters, who taught me this method nearly 25 years ago and who recently passed away. It is actually a very simple architecture of building your messages using three different building blocks and is shown as follows:

Home Base:  The major point you are trying to convey and when discussions become tough the presenter goes back to the home base and restates the major point he/she is trying to get across.

Message Pillars:   The home base, major message is supported by 2 to 4 message pillars which are categories of items upon which the major message is based.

Proof Points:  These are the specific quantifiable or discrete items that support the message pillars.

Let’s take two examples. One of the examples is based on trying to sell a new idea to your board of directors.  In this case, the message map may have the following components;

Home Base:  We have a new SaaS product that is based on proprietary behavioral analytics incorporated with Artificial Intelligence that enables Fortune 2000 companies prevent cyber attacks.

Message Pillar 1:  Technology
               Proof point 1: 5 patented algorithms
               Proof point 2: Technology licensed from University of California
Message Pillar 2:  Partnerships
               Proof Point 1: Partnerhsip with IBM Watson
               Proof Point 2: Broadcom partnership for new chip
               Proof Point 3: Visualization tool provided by Palantir
Message Pillar 3:  Customers lined up for Beta
               Proof Point 1:  Fortune 10 company in aerospace agreed to test product in the US
               Prood Point 2: GSA contract in process
               Proof Point 3:  5 additional customers agreed to try before buying
Message Pillar 4: Competition
               Proof Point 1:  Cost will be 50% of existing competing products      
               Proof Point 2:  Competitive moat can be established based on patented algorithms
               Proof Point 3:  Co-branding with partner  creates distinct product set in eyes of the customer.

By visually writing these points out on a piece of paper the presenter has a great tool to use in preparation for the Board presentation. Additional data supplementing each message pillar or proof point can be developed as well.

The second example where the message map is useful is in preparation for interviews and  I have this technique to prepare them. Let’s say the person is a marketing expert looking for a new C-Level job where he doesn’t have the precise experience in the industry but has a related experience in working with recurring revenue streams. I will fill in part of the message map and perhaps the reader can think about what else needs to be filled in as proof points.

Home Base:  Marketing executive with more than 25 years experience developing recurring revenue streams in a diverse set of industries which relies on my creativity, innovation and use of third party partnerships to generate improved margins. (Note the bold elements which set up the 4 message pillars.)

Message Pillar 1: Recurring revenue streams
               Proof Point 1: Three companies where I led marketing to 4 new recurring revenue products
               Proof Point 2: Total revenue for 4 products was 200 million per year by the second year
Message Pillar 2: Creativity and Innovation
               Proof Point 1: Used Lead User research to design a platform product which was extensible                                          to 2 other market segments
               Proof Point 2:  Relied on my contacts at my alma mater to develop licensing agreement in                                           exchange for share of future revenue
Message Pillar 3: Partnerships
               Proof Point 1:  Partnership with University
               Proof Point 2:  Partnership with new sales channels including Geek Squad and CDW
Message Pillar 4: Improved Margins
               Proof Point 1:  Gross margins ranged from 40-65% on each product introduced.

While these examples are fictionalized (based on fact by the way), they illustrate the power of the message map. Clearly there are many elements of using the message map that are not covered in this blog. Yet the power of this type of tool is evident. 

If you have questions please contact me at and visit our site at for other resources and tools that can help your business grow. 

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