Creating strong messaging takes skill and experience. That said, the very basics of good messaging are so simple it’s surprising to me how many companies get them wrong. There are three primary things to focus on: clarity, consistency and repetition.
The best way to be smart and efficient about your messaging is to create a Messaging Framework upfront. So many companies skip this step and invent their messaging over and over and over again. It is a major waste of resources and you will confuse the heck out of your customers and other audiences.
By creating a Messaging Framework upfront that all stakeholders (CEO, business development, marketing, etc.) are bought in on, you will have an agreed-upon document to pull from for countless uses (website, sales materials, data sheets, prospect emails, RFP responses, news releases, etc.). Messaging Frameworks create massive efficiencies! I cannot emphasize this enough.
The three most basic concepts of strong messaging are described in further detail below.
Assuming your messaging has logical flows and you have sets of sub-messages to address your various audiences, how do you make sure your messages are clear and effective?
- Keep it simple. Don’t make your audiences work too hard to understand your points. Even your smartest audiences won’t bother.
- Benefits often sell better than features. Focus on benefits.
- Think about what emotion/s you want to evoke. This relates to brand, but messaging is perhaps the most important piece of the brand.
- Differentiate your company/products in an honest way. No fibbing. Marketing definitely has shades of gray, but fibbing will get you into trouble later.
- Ask several people from outside the company if the messages make sense. All too often companies are too close to their offering and don’t realize that their messages sound like gibberish to the “outside” world.
- Say them out loud and with a straight face. A common tendency is to have overly long-winded messages because you are trying to say too much. Break it down into understandable sentences.
Consistency in messaging is another area where many companies stumble. They decide on their messages, create a Messaging Framework, and then go all “cowboy” and say things 18 different ways. People’s brains are not wired to understand your company if you explain it in various ways. Here is a simple example to grasp this point: Imagine I said to wear “purple, blue and yellow.” And the next time I said wear “yellow, blue and purple.” It is not as easy to comprehend as if I said “purple, blue and yellow” each time.
If you really do a good job upfront with your Messaging Framework, and it’s clear, differentiates your company and products, and tells the truth, you shouldn’t have to invent a variety of ways to say something. It is difficult to improve on the best way to say something! Over time, market conditions may change and you might have to tweak the Messaging Framework, but strong messaging should serve you for at least six months and, in many cases, much longer.
The reality is you are close to our company and will become tired of your messaging quickly because you read, hear and say it over and over. The people in the external world, including sales prospects, partners, funding prospects, media etc. are different. They are not paying close attention to your company and they need to hear things multiple times to have it sink in.
Here is an example to make my point: I have been on about fifty press tours in my life. One I remember vividly was when I was with my Microsoft clients and we were promoting “usability” in Microsoft Word. There was one meeting wherein the general manager and product manager of Microsoft Word must have said “usability” 20 times. The media person asked, “So what did your usability studies say about…” My clients and I looked at each other and grinned. This hadn’t happened in earlier meetings. It took saying “usability” that many times time for this (smart) media person to process it.
So, in summary, take time to develop an excellent and super clear Messaging Framework. Then make sure you stick to that messaging in everything you do, including conversations. (Again, great messaging should be easy to say out loud.) Lastly, make sure you repeat yourself over and over again.
The above are just the very basics of strong messaging. It takes skill and experience to do messaging well. If you would like help with your Messaging Framework, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on my mobile at 206-931-5942.