12 Most Vital Questions About Your Message
Every company, every professional, has a message. A large percentage, however, do not know what it is – it resides in a murky nether world of half-formed thoughts and ideas. Or it is lamely summarized in a few forgettable words that could be swapped with a thousand other taglines.
Your message is not a brochure, a white paper, or a list of bullet points.It’s truth distilled down to thimble-size – the core essence that grows out of your professional DNA. All marketing content takes its marching orders from your core message.
These are some of the questions that get to the heart and soul of your business, and its message:
That’s right. Why do you exist? Believe it or not, many business exist only for legacy reasons, and self-perpetuate in order to…self-perpetuate. If you don’t have a clear reason for being in the marketplace, you won’t have a message. Only an excuse.
2. What’s the point?
You must get past a description of what you do, and distill it down to the core value and impact you bring to the table. If you offer outsourced payroll services, the point isn’t outsourced payroll services – it’s increased efficiency that comes from freeing companies to specialize.
3. What is your differentiating offering?
As soon as you describe what you do, a potential client will try to fit you into a pre-existing mental bucket. “We provide IT services…” Commodity. You and a hundred others. What type of outsource approach do you provide that will actually reduce the CIO’s daily headaches? Why is your approach uniquely valuable?
4. Who is your audience?
Aim the message at your target audience(s), with appropriate words and images. UPS wants to reach corporate Operations folks with its “Synchronizing the World of Commerce” message – that’s fine. But putting it on all their delivery trucks for the eyeballs of regular people who aren’t concerned with a message about logistics? Umm – no.
5. What’s your 10-word summary?
That’s right – forget the elevator speech – way too long. If you can’t summarize your message in 10 words, then you haven’t distilled enough. We’re after 100-proof single malt here, not light beer. Ravenswood Winery pulls it off in three words: No Wimpy Wines. Perfect!
6. What’s your story?
Every business has a backstory. People relate to stories, they want to know how you came to be. If six companies are competing for business, but you have a special mission or a human interest angle or an interesting history, guess who gets remembered? If you’re ever in Vermont, visit the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters. They do a masterful job telling their company story on the walls of the visitor center.
7. What’s your analogy?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to root your company’s message and offering in people’s minds. It took me 18 months to come up with the eHarmony analogy for my Impactiviti client-vendor matchmaking business. Now people “get” it – instantly. No long-winded explanation necessary. Find a parallel that people already understand, and link yourself to it.
8. What have you accomplished?
Your core message can’t be just words. People want to see accomplishments. What are the assignments you’ve taken on, whose results demonstrate and reinforce your message? What extraordinary client service instances can you bring forth?
9. Where was the 1980 Winter Olympics held?
OK, that was just to make sure you were paying attention. Now – do you know the 3-word summary of the most striking event from that Olympics (that’s right – Miracle on Ice). Lake Placid NY is forever associated with that pinnacle of hockey awesomeness. So point number nine actually is this: How are you memorable? Remember – you are at the center of your universe, but not your client’s. Your message will either be memorable, or lost.
10. How can you humanize your message?
Volumes have been written about social media, and how it creates potential engagement with customers (see: Comcast Cares). The point isn’t the technology, however – it’s the practice of making human contact. Here’s how Lake Placid did just that recently.
11. Can your message take wings?
Again, social media has tremendous potential here – the message magnification that can occur when people talk about your company on-line is well-established. But you need to discover and encourage ways that video and micro-blogging and picture-sharing can accomplish this. Of course, this is a double-edged sword (cue: United Breaks Guitars).
12. Are you generic?
Don’t be. Draw clear lines. You can’t please everyone, you can’t serve everyone. So don’t try to say you can do anything and everything. That’s just dishonest and sounds desperate. Narrow your focus. Narrow your message. Now do it again. Let the people in your sweet spot know that you live and breathe right there with them.
Many companies throw up a slide with 8 bullet points and say, “here’s what we do!” Don’t be that guy. Get crystal-clear on your DNA and your message. Your clients will be just as glad as you are!
Featured image courtesy of Okko Pyykkö licensed via creative commons.