How to get crystal clear on your messaging (before writing another word)
A few months ago, I asked my email community to highlight their biggest wordy challenges. Top of the list was ‘creating a clear message’. So, true to my promise, I created this article to help them (and you) tackle this incredibly common headache.
What do you mean by messaging?
Put simply, messaging ensures you stand out. It helps your audience understand why they should talk to you (and not your competitors).
That doesn’t mean you must be extreme, or overly wacky. Nor should you simply spout how amazing you are (you might be, but…) Great messaging is clear, simple and relevant to your audience.
And… it must be consistent. On your website, in your emails, throughout your content, even in your sales pitches. You want to keep banging out the same messages.
Why clear messaging is important
You’re reading my article, so I guess you have a fair idea. Just so we’re on the same page…
Whatever you sell, you’re not alone. Competitors are everywhere, waiting to grab that prospect from you. Added to this, people are bombarded by messages daily, with a finite amount of time to digest those most relevant to them.
Getting your messaging clear can be the difference between an incredible business and one teetering on the edge.
This stuff matters. So, let’s dig in.
What d’ya know?
A confused message generally stems from one of two places:
- You’re not entirely clear on your purpose and value
- You don’t fully understand your audience
To create a clear message, you must have a handle on both these things.
It’s the stuff of sitcoms to call a meeting and discuss “what do we actually do here?” but it’s incredibly valuable when you’re not clear. Over time, businesses grow both sideways and forwards. Before you know it, your myriad of products and services feels very disjointed. So, find time to pull it all together and identify your higher value.
For example, your business might have started by selling residential burglar alarms. Before long, this grew to commercial contracts too. And since then, you’ve taken on distribution for other security products, not to mention your eCommerce shop. Oh, and you’ve got a team tiptoeing into security fencing.
Stop, and fly over all of this. What’s your all-encompassing value?
- Keeping them secure 24/7?
- Helping them sleep at night knowing everything’s safe?
- Eliminating their worry?
And your difference? Maybe several competitors provide part of what you do, but not all. Perhaps you’re big on consultancy? Service contracts?
Nail your purpose and value at the highest level possible. Then sense-check this with your customers.
Ask the audience…
It’s common sense, but so few businesses do it. Your customers form part of your audience, and many are happy to chat. So, instead of calling them to sell stuff, ask them what they think:
What was going on when they became your customer?
What have they achieved (or resolved) since working with you?
What do they value about you?
Because what your customers experience, and what they value, will be in line with your prospective customers. And what they value is more important than your own beliefs (or assumptions). If the two match, great. If not, you’ve just identified a fresh messaging opportunity.
Whoa! Don’t overload it
It’s one of the easiest ways to kill your message in one fell swoop. Let me explain with a handful of tennis balls and the help of my dog, Margot.
When she’s standing at the other end of the garden and I throw her 10 balls, she’ll comedically leap in the air or watch them go over her head – left, right, and centre.
Now, when she’s standing there and I throw her just one ball, guess what? She catches it.
I could throw her a second ball once she’s had the first. She’d get that too. And so on.
Before long, she’d be proudly ‘owning’ all 10 balls.
Let’s assume the balls stand for your messages, and Margot, your ideal audience… less is clearly more.
Yes, you might want to highlight EVERYTHING POSSIBLE about your business and ALL the values your offer. But hold yourself back – or get someone to restrain you.
Too much at once and your recipient JUST. WON’T. GET. IT.
How to document your messaging
Writing this down is a good thing. That way, you can remind not only yourself, but everyone else in the business. You can also brief copywriters and other creatives more effectively.
Start at the core
**Your overarching message usually sits around the transformation or resolution you promise to achieve for your ideal audience**
That bit’s important, so I’d read it again if you’re speed-reading this…
For B2B audiences, this often concerns improved productivity, saving money, or doing a better job. But keep an eye out for emotional transformations too (increasing confidence, feeling in control, for example).
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Customer segments and product categories
Whilst you’re at it, ponder (and document) your messaging for different customer segments. Each will have their own set of frustrations and could value what you do differently. So, when you’re digging into a specific sector, know how you’d tweak your messaging – ALWAYS aligning with your overarching theme.
You can approach product categories the same way as customer segments. Think of the value you deliver to those buying said product. And push your thinking beyond obvious benefits by asking why that matters. And why THAT matters…
What does your business stand for?
“This is where we can talk about us!”
Yes, and no.
A message works best when it lands squarely with your recipient. Think about people in life who *talk at* you about what they’ve been up to. You quickly zone out, don’t you?
So, when you write business copy that simply explains how great you are, the same happens… zzzzzz…
You CAN talk about your expertise and fancy credentials. Just do it in a clear, relevant, and engaging way.
What do you stand for that matters to your audience?
What USPs do customers care about? Be honest…
You might be an expert, but what does that mean for your customers?
As you pull your messaging together, play devil’s advocate. Ask ‘so what?’ and ‘why should I care?’. Always think how your message would land with customers. In fact, go one stage further and ask them.
Once you get this right, your clear, simple, and relevant messaging commands attention. Whether creating website copy or building trust with articles and nurturing emails, everything comes together to reinforce the same message.
Prospects move closer to purchasing because they UNDERSTAND how you’ll help them achieve what they want. You stand out as a contender.
And that’s when you’ve added magic to your words.