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Mapping Your Message – Part I

 

Companies of all sizes struggle to hone their message and market it creatively.  A single encounter with the incorrect tone, distracting graphics, or awkward wording can jeopardize a potential sale by converting a clear, appealing message into a swampy, obscure mess.

Recently, I observed two basic principles of business messaging at my local park: appeal to your market and keep it simple. As I sat enjoying the sunshine, I watched a little boy scribble the words “I LIKE YUO”on the sidewalk in enormous chalk letters.  He showed it to the girl drawing a bumblebee next to him, and in that innocent moment of understanding, she grinned and handed him a piece of yellow chalk.

Business messaging may not be this simplistic, but at MMC we believe that effective messaging has a similar appeal.  By identifying your company’s key features and highlighting their benefits to potential customers, you will create a clear, compelling message.  In the next few posts we’ll explore MMC’s unique, three-step process of message development.  These steps will shape your approach to marketing, guide your sales team, and increase profits.  This post covers the first step of that process.

To get started, click HERE to download a copy of the MMC Messaging Map – Part 1.

Start by brainstorming a list of your company’s key features in light of your target market.  I encourage you to involve staff from several departments (sales agents, product developers, managers, etc.) at this stage to get the most comprehensive look at your company’s assets.  For example, a computer manufacturer’s technical staff might list high storage capacity and fast processing speed as key features, while the same company’s management might describe the strength of the company’s support staff.

As you create this list, note in the far left column if the feature you are describing is common to your industry (it keeps you “level” with your competition) or if it is unique to your company (it “tilts” the competitive advantage in your favor).  For example, a university might list their accreditation as a key feature.  In spite of its importance, accreditation usually only “levels” the playing field.  On the other hand, the same university may have a unique degree or a particularly attractive location that “tilts” the playing field in their favor.  Every feature that is important to your target market should be recorded, even if they are not areas of strength for you.  Be sure to review your External SWOT for additional information that should be added to this form (the External SWOT was covered in a previous post).

After you’ve created your list of key features, describe how each feature benefits the client and record these observations on the Messaging Map.  I believe that every company has two types of buyers: risk-takers (glass half full) and risk-avoiders (glass half empty).  Think of ways each feature benefits these different temperaments.  Ask yourself: how would this quality appeal to an entrepreneurial client or what does it offer a more conservative customer?

Consider this example: A company that offers waterproof boots could appeal to adventurous customers with a message that shows people having fun jumping in rain puddles, but it could also connect with risk-avoiders using a message that shows people with warm, dry feet.  A complete message will appeal to both audiences in a single, succinct statement.  At this stage of the process, don’t worry about crafting a perfect message.  Rather, focus on capturing the essence of these benefits.  A combined market message for waterproof boots might say, “Pioneering the rain puddles without the uncomfortably wet aftermath”.  As you can see, this is an unpolished message, but it identifies key concepts and phrases that you can use as the process continues.

Finally, group these benefits together into categories that have similar characteristics.  For example, if your company offers accurate project estimates as well as low-cost solutions, these features could be grouped together in a category called “financial control.”  As you create these groupings, themes will begin to emerge that will shape your messaging. At this stage you’ve completed the first step of the messaging process!

You’ve made remarkable progress and made critical discoveries so far, but there is still much to do.  In next week’s post, we’ll focus on the next step – defining and refining your categories.

 

What have you learned about crafting effective marketing messages? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

 

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