Distilling the Message

Posted by Admin on January 21st, 2010.

What are you trying to say?

To communicate successfully, you need a clear message, aimed at a specific audience, with an explicitly defined intended result. This article describes several steps to help you clarify what you’re trying to say.

If you are in business, you have a message. This message is the key to compelling customers to spend money with you, and should be a primary focus of your promotion campaigns. Yet many companies have a tendency to overwhelm potential clients and stakeholders with information overload.

Unfortunately, there are few audiences with the patience to wade through an encyclopaedia of technical specs in order to figure out whether your product has the one feature they are looking for. To make matters more complicated, different target groups will be seeking diverse types of information.

Ideally, the information you need will be easily accessible in your business plan. If not, this exercise will be beneficial for your business as a whole, not just sales & marketing.

An effective way to tackle the problem is working from the end result backwards. What do you hope to achieve? The most obvious objective is sales, but there are a lot of other possibilities. Stakeholders, such as investors, need to be kept apprised of your activities. Potential partnerships and business opportunities require nurturing in the form of regular communications.

Some products are driven by public demand even though the public doesn’t actually sign the cheques. Syft Technologies in Christchurch has a product that fits this profile. Their innovative Voice100 instruments are already used at ports in Australia to detect fumigants that could be potentially harmful to dock workers. Although the port employees union doesn’t make the purchase decision, their buy-in can be instrumental in achieving a sale.

Defining Your Target Audience

Once you know what your goal is, you will be in a better position to define the target audience. There will probably be several distinct groups you are looking to communicate with. If your goal is sales, then who are your customers? Alternatively, you may be looking to target resellers, influencers or investors.

These diverse audiences can then be listed in order of communications priority. If you have a product with low barriers to purchase, you can place the customer group at the top. If you know people won’t buy your product until it has been proven in the scientific community, you may initially have to put “scientific community” ahead of customers.

Determining Your Key Messages

Now that you know your ideal end result and your target audience, put the two together: what is the message your audience needs to hear in order to obtain your desired outcome? A useful tactic is to continually ask the question “Why do they care?” or, more specifically, “How does that benefit them?”

Note that this is very different from asking, “What do you want your target audience to hear?” You may be very excited that your new widget has fifteen more transistors than the old one, but your audience may not care. They just want to know if it will clean the carpets. So make sure to put yourself in your listener’s shoes.

Some areas to think about may include technical specifications, features & benefits and intangibles (is your product cool or trendy?). Your various messages will need to be distilled into the essential: the simpler the better.

Your company’s stage of development will affect the message as well. Is this the first time people will be hearing about you, or is it a safe assumption they already know who you are? If you are introducing a totally new product or technology to market, you will need to take time at the beginning of your promotions program just to educate people on your offering.

By the time you complete these exercises, you will have an excellent idea of the essence of what you’re trying to communicate. Now put it to the “elevator test.” If you got on the lift with your sales prospect or a potential investor, and you only had until the fifth floor to talk to them, what would you say?

It takes a bit of work to identify your core message, but the end result of having people hear, understand and respond is well worth it.

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