Calling All Solutions Providers: Your Message Missed Me

I’m your target customer. Exactly what is it you’d like me to know and feel about you? And how are you going to reach me, let alone connect with me?

Let’s assume that the latest statistics I’ve seen—and I’ve not been able to verify their source*, though they’re cited frequently online—are at least close to accurate. The numbers say that, in an average day, I will be exposed to more than 6,000 media messages through all current channels. So that’s my TV, radio , computer, smart phone, email, newspaper, billboards, magazines, mail, video games…the whole wicked onslaught.

Of those 6,000 messages, I will pay attention to 52. And of that 52, I will “positively remember” four. So the odds of me remembering your message are one in 1,500. So it had better be distinct, intriguing and, if you’re really good, actionable.

And that’s where the problem lies. I typically ask business owners and/or executive leadership what they’d like a prospective customer like me to know and why I should consider doing business with them instead of their competitors. In other words, “Exactly what do you want me to know about you?” Almost without exception, everyone answers that question with all or part of this: “We want you to know about the quality of our products (or services), the quality of our people and our dedication to customer satisfaction.”

(If you’re even remotely responsible for creating demand for your business, you’d best be cringing at what you just read.)

I always say, “You’ve finally got my attention for a few short seconds and you’re going to tell me the same lifeless and predictable things your competitors say?”

I see entirely too much time and capital devoted to message delivery and only a small fraction of that devoted to message creation. That’s just nuts! Messaging is everything! It’s the verbal essence of your brand. It’s the bait that’s going to attract me and get me to bite. It’s what separates you from your competitors. It’s your religion. And you really want to tell me about your “quality,” as if that’s some sort of new and differentiating concept?

Over the years, I’ve developed four hard-and-fast rules for message development.

  1. Own it exclusively: If a competitor claims it – or even part of it – don’t you dare repeat it. Otherwise you’re endorsing their business and saying, “We’re just like them. Shop for lowest price.”
  2. Give up the “givens”: Don’t tell me things I take for granted. Which means don’t lead with the quality message (unless your quality is widely known and valued as superior in your market). It’s like a dairy saying its milk is white.
  3. Kill business-speak: Use words that normal humans use. Every business on earth is a “solutions provider,” isn’t it? See Rule 2.
  4. Emotion trumps logic: We positively remember things that hit us at an emotional level faster than things that hit us in the brain. (Jimmy Johns doesn’t tell you they’ll bring you a high quality, delicious sandwich faster than their competitors. They tell you they’re “So fast you’ll freak.” See what I mean?

How do you know when your messaging is working? Simple. When your customers are repeating it.

Next up: You’ve honed your messaging and it’s brilliant. How are you going to reach me?

*If you know the source, please let me know so I can give proper attribution.

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