I continue to be stumped by my clients’ misconceptions about message. Indeed, it sometimes boggles the mind.
Last week I met with a client for a Presentation Renovation—that’s when I work with presenters to blow up their presentation and reassemble it in a way that captivates their intended audience, simplifies delivery, and moves the decision-makers to buy. (Sometimes they don’t yet have a sales presentation and we start from scratch, but the process is much the same.)
Clients usually want to start with content—because they think it’s content that sells. They’re quite certain that if they present enough data and facts and graphs–oh my–the buyer will be persuaded to buy. The reality is, content is merely proof that your message is true. What’s more, if I don’t like your message or if I don’t understand it, I won’t care a whit about your content.
So, as the consultant at the helm, I insisted we begin with message.
“What’s the message?” I asked. It turns out these folks had worked hard on their message. They’d suffered over it, polished it and couldn’t wait to hit me with it.
I can’t tell you what it was because I can’t remember it. Nobody could! What I can say is that it was unintelligible. It sounded like a jargon joke. What on earth were they trying to say?
“What does that mean?” I asked. “Aha!” they replied. “That’s what we want you to ask—so we get a chance to explain.”
Now here’s the bad news: nobody wants an explanation. A good message is never opaque, confusing or unclear. If listeners don’t get it when they hear it, you lose.
A good message intrigues people so they want to know more. A great message resonates intellectually and emotionally. And the best messages are impossible to forget.
Let me put it another way. A message is not a tag line or a catch phrase. It’s bigger than that. Your message is your brand promise.
For example, if you think about Volvo, you might say their message is something like: Drive a Volvo and keep your family safe. With BMW, you might say it’s: A BMW is the most exciting car you’ll ever drive. HP’s message is something like: HP delivers up to the minute technology you can count on.
You’ll notice I don’t have the words exactly as a marketer wrote them—but I do have the real meaning of the message. And that’s what message is about: communicating the essence of your brand promise.
So, here’s what you need to know about message.
Your message is the one big take-away you want your audience to remember if they forget everything else. It sets you apart. It’s what you would say to complete the sentence: so in conclusion, what I really want you to know is…
Without a clear and memorable message, your presentation is indistinguishable from your competitors’. It’s merely a recitation of stuff your audience can’t possibly remember. What’s more, if they don’t get your message, they have little reason to listen and less reason to buy.
The good news is that crafting a message just means making yourself clear. Use what I call shirtsleeve English and talk like a real person–not a spin-meister. What do you want me to remember? How do you want me to think of your product or service or brand?
Put it into real words anyone can understand—and that’s your message. Get it right, and you’re golden. People listen. They like you. They are motivated to buy from you.
Get your message right and you win! It’s the secret to sales success.