Marketers today have unprecedented, direct communication channels to prospects and customers that have come to dominate messaging. We tell our “stories” so quickly now, even to those who have just met us. Encounters in landing pages, YouTube videos, blog posts, Facebook postings, tweets, etc. all have the same purpose with those just getting to know us: to leverage the brief moment of attention we’ve been granted to advance a relationship.
I think this has rendered our old friend the “messaging document” obsolete, at least in its traditional form. The familiar, detailed analysis of brand attributes, competitive landscape, SWOT and additional details meant to inform messaging just feels like so much baggage, an academic exercise. Communications today is so much more about cutting to the chase, which is what I suggest our messaging documents need to focus on if they are to serve as useful tools.
In considering your core messaging, imagine that you’re making your way through the airport at the start of a business trip. Walking toward you is a former co-worker with whom you enjoyed a great working relationship years ago. You see each other and come together to shake hands – the spark is still there, genuine. Your friend asks who you’re with now. You say the company name, and it’s unfamiliar. “What do they do?” asks the friend.
What’s your answer?
This isn’t the time and place for spin or inflated positioning. It’s a simple question asked by someone genuinely interested who matters to you. The best answer would be a simple and believable encapsulation of your core product or service, who needs it, and why. You might start the answer with something like, “It’s really cool,” and then convey why that’s so in two or three sentences. What you want to hear back, of course, is “Wow, that does seem cool.”
The airport encounter has a lot in common with how we introduce ourselves to prospects and new customers now. They come across us when we don’t necessarily expect it. We need to present them with readily digestible and credible messaging about why we matter, why we’re needed. When it’s a prospect or customer, we advance the relationship if we get it right.
Working through the airport scenario on paper could be a great start at the creation of a useful messaging document. If you’re starting from scratch, use that to build out the other key pieces that can serve as introductions: your website’s home page, your press release lead and boilerplate, your Facebook “About” page and Twitter profile. From there, you’ll have a great foundation for more complex messaging needs.
If you’re not starting from scratch – if you consider your messaging all set – take a look at the communication elements in place that might answer an initial, “What do you do?” If it works along the lines of what you’d say to an interested colleague at the airport, you’re probably in good shape. If not, it may be time for an update.