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From the Trenches

Dr. Evil, Henry Ford and Your Messaging

Will Davis | November 4, 2010

Earlier this year, I wrote a post that turned out to be pretty popular — Who Are You? The 5 Key Components of a Core Messaging Document.  When working with a client, we typically begin with a full review and analysis of their messaging.  While this previous post talks through the 5 components of a core messaging document, where things typically go wrong is right out of the gates, in outlining a unique value proposition and key benefits.

It’s critical to get these pieces right for so many reasons – your unique value proposition and key benefits feed into everything that you do from a marketing perspective. With all the emphasis on getting your message out using many different online media channels, we forget to focus on  getting out the right message.  Too many companies go straight to market without having a well-defined value proposition.

To many, messaging seems like a “soft” topic, but we just ran into this exact issue in evaluating a potential client’s website and marketing.  Not only did we determine that their messaging was “off” at a broad level, but that the messaging isn’t built to stress the benefits for which people are coming to the site and looking for – it misses 3 of the major reasons people would choose to use their product.  These are examples of pieces of messaging that not  only impact the big picture, but end up also impacting some of their key metrics like conversion rates for individual tactics.

No matter the marketing channel, whether it’s content marketing, email marketing, social media, website copy, public relations or just about any other form, you need to be able to clearly articulate what makes you different and why people should care.

Warning: Try not to do much of anything else until you can clearly craft this message — you will thank me later.

Even more important warning: There’s a trap lurking here – and it’s talking all about yourself, your product or service, and all the things it can do that you think are cool.  Instead, make sure you focus on benefits — not the features or the process but the results.

Just this morning, I was talking with Mark Slatin and Jeremy Steinberg (clients) about the famous Henry Ford quote:

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

Why?  Because people can get distracted by features (a horse that runs slightly faster) rather than focusing on benefits (getting from point A to point B faster).   Like Dr. Evil and his Sharks with Laser Beams, it’s easy to get distracted by the features (laser beams on sharks!) rather than the benefits (OK, I’ll admit I completely forgot what those were because, well, it was laser beams on sharks!).

Make sure you don’t fall into these traps by clearly laying out your unique value proposition and key benefits in your marketing approach.

Now, it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? What advice would you give to people developing their value prop and key benefits?

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