Every great comedian shares a common trait: a hyperactive sense of self-awareness. Chris Rock and Patton Oswalt have wildly different comedic styles, but their ability to connect with us is based on our sense that they’re being completely, brutally honest.
Crafting a message that attracts, connects, and finally wins over your audience is not unlike the comedian’s quest to “kill it.”
So, how do you craft a killer message?
Step One: Know Your Strengths. Do you know – really know – what your company’s essential strengths are, and what they are not? I’m often surprised to see how many companies try to ignore their negatives by claiming to be the polar opposite. Frequently these efforts fail. (BP isn’t the only one. Remember when Chevron’s “We Agree” ad campaign got punked for being so disingenuous?) Embrace your strengths and work on your weaknesses. If your solar installation business is dead-on accurate at bidding, but design is not your strong suit, tout your operational prowess – and find a great design partner. Better to know your strengths than to try to message your way out of a messy situation.
Step Two: Know how you’re different. Take your strengths a step further. What does your company do differently than every other competitor? In Austin, we’ve got a great local burger chain called Mighty Fine. Winner of the Malcolm Baldridge Award for Quality, Mighty Fine’s difference is the quality of their food, which despite being “fast” can’t be called “fast food.” If you call to order one of their deliciously fresh cheeseburgers over the phone, they’ll politely tell you they can’t take your order. “Come on in and we’ll make it fresh for you,” is their friendly response. Fresh is their unique selling proposition, and it makes them different than every other burger joint in town. What’s your company’s USP? Step up and own it. If you don’t have one, find one.
Step Three: Know how to say it. Never underestimate the power of a powerfully articulate message. Too often, companies think messaging is an exercise of getting the sales and marketing guys in a room and hammering out words. Certainly the involvement of Sales to be the voice of the customer is critical. But don’t let the message that’s created in that room leave that room. If you don’t believe me, finish this sentence: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles…” (Apologies to the vegetarians out there.) But seriously – would a group-think session have created that jingle that just about every adult American has in their brains? Give your messaging reins to your Marketing team, and then stand back and let them do the work. If they do their job right, they’ll deliver a creative expression of the message you never could have imagined.
Step Four: Know when to stop. If you’ve got a killer message, let it be. The temptation to tinker with your message can be powerful—especially for the entrepreneurial CEO. If you’re getting tired of the message, it probably means it’s working. The law of frequency demands that your audience must see a message at least three times in rapid succession before it starts to sink in. How many times have you seen the Morton’s Salt slogan: “When it rains, it pours”? The label with the girl and the umbrella is the international symbol of salt. Interestingly, the intent of the campaign created in 1914 was to highlight a new product feature — an anti-clumping agent that would make the salt “flow freely.” How’s that for an enduring product marketing campaign?
Good messaging is like good comedy – it pays off the moment it’s delivered — and if it’s good enough it will be remembered. But for every moment on stage, a comedian spends countless hours writing, rehearsing and rewriting their routine. Put the time in to hone your company’s message. Then buckle in, and enjoy the ride…