Discovering The Appropriate Message

(This post was originally published on LinkedIn on September 21, 2015.)

I’d like to talk a little bit about the discovery phase I conduct for every new project I undertake, regardless of whether the client is new or existing. I do it every time because understanding exactly what the client wants to accomplish with any given piece of content is the single most critical part of the marketing process. Think about it: the ultimate goal of any marketing asset is to induce the consumer of that content to take some action (add an item to the cart, visit a website, subscribe to a YouTube channel, call to set up a consultation, etc.). If you’re not shaping the message to elicit a particular response, you’re really just wasting dollars.

There are two main components you need to understand if you are to be successful with your messaging. The first is your audience. Try to segment the people you’d like to address as much as possible. It’s not enough to say “I want to reach Millennials” or “Boomers are my target demo.” Millennials and Boomers are not monolithic herds who all behave in the same way or respond to the same information (or presentation thereof). Let’s look at Millennials specifically for a moment. Do you think the gung-ho, career-focused twentysomething cares about the same things as the stay-at-home Millennial Mom of two? Sure, there’s certainly overlap, but honing the message for a specific subgroup — instead of just blanketing — is the best practice to follow.

Once you’ve gotten a handle on the people toward whom you want to direct your message, you need to consider component #2: what do you want them to do upon hearing the message? If you’re trying to get them to like your Facebook page, for instance, you need to give them a reason. What kind of content can they expect to see from you? Are you going to be informing them? Entertaining them? Both? Knowing what you want your audience to do will help you make decisions about tone and approach. Is humor the best way to get the message across? Or is a more matter-of-fact presentation better? Think about what action you want people to take, then make the call.

What I do to make sure my clients’ messages are crystal clear and narrowly targeted is conduct a discovery survey. First I ask them what they’re trying to accomplish. Determining the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the campaign helps limit the scope and gives me tangible goals to work toward. I also ask them about their intended audience. Knowing to whom I’m talking allows me to craft a message that speaks to that particular group of people. It also allows me to determine which channels of communication are most appropriate to use. I ask questions about the competition as well. What are they doing, marketing-wise? Does what they’re doing appear to be effective? How do you intend on differentiating yourself from a communications perspective? Something else that I’ve found useful, especially for my video projects, is asking my clients to provide links to other content that has a similar mood, tone, vibe, etc. to what they want to project with their brand.

Having some sort of a discovery process in place ensures that everyone is on the same page aspirationally and aesthetically. When the messaging is on point, good things happen.

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