When you create a business message, first ask, which jobs does your message need to do?
Great business messages address the needs of customers, employees and investors.
Get all 3 jobs done with a unified business message. Put customers at the heart of your message in your home base.
1. Connect with customers
Customers want to know the answer to the question: what’s in it for me? (WIIFM?)
Your message needs to offer customers one clear and compelling benefit, supported by 3 or 4 positive points. Neuroscience shows you need to keep the message simple.
Here are good examples of customer-focused messages, with the home base in bold and positive points following:
- The Virgin Chicago Hotel delivers a great guest experience with convenience, comfortable rooms ready for business, and Virgin-style fun.
- The power of Allscripts technology helps you succeed by improving clinical and financial results and making it easier for your employees.
- Tellabs helps customers succeed by improving the user experience, network performance and profitability.
Good business messages offer answers to customers’ top questions. Make sure your message addresses customer questions by gathering real questions from real customers.
Ask your sales force, executives, product marketers and customer service to write down the questions in customers’ words. By gathering and analyzing these questions, you learn exactly what customers want from your message.
If competitors don’t answer customers’ top questions, they’re leaving the field wide open for you to do so.
Answering frequently asked questions is one of the most valuable forms of content marketing. By helping buyers before you sell, you educate them and make them likelier to buy from you.
Yet many companies overlook this key step. As Marcus Sheridan says, “They ask. You answer.”
Focus on how to create the best answer on the Internet for your customers’ top questions. That’s one of the most important jobs your business message must do.
2. Script employees
All too often, employees just don’t know what to say to customers.
It’s a common problem, Gallup Polls found. Fewer than half of employees (41%) know what their company’s brand is about and what makes it different from competitors.
That’s why it’s so important to share your message and train employees on how to tell your story – so they can repeat and amplify it.
Employees don’t tell your story when they don’t understand your company’s strategy or purpose. Usually, that’s because a business message is:
- Not articulated well to employees
- Too internally or financially focused
- Too complex to explain to a layperson
- Not in words that employees feel comfortable with.
Hundreds or thousands of opportunities to share the story of your company may be missed each year. A customer-centric business message helps employees by reminding them:
- What’s the purpose of our work?
- What is the important job we get done for customers?
- Why do customers need us?
- Why would customers miss us if we disappeared tomorrow?
A great business message makes employees feel proud of the work they do, the customers they serve, and the difference they make every day.
In social media, your employees’ networks are 3 to 10 times bigger than your business’ network. Make the most of that.
Get employees behind your message to make your company message more believable, consistent and memorable. Offer them training in your social media policy, give them tips and tricks to improve their own profiles, and take professional photos they can use in social media.
Get employees involved in creating your message, as Ron Rubin does. As CEO, Rubin co-created Message Maps with employees in his two companies, The Rubin Family of Wines and The Republic of Tea.
For The Republic of Tea, the message is straightforward: “What we’re all about is enriching people’s lives through premium teas, education and innovation.”
Rubin observes that having input and agreeing on the message of the company makes employees “feel like owners themselves in this message of the company that they’re devoting a great amount of their life to. They have a say in what we’re all about. The esprit de corps went up.
“The Message Map makes it so much easier for them. They’ve all told me that. It gives them so much more confidence and ability and consistency.”
3. Build confidence with investors
A good business message tells investors how the business will grow, still focusing on what the business does for customers. Your business message also must address investors’ critical questions:
- What is the company’s strategy for growth?
- Does the company have the right leadership and talent to execute the strategy?
- Do company results meet the expectations of customers and investors?
CFOs and investor relations people often want to have their own message, focused on numbers rather than customers. I’ve heard CEOs and CFOs debate this question.
You don’t need a separate message for investors. In fact, that can hurt the business.
A solid customer-focused message explains to investors how the company will grow by showing them what’s in it for customers. Investors are smart; they’ll connect the dots.
One problem with creating a separate investor message is the illusion that a company can share points that are good for investors but bad for customers — which backfires.
For example, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli was featured in a New York Times story for this exact problem. The headline read: “Martin Shkreli All but Gloated Over Huge Drug Price Increases, Memos Show.”
The story began, “Martin Shkreli anticipated huge profits from raising the price of a decades-old drug for an infectious disease, belying any notion that helping patients was foremost in his mind, according to information released by congressional investigators on Tuesday.”
When you disregard the interests of your customers (patients) to generate profits as Shkreli did, it turns out badly for customers and investors and executives.
Don’t fall into that trap.
It pays to make sure the interests of investors, customers and employees line up in your message.
A Message Map makes it easier to align the interests of all your stakeholders by getting the company’s whole message on one page.
Co-creating the message with the CEO and the executive team enables you to get buy-in throughout the company – including buy-in from the people who communicate with customers, with employees and with investors.
A business message that works with customers, employees and investors will also work with influencers, regulators, news media and other audiences.
Make your business message great.
Tell customers what’s in it for them, employees how to talk to and treat customers, and investors how the business will grow with customers.
Repeat your business message consistently over time – and live up to its explicit promises. The right business message, doing its top 3 jobs the right way, is a surefire way to build your business and its reputation over time.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.
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