Creating a strategic message? Think like your audience does

Creating a strategic message? Think like your audience

Creating a strategic message helps companies deliver a clear, compelling message to the market. My business partner George Stenitzer and I have conducted hundreds (?) of Message Mapping workshops over the years, and clients consistently ask how they can prepare for the workshop.

Think like your audience

My response is always the same: Come to the session prepared to think like your audience. The best way to create messaging and content that will resonate with your target audience is to put yourself in their shoes.

So why do many people find it difficult to think like their audience? Because we’re used to talking about ourselves and stating things from our own perspective.

Here’s an example.

I’ve been watching reruns of Hell’s Kitchen. At the end of every episode, Gordon Ramsay asks the chefs who are up for elimination why they should stay in Hell’s Kitchen. More than 90% of them talk about themselves:

  • “I have so much more to learn.”
  • “My time here isn’t done.”
  • “I can do better.”

Does Gordon Ramsay care that the contestant has more to learn? No. Gordon Ramsay is seeking a head chef for one of his restaurants. Participants would be much more likely to remain on the show if they gave an answer about Gordon, their audience, instead of about themselves.

If I were up for elimination on Hell’s Kitchen, my response would be, “Because I have the skills, experience, and attitude required to ensure your new restaurant is a huge success.”

I’d give an answer that would resonate with my audience instead of making it all about me. Businesses need to do this as well.

Train yourself to think like your audience

How do we get our colleagues to think, and therefore talk, like their target audience? In addition to making a Message Map, here are 3 tips:

  • State the “why” before the “what.”
  • Listen to your audience.
  • Test your message with clients and prospects.

State the benefit first to think like your audience

When most people are asked what their company does, that’s how they answer—with what the company does.

But think about what you want to know about a company you might buy from. You want to know what’s in it for you. You want to know the benefit of buying from them.

Creating a strategic message? Think like your audience
When you think like your audience you state the benefit to your buyers first, so they know exactly why they should do business with you.

Why do I use a laptop? Not because Apple, Dell, and others make laptops. I use a laptop because it’s portable and I can write my blogs on a plane, in a coffee shop, or on my couch if I’m sick of my office.

It can be difficult to break our habits of stating the what before the why:

“I design chairs.”

“I have to water the garden.”

Practice in your everyday life. “I want people to have a comfortable, fashionable place to sit when they do their jobs, so I design chairs.” “I’ll get delicious vegetables and pretty flowers if I water the garden.”

Practice enough, and eventually stating the benefit first will come naturally to you.

Listen to your audience

One of the best ways to teach yourself to think like your audience is to listen closely to your audience.

Don’t have a client-facing role? Go on sales calls with one of your colleagues. Review customer feedback on your products and solutions. Search online forums to see what questions your buyers are asking.

Pay close attention to the language your buyers are using. Why? Because using their language will resonate with them even more, and it will help them find you when searching online.

For example, airlines like to advertise “low fares,” but most people search online for “cheap flights.”

Test your message with clients and prospects

Once you’ve listened to your audience and created a benefit-focused strategic message, test your message with your prospects and customers. This will let you know if you’ve learned to think like your audience.

There are many ways to test your message. Conduct focus groups, ask your client advisory board or perform A/B testing.

Training yourself to think like your audience when creating your strategic message can help ensure you create a clear, compelling message that resonates.

For assistance with strategic messaging and using benefit-focused language, email me at