Developing your company’s core messaging
Based on the popularity of our recent two-part series on how to market your new business on a budget, we’ve decided to expand each section with it’s own detailed post.
This post covers our quick tips on why and how you should develop core messaging for your new business.
1. What is core messaging?
Core messaging is the way you describe:
- Your company
- Your team
- Your products + services
- Your purpose
- Your opinions
If you or your employees don’t know what to say, you risk driving away potential customers or alienating other stakeholders. Developing your core messaging now can help you avoid these pitfalls and stay on the right path.
2. Why should you develop core messaging for your new business?
When you describe your product or service, you should describe it in a manner that is most compelling to your audience.
For example, if you’re explaining your company to a potential customer, you might want to explain it differently from they way you’d explain it to a reporter. Why? Because the desired response is different. When you’re communicating with a potential customer, you want them to make a purchase – and your language should reflect that. When you’re communicating with a reporter, you want them to write an article about you – and your language will be different from the sales-focused language you use with a potential customer. Similarly, if you’re speaking with a potential strategic partner, the desired outcome is totally different – and so your language should adapt accordingly.
The bottom line: Use different messaging for different audiences in order to engage each audience most effectively.
Let’s face it: any product, from rockets to roast beef, is going to have its nuances. And you’ve got to get the details right.
Developing your core messaging before you’re out communicating with the world will ensure you have the facts, the data, and the informational tools you need to achieve your goals. When a distributor asks you the functional shelf life of your roast beef, you better know the answer – you can’t make it up on the fly. This is exponentially more important as you grow and hire employees. You must equip them with the knowledge they need to effectively communicate.
The bottom line: Know the details inside and out: data, statistics, and features. Never make this stuff up on the fly.
Similar to accuracy, but expressed as a function of time: you’ve got to communicate accurately and effectively, but you must ensure your distributing the same information consistently.
If you promise distributors that your roast beef lasts 8 weeks in the freezer, but you tell a reporter it’s 4 weeks, you’re probably going to hear from some upset distributors: are we serving expired roast beef? Why did you tell us we could keep it twice as long? These are questions you don’t want to be hearing. Your brand image will suffer serious damage if there are rumors being passed around amongst your suppliers that your roast beef should be thrown out. Consistency of messaging helps avoid these types of situations.
The bottom line: Never change your story unless the facts have changed. Consistent communication helps you avoid PR problems and strengthens your brand image.
3. How do you develop core messaging for your new business?
Caveat: the following topics are general, because they apply to almost all industries, fields, etc. But don’t stop here! Brainstorm about other core messaging elements you can develop for your unique situation.
First, write your company vision, mission and values. Then, write a one-paragraph “About Us” description. Then, write a detailed description of your service/product from the buyer’s perspective: why should they want it / what makes it different / why should they buy it now? You can repurpose this content for various purposes: sales call scripts, marketing emails, website content, etc.
We suggest moving through three rounds here, getting as much feedback as possible between rounds.
1. First, write a paragraph that answers these questions, in this order:
• What kind of company is it, and where are you based?
• What do you do, and what makes your company unique?
• What does your company believe in?
• What kind of customers do you work with, and what do you help them do?
Hanson’s Roast Beef is a ranching and meat processing company specializing in providing roast beef, corned beef and other delicious lunch meats to groceries in all fifty US states. Hanson’s was started in 1905 by Marshall T. Hanson and is based in Green Bay, WI. Hanson’s provides the highest quality organic meats, sourced exclusively from hormone-free and humanely treated pasture-raised animals. We roast all of our lunch meats over real wood fires for a truly authentic, uniquely delicious flavor. Hanson’s believes that delicious, healthy lunch meats start with high quality ingredients, and that real quality makes the difference. Hanson’s is proud to work with over 150 valued distributors across the country to put healthy foods in the hands and mouths of happy families across America.
2. Second, cut out all fluffy language and marketing jargon, replacing it with straightforward, easy-to-understand words and phrases:
Hanson’s Roast Beef is a provider of gourmet lunch meats based in Green Bay, WI. Founded in 1905, Hanson’s continues our tradition of providing the highest quality organic, hormone-free lunch meats. We roast all of our lunch meats over wood fires for a uniquely delicious flavor. Hanson’s believes that delicious, healthy food starts with high quality ingredients. We’re proud to work with over 150 distributors across the country, putting healthy foods in the hands and mouths of happy families across America.
3. Third, shorten everything you can:
Hanson’s Roast Beef is a gourmet lunch meat provider based in Green Bay, WI. Since 1905, Hanson’s has provided the highest quality organic, hormone-free lunch meats roasted over real wood fires. We believe delicious, healthy foods start with quality ingredients – and we’re proud to work with over 150 distributors bringing quality foods to American families.
In an upcoming blog post, we’ll cover a detailed process for developing your mission, vision and values. For now, here’s a quick way to write out a company “purpose.”
1. Clean Slate: Forget about practical issues.
Forget about what you do, and how you do it – the goal of step 2 is to focus on why you do what you do. For a helpful explanation of this concept, check out Simon Sinek’s inspirational TED talk. Clear your head of any practical concerns about your business, making the way for step 2.
2. Identify Drive: Explain why you get out of bed in the morning and do what you do.
To successfully execute this step, you need to answer a critical question about what drives you to do what you do. There are a few different questions that can apply to various situations and individuals, so pick the one that works best for you.
• What is your professional purpose? If you’re a lawyer, it might be, “My purpose is to engage honestly and productively in the American judicial system.”
• What do you believe in? If you operate a car wash service, it might be, “I believe that driving clean cars helps us achieve more success and live happier lives while preserving vehicle value.”
• What gets you out of bed in the morning? If you’re a wood-worker, it might be, “I love working with my hands, creating things, and building beautiful things.”
3. Apply Drive: Put your drive in the context of the people you serve.
Take the drive you identified in step two, and apply it to serving your customers. Just like that, you’ve got your company purpose, which can be used on your website, business cards, sales materials, or even in response to the question, “So, what do you do?” You’ll instantaneously be perceived as smarter and more trustworthy when you respond with your purpose.
• How do you apply your professional purpose?
Your Drive: My professional purpose is to engage honestly and productively in the American judicial system.
Company Purpose: We help clients grow and succeed by engaging honestly and productively in the American judicial system.
• How do you use your belief to help customers?
Your Drive: I believe that driving clean cars helps us achieve more success and live happier lives while preserving vehicle value.
Company Purpose: We provide efficient car wash services that help customers save time, preserve vehicle value, and feel better behind the wheel.
• How do your customers benefit from what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Your Drive: I love working with my hands, creating things, and building beautiful things.
Company Purpose: We help our customers fulfill their vision of “home” by applying our woodworking expertise and passion for genuine craftsmanship.
You should keep a biography of each team member on file for use on your website, to send to reporters, or to provide to potential customers. To quickly write bios for you and your employees, answer these questions, in this order:
What’s your name, what is your role, where’s your company, and what’s it called?
George Hanson is the President and CEO of Green Bay, WI-based Hanson’s Roast Beef.
Where are you from, what (and where) did you study, and how did you get here?
Born and raised in Fish Creek, WI, George studied animal husbandry at the University of Wisconsin before joining Hanson’s as an organic products sourcing manager.
What’s an example of your success, and what is your current role?
George led the introduction of several new product lines including corned beef and beef jerky, and he became President and CEO in 1995.
What’s your personal drive?
George believes that happy families are powered by quality foods, and that all families deserve to eat healthy foods regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Then, combine all the sentences:
George Hanson is the President and CEO of Green Bay, WI-based Hanson’s Roast Beef. Born and raised in Fish Creek, WI, George studied animal husbandry at the University of Wisconsin before joining Hanson’s as an organic products sourcing manager. George led the introduction of several new product lines including corned beef and beef jerky, and he became President and CEO in 1995. George believes that happy families are powered by quality foods, and that all families deserve to eat healthy foods regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Writing your core product and service descriptions is straightforward. We recommend taking a three part approach:
1. State the basics
What’s the product or service? Be clear and simple, and feel free to include some compact enhancing adjectives (just don’t overdo it).
2. State the value
What value does the product/service deliver to the customer?
3. State the enablement
What does the value enable the customer to do in their life or work? Think a few steps down the line – beyond just being a delicious cheeseburger, does it help the customer have a better day? Beyond just being a tasty bottled juice, does it help the customer live a healthier lifestyle?
What issues matter to your customers? What about your employees or strategic partners? WMake a list of all of these issues, and then write an “issue brief” for each of these. To write an issue brief, aim for a half page to full page (unless it’s a really complicated issue, it shouldn’t be more than one page). Approach the issue brief in two parts:
1. Frame the issue
Describe the issue in the context of your industry, business, field, etc. Keep this short and sweet. If someone wants more info, they can Google it.
2. Explain your position on the issue
This is the heart of the matter. Explain your position on the issue in a way that’s consistent with your brand.
Building a small collection of issue briefs will give you materials for many different purposes (online, white papers, sales pieces, presentations, etc.) and will help you educate new team members quickly.
Here is a short list to help you brainstorm about other core messaging elements you might need to develop: technical specifications document, installation manuals, ingredients lists, nutritional facts, referral program guidelines, training manuals, support programs, customer service philosophy – get creative! The more core messaging you develop, the more effective, accurate and consistent you will be!