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What are Key Messages?

Like it or not, we are all giving off subtle and not-so subtle messages all the time. We do this with and without speaking.

My top three silent messages are:

  • “I don’t like that!” (raised eyebrow, hard stare)
  • “I LOVE this person!” (repeated hugging, silly giggle), and
  • “These aren’t the chocolate biscuits I’m looking for.” (small shake of the head on encountering anything other than a KitKat in the biscuit tin).

Often these are unintentionally given. My friends and family tell me that I should NEVER play poker. Whatever I’m thinking is usually written all over my face.

As a business, you use a set of messages to communicate with your prospects and customers and they generally fall into the following areas:

  • These are the ideal type of customers that we like to work with – so the reader/listener can recognise if they are/aren’t in the right place.
  • This is the type of work that we do, how we can / can’t help with the reader’s specific problem.
  • These are the benefits that our customers expect to achieve.
  • This is how we do our work – compare us against our competitors and understand where we sit in the market in which we operate.
  • This is why we are the best at what we do.
  • Here’s what our past customers say about us.
  • This is what we charge for doing our thing.
  • Here are the terms under which we’ll sell it to you.
  • These are the things happening in our industry that we feel strongly about.
  • These are your next steps if you’d like to hire us or buy our product.

These messages are called: ‘key messages’.

Why do you need them?

As a buyer, unless you are making a complete impulse purchase, (double-caramel magnums are a good example) you’ll be consciously or unconsciously looking to evaluate the company you want to buy from in these areas before you can commit.

That’s why it’s super important to communicate these factors on your website, in your brochure, during your sales conversations, etc, – wherever you are pitching to a prospect.

In marketing speak, each bullet point above has its own name. You will probably have come across this jargon, or be familiar with it. ‘Objections’ (we wrote about these here), ‘value proposition’, and ‘mission’, are all examples of these.

When we work with clients to put together a tailored marketing plan, we also create an appendix to the plan, called a “Key Message Hierarchy”. It includes sections along the lines of each bullet above and clearly lays out the message that the business will ideally communicate to its prospect in each category.

Our client, we, or their creative team, can then use the Key Message Hierarchy as a checklist for developing written content, website copy, welcome videos, event invitations, job descriptions – whatever is needed for the current marketing task.

Not every type of message is needed for every task, but in this way, the team can be consistent, and make sure that all the right messages are getting into the right ears, every, single, time.

The result of this is an end to confusion about what it is you want to say about your business, improved clarity of purpose when it comes to getting marketing content together and dramatically enhanced communication between you and your customers.

It’s also very useful to put together a Key Message Hierarchy if you are working up to a new product launch, or an important customer event. It helps to solidify your thinking about what will happen at the event, what your customer will get out of buying your new product or attending, and why he or she would want to. It’s also a very good tool for explaining what you are trying to achieve to the creatives that you might be working with, such as graphic designers, copywriters, or photographers. It helps them to see your vision too.

Over the coming weeks I’m going to do some jargon-busting on some of the other categories of messages that you need to get clear about to have a complete set of key messages for your business. First up: ‘value proposition’.

Of course, if you think getting your key messages straight would benefit your business, if you aren’t quite sure whether X or Y is the ultimate benefit you are delivering to your customers, we’d love to help you untangle your messaging and get it clearly laid out. Just get in touch here to find out more.

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What Is A Value Proposition?