Customer-first messaging is the foundation for getting your prospects to engage with what you’re selling. Implement my 6-step messaging framework, and you’ll get your target customers to pay attention, and encourage them to take action.
How you communicate with your prospects may differ slightly depending on your industry, target audience, or even geographic focus, but the goal remains the same:
- To get your customer to pay attention and understand what you’re selling, and
- To encourage them to take action, that is to either learn more or purchase your product or service.
At its most basic level, we all know that marketing and communication are all about the customer.
It’s about understanding customers’ needs and communicating something about ourselves that addresses those needs.
Yet so many times, when it comes to actually bringing this communication strategy to life, we forget about this customer-centric approach and default to our natural instincts.
We talk about ourselves.
Poor Messaging Starts with Me, Myself, and I
How familiar is this situation to you: you have the first meeting with a potential business partner.
They take out their polished PowerPoint presentation, and the first slide says something like…
“We’re XYZ Corporation….we’re the biggest tech company in Europe with thousands of employees, and offices in more than 15 countries and millions of customers.”
They go on to talk about their services, their pricing and maybe share a few testimonials from customers talking about how great they are.
In my career as a startup mentor, I’ve seen this over and over again.
Here’s the problem with this scenario.
Nobody really cares how big or powerful, or wonderful you think you are.
The single question that every single potential customer who is sitting in the room is thinking about is:
“Which of my problems do you solve?”
Customer-First Messaging: First The Problem, Then You
Every client begins the buying process in their mind by wanting to understand why doing business with you will either:
- generate more revenue,
- save time or money, or
- make their lives easier.
Only after they understand this, will they want to know how big, powerful, and wonderful you are.
Why? They want to be convinced that you can deliver what you say they can deliver.
But not before.
The problem is a majority of marketers and sales people ignore this fundamental truth.
They build “me-focused” messaging and produce “me-focused” sales tools and marketing platforms.
They don’t effectively engage their potential clients, getting them to understand and take action.
Then they wonder why their sales and marketing aren’t working.
The Two Pillars of Effective Customer Messaging
In my experience as a start-up mentor, I’ve found that effective, customer-first messaging sits on two pillars:
- The content of your message, and
- How you package your message.
You need to get both of these right.
Otherwise, you risk creating a product or service with great potential but very few customers.
As described above, the content begins with identifying your prospect’s problem and placing this at the center of your communication.
You then lead them down a path that explains in simple terms how you will solve their problem. You also add why they should invite you to help them solve it, so they can experience the full benefits of buying your product or service.
Once you have these building blocks in place, you create marketing tools that package and present this messaging.
These may include your website, one-pager, pitch deck, emails, and elevator pitch – all of which you should align around the same offer and message.
I’ll explore these tools in much more depth in a later blog.
In this guide, I’ll first take you through the 6 essential elements of successful messaging designed to skyrocket your customer engagement.
My 6-Part Messaging Framework
I’ve designed my messaging framework based on my business coaching services, and have applied it to hundreds of startups operating in a dozen industries.
It works every time.
I’ll use the website of one of my clients, Auction Audit, as an example of how to craft a high-impact messaging framework and apply it to an important marketing tool.
1. Desired Outcome
- What does your customer want to achieve?
- How can you get their attention?
Your messaging framework begins by identifying what your prospect wants to achieve.
When they close their eyes and imagine the ‘perfect solution’, what do they see or experience?
Is it a perfectly functioning business? Is it a sense of comfort or achievement?
Whatever it is, try and capture it into a single thought or sentence that brings this desired outcome to life.
You should do so with a short, irresistible statement that will spark their interest.
Use short, attention-grabbing, and customer-oriented phrases to fuel their curiosity and keep them reading.
Here’s an example of a great attention grabber:
2. Problem or Need
- What core need does your customer have?
- What problem do they want you to fix?
- What questions are they asking themselves?
In Part 2 of your messaging framework, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to see their needs.
What are their specific problems? How do they feel about them? What do they truly need?
Answering these questions will help you adapt your message to your clients.
Here’s a great example of doing just that:
3. Your Solution
- What product or service are you offering that solves their problem?
In Part 3, it’s time to describe what solution you offer, and how you apply it to solving your prospect’s problem or need.
It’s easiest if you simply restate your value proposition.
Your value proposition is a simple, easy-to-understand sentence that explains what problem you solve, who benefits and how, and why you’re better than your competition.
Here’s one way to present it:
4. Call to Action
- What specific action do you want your customers to take to get access to your solution?
- Is there an interim step they can take to get things started or before they make a full commitment?
Part 4 is where you identify a clear call to action, also known as your CTA..
Your CTA depends on the type of product or service you offer.
You may want your customers to “Order Now,” “Book a Meeting,” or “Learn More.”
If you offer an interim step before making a final purchase, make sure your clients know what to do, and what comes after this step.
Whatever your CTA is, remember to always tell your prospects what to do next.
Otherwise, they won’t be able to engage with whatever it is you’re selling.
On websites, it’s common to insert a CTA button like this:
5. Supporting Details
At this point, you will have given your prospects everything they need to understand and engage.
For highly motivated target customers, this may well be enough.
Others, however, may feel like they still need more information to decide whether you offer the right solution to their problem.
In Part 5, you give these undecided prospects further reasons to follow through and take action.
Consider adding one or more of these three elements to your messaging framework:
- Credibility: what proof do you have that your solution works?
- Delivery: how does your solution work?
- Offer: what options can customers choose from to access your solution?
For proof that your solution works, you could add client testimonials from businesses that have used your products or services and are happy with the results.
Next, you could go into a bit more detail on how exactly your solution brings results.
Be creative here.
You could insert a catchy graphic or present your X-step process, as below:
Finally, you could present your product offering, with different options and prices so target customers know exactly what they can choose from.
6. Key Benefits
- What rational and emotional benefits will your customers experience if they use your solution?
To wrap up your messaging framework, remind your prospects of the specific benefits they will get from using your service.
I recommend choosing the top 3-5 benefits that you identified when putting together your value proposition as Action Audit does below.
Messaging Do’s and Don’ts
So, let’s say you’ve gone through each of the questions, come up with a clear answer to each one, and have created your messaging framework.
You’re probably on the right track, but I’ve found many startup founders make the same few mistakes when going through the process.
Here are some points to keep in mind and some to avoid to get the greatest benefit from this process.
1. Work from your value proposition
The work you did to create your value proposition already has many of the elements you’ll need to put together your messaging framework.
Your value proposition indirectly articulates the problem and specifically mentions the solution and benefits.
2. Keep your messaging simple.
Don’t expect your customers to figure out why what you offer is good for them.
If they need to spend more than a few seconds understanding what you do and why they should care, you’re asking them to do the work for you; you will lose them.
Don’t mix your messaging with industry jargon and buzzwords.
I often hear, “My target audience is full of technologically savvy people! They’ll understand.”
Just because they understand the words, doesn’t mean they understand the problem you solve and how you solve it.
Keep it simple.
1. Forget that you are communicating with real people.
Your prospects have thoughts, fears, and feelings.
Appeal to your target customers emotions when highlighting what they will experience if they use your solution.
2. Be afraid to use language that sells.
The words and expressions you use should excite your audience and draw them in.
Use clever headlines and humor.
Lead your target customer down a path to engagement by giving them something specific to do to engage with what you’re selling.
Keep This in Mind
Customer-first messaging is the foundation for communicating effectively with your target customers.
Remember to treat them like living, breathing people.
Keep their interests in mind, address their needs, and solve their problems.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment and explore.
Be open to customers’ feedback, adjust your messaging, and soon you’ll have a solid foundation for customer engagement.
Want Your Prospects to Engage With Your Offer?
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You’ll learn how to add 3-to-5 enterprise clients to your startup each quarter by focusing your offer and message, building a structured sales model, and executing based on targets.
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