Figuring out what to say and how to say it in your marketing is something that many small business owners struggle with. If that’s you, try this brainstorming exercise to take your messaging from confusion to clarity, writes marketing expert Jayne Tancred.
What do you want to be known for?
A simple way to start getting clear about your marketing messaging is to get out your trusty sticky notes and your favourite pen and write down the first answer that comes to mind when you ask yourself: ‘What do I want my business to be known for?’
Stick the answer on your wall or your desk, then keep going, creating as many individual notes as you can until you run out of answers. (Hopefully that will happen before you run out of post-its!)
Once you’ve captured all your ideas, review your sticky note collection in its entirety.
Play around with grouping the notes in the ways that make the most sense to you and while you’re at it, create a reject pile for any that feel inappropriate.
Common types of marketing messages for small businesses
This is a highly individual exercise, so I don’t know for sure what kind of messaging themes will emerge for you, but they might include things like:
- Specific types of problems that you or your products solve
- Your clients’ success stories
- The contribution you make to your industry, community or network
- The emotions your clients experience when working with you
- Your insight, expertise and skills
- Personal characteristics like your sense of humour or caring nature
- The tools, technology or processes that you use to get your results
- Your community service or philanthropy
- Your philosophies and lifestyle
You might also end up with a few random ideas that stand alone as a theme of their own rather than being part of a bigger group.
Narrow down your priorities
When you’re done, grab a different coloured pen or sticky and add a separate note at the top of each idea cluster that sums it up as concisely and succinctly as possible.
Congratulations! You’ve now created the short list for your over-arching messaging themes.
Your next step is to get laser focused on identifying the themes and messages that are the most important for your business to convey and the most meaningful for your clients or prospects to receive.
At the same time, consider which any of the themes on your short list are distractions from the essence of who you are and where you want your business to go, and add them to your reject pile.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list of themes, you’ve arrived at the heart of your messaging.
Distinguish between your content pillars and your tone of voice
Some of the themes you’ve ended up with will become content pillars for you to create marketing assets around. Things like your services, insights and customer success stories will typically fit into this bucket, providing plenty of scope for your blog content, email newsletters and social feed.
Other themes will guide the way you communicate and will become your brand’s tone of voice. For example, while you wouldn’t write a blog post talking about how funny you are, you might make a conscious decision to sprinkle humour through your writing at every available opportunity.
Weave your content themes and your tone of voice together and not only will your marketing messaging start to solidify, but you might just find that its impact does too.
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