Marketing Doesn’t Begin Until You Have a Message

talking on bullhornI’ve been doing business online since 2002. So I’ve seen all kinds of schemes come and go. I’ve also had conversations with, and sold products to, many people who wanted to find their fortune online.

During an initial conversation, I would ask the aspiring entrepreneur about the type of business they’re dreaming of starting on the Internet.

In many cases, the person would tell me how the idea popped into their head while taking a shower or driving to their 9 to 5 job. So, I would ask them questions such as…

– Do you know if people are searching for your product or service online? If so, how many?

– Do you know the demographics of your potential audience? (Note: The answer to this one is frequently, “Everyone is a potential customer.” Wrong answer!)

Anyway, it never takes me too long to determine that the entrepreneur is heading down a path with blinders on. They don’t realize that their best chance of succeeding in business is to have a plan, including a marketing plan.

The plan should be written down and be as detailed as possible. It should include specific steps and milestones, along with completion dates. Having such a plan will keep you motivated and on track.

Develop a Strong Message First

In order for people to clearly understand both you and the aim of your business, you need to have a strong message. It should convey the mission of the business and address what makes you different from the competition.

In the world of marketing, this message is referred to as your USP.

The “U” stands for unique. You have to do some soul searching and identify the primary way(s) that your business will stand above the rest.

The “S” refers to selling. You’re going to be offering some sort of service or product and convincing people to shell out their hard-earned money, right? So you want to be clear on what’s for sale, without convincing yourself that it has to be everything under the sun.

The “P” refers to proposition (sometimes referred to as position). When you’re putting forth your offerings, what will you be proposing to buyers? What’s the deal and why is it more special than other items or services that may be perceived as similar?

Now, whether you realize it or not, you’re probably familiar with several powerful and famous USPs. Remember any of these:

Domino’s Pizza – Delivery in 30 minutes or less or you get the pizza for free.

Federal Express – When it absolutely, positively has to be their overnight.

M&M’s – Melt in mouth, not in your hands.

Burger King – Have it your way.

As you examine these great USP’s, there’s one key thing that should jump out at you. Each of them conveys a very attractive benefit to the customer. There is a built-in promise.

Of course, these large companies hired expensive marketing and advertising agencies to nail down their USP into one pithy and catchy statement.

You may get there as well. But don’t try to nail down a cool short sentence right off the bat. Instead, take out pen and paper and jot down all the features and benefits of your product or service. When I do this, I use what is called the “So what?” technique. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say that your product is a high-end Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). One unique feature that you’re offering is a rear-mounted camera. Now pretend that you’re a potential buyer who says, “So what? Why should I care about a rear mounted camera?”

This is when you start to list all the benefits that you can think of for having such a camera. The list might look something like this:

– You’ll avoid running over a child or person who might be behind the vehicle.
– You’ll be able to see what’s behind you so that you won’t damage the vehicle or property.
– You’ll feel more comfortable knowing that there’s nothing in your blind spot.
– You’ll avoid the feeling of guilt in the event you back over a pet or person.
– You’ll avoid higher insurance rates because the risk of backing into something will be greatly reduced.
– You’ll be able to go about your day with a smile and the comfort that you’re serious about driving safely.

Okay, that’s enough. So for each key feature that makes your product special, you would lay out a list of benefits just as I did above. Don’t stop with six benefits like I did. Stretch your imagination. What you’ll end up with is a huge list of compelling benefits. And guess what?

People buy products and services because of their benefits, not the features. The benefits do the selling.

So with your list of benefits in hand, you’ll have the fuel you need to power your marketing and advertising campaigns.

Need to write a long sales letter? No problem. All you have to do is turn your list of benefits into bullet points or paragraphs. Mention the feature and follow on with the benefits.

So there you have it. With a clear marketing message in hand, you’ll be ahead of the crowd. Of course, you’ll have to also understand your market and audience, and tailor your message so that it speaks directly to them.

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