The Power of the Basics: Building a Foundation for your Marketing Messages

When I was a child, I decided that when I grew up I was going to be an architect.  I loved the beauty and artistry of buildings. I always noticed the details on every high-rise building. Not only that, but I reveled in the beauty of the physics. The fact that humans were able to conquer height was wonderful to me— think about the knowledge and insight it took to build the pyramids. Imagine what it was like to discover how flying buttresses are able to support cathedrals to soaring heights, and then picture the magic of adding expansive panes of glittering stained glass.

So you can imagine my despair during the first week of introduction to drawing for architects class, when the instructor made us focus on drawing a straight line by hand. This wasn’t just for an hour, or a day, but for weeks—including homework assignments.  And guess what? It’s not easy, not at all.

Now, it is not my intention to examine the reasons for changing  my educational and career direction (though I can say that all of the things that drew me to architecture also drew me to become a marketer, especially with the technical advances in measurement). Rather, I want to focus on how important it is to get the basics right in order to build a solid foundation for your endeavors—whether it’s a cathedral or a campaign.

Recently I accompanied Tami Cannizzaro (@tamicann) at a conference where she was speaking about a campaign that we had created with our team. I was surprised to see how interested the audience was in a single slide that showed a message map that Caroline Waterson and I had created for a previous digital campaign which we had created in wonderful collaboration with Bryan Kramer (@bryankramer) and Courtney Smith (@cshasarrived) of PureMatter.  It was an eye chart of a slide, since the information had been transferred from a spreadsheet that had quite a bit of detail.  But people couldn’t get enough of it.

The talk was focused on digital demand generation and optimization through the use of analytics, and applied insights learned from campaign iterations over time. So it was  somewhat shocking to hear people specifically request for the details of this message map.  It quickly dawned on me that there is an intense desire for many marketers to understand the basics. It’s wonderful to be able to demonstrate that we can apply the latest technology to our digital campaigns and optimize conversion paths, but many people just want to know where to start—and how to start well.

So, we as marketers all know that we need to understand our audience. But what does that mean exactly?  It means stopping to thoughtfully consider who your audience is, what keeps them up at night and how your product or service can help benefit them. It really boils down to three simple messaging points:

  1. Pain – What your audience can’t do today

  2. How – How we can help them  to solve the problem

  3. Business Benefit – The end result

The spreadsheet that the group was asking for spelled these three messages out for each of the solutions that we were marketing and tied them up to the same three message points for the overarching theme for each of the solution sets. 

Some of the key concepts to remember when approaching these messaging statements are to be simple, concise and use action-oriented verbs. While working through this process, you may encounter one of the largest challenges we as marketers face is an audience that doesn’t recognize that they have a pain that can be solved. Maybe they’ve become accepting of a situation because “that’s how it always has been.” In this case, you have to be creative in painting a picture of a better solution: “wouldn’t it be better if?”

So, as you sit down to approach your next marketing campaign, be sure to master the basics.  Pay attention to who you’re talking to, what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it before focusing on what the flashy delivery might be.  The most powerful marketing messages are simple—they resonate with the intended audience. Once you’ve established that solid foundation, you can start to build campaigns that will capture the attention of your customers.

Get the messaging matrix spreadsheet. Click here.