Message strategy planning is more than simply understanding the business objectives that lead to advertising and marketing initiatives. The mistake made too often is not taking the time to understand the human element that drives that objective. When it comes to marketing your product or service, do customers care what your business objectives are and actively want to contribute to them? I believe they do and will if you take the time to uncover the root of the objective.
To gain new customers, increase profitability and maintain loyal customers, all we need to do is highlight our features and benefits, apply some “ad jargon,”, plug in some of the newest and greatest advertising techniques and – voilà! – we meet our goals, right? Please forgive my facetiousness. Unfortunately, many campaigns lack message strategy planning, which leaves this impression on far too many businesses that should see more success and stability than they currently do.
Getting to the Root of the Objective
Getting to the root of a business objective is a lot like remembering what it is like to try and explain a complex concept to a young child. You have to break the objective down to its simplest essence in order to find the most basic connection between your goal and why that could matter to your customer. We use a message strategy planning exercise at The J. Benjamin Group we call “The 5 Whys.”
“The 5 Whys”
The concept is simple: Ask yourself a series of “whys” (about 5) to get to the source of an objective from which to build meaningful message strategies. We learned about this technique from Sir John Hargrave in his book Mind Hacking, where he credits Sakichi Toyoda as the inventor of this remarkable and insightful technique. Toyoda invented the method to troubleshoot problems at his factory. Hargrave adapted it to help us “debug” negative thought patterns in our minds. We adapted it to help us bridge relationships between a business’s purpose and the customers that connect with them. It works something like this:
Business Objective: Increase sales by X% Year-Over-Year
- Why?: To increase net income.
- Why?: To potentially hire more staff, implement more product offerings and increase profitability.
- Why?: So we can become a stable and long-lasting business in our service area and increase our standard of living.
- Why?: Because we like our location, we want to make life better for us and our families, we like what we do and we think it is valuable to the people we serve.
- Why?: Because we have found a way to meaningfully contribute to society.
I would argue that very few people could look at a business goal within this context. But, it allows us to uncover an emotional touchpoint that would matter when we speak to our audience. After all, who doesn’t want to feel like what they do has value and purpose? We can now begin building relevant message strategies that achieve our objective.
HIGHLY IMPOTANT NOTE: This is not the translation of a business objective to a consumer benefit; nor is it a tagline or strategy statement. This is also very different from a features and benefits exercise – which IS important and should be done in the communication development process. No, this is an attempt to find the humanity in our work.
Message strategy planning is intended to go beyond rational talking points to uncover basic human desires that lead to emotional motivation. The “5 Whys” exercise reveals a symbiotic relationship between the people who make up an organization and why they set the goals they hope to achieve. That matters to your customer. That makes your business relevant to them.
And hopefully, this becomes the foundation for finding how to verbalize the mutual humanity between our business and our customers.