In a perfect world, everybody will do what we want them to: our kids will brush their teeth the first time we ask them to, do their homework, keep their rooms tidy, and keep their curfews; our parents will listen to our advice; our friends will stop their horrendous habits; our spouses will remember their promises.
In a perfect business world, our customers will do what we want them to do: they will notice our advertisements, will read our direct mail, and will take the calls of our salespeople. In short, they will buy what we sell them.
We all know that perfect worlds don’t exist. In this imperfect one, words are often unheard, misconstrued, or forgotten. They are not tangible; they are by their very nature ephemeral. Messages, however interesting or important, get lost all the time.
So what do you do then to keep your message alive? The problem is that conversations, sales pitches, and sales calls are all words. They disappear as soon as you’ve said them and quickly thereafter, they are forgotten as if they never existed! The solution is to get your words to stay permanently in the minds of your customers. How do you do that? You structure your marketing communication strategy in a way that keeps your message alive in the minds of your customers, employees and everyone else with whom your business interacts. And the way to do that is with a strong but simple mission statement that resonates with your audience, long after their first exposure to it. Successful companies are the ones who have understood this mandate and have created a straightforward message to understand and to build a sales and marketing system around.
How to develop a strong but simple mission statement:
FedEx gets it there overnight. Brown delivers. Domino’s gets you a pizza in 30 minutes or less. Twitter messages are 140 characters. If I said “just do it” you would immediately think of Nike. These are all easy messages to remember and easy messages to build a promise around. Your message or conversation has to THAT easy.
But don’t let the simplicity of this directive fool you. It is the hardest thing to achieve. To boil down the essence of your business into a few words, to convert complicated feelings and complex concepts into a few words is very difficult.
There are essentially three steps to developing a strong mission statement that succinctly tells your customers, employees and all others what you are all about.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Start brainstorming about inner conversations you are having about your business, conversations you are having with your employees, conversations your customers are having with you, in essence, all conversations around the circumstances surrounding your product or service. Harness the power of group brainstorming, they tend to be very productive.
Don’t take shortcuts, this is an important step, and anything and everything might be important. Let it all hang out!
Step 2: Make a collage
In this step, you will move the message from thoughts and words to objects. Take all the words you’ve collected when brainstorming and bring them together on a blank canvas (or white board). Supplement them with quotes relevant to your business. Cut out pictures or sayings that are pertinent. The idea is to get all your thoughts and feelings, and as many as you can get from your team and your customers and to put them physically in the same place (emphasis on physically), visually representing all abstract concepts.
Leave the board alone for a while and come back to it whenever you remember or find something new. This is the stewing process; let it take its time.
Step 3: Translate the collage into an abridged message
Now that you have everything you need visually available to you in the same place, the real work starts. You can start by eliminating duplicates. Next, narrow down your choices by matching questions to answers. Use features that your product or service offers as solutions. Be sure to note any physical objects that pop out – something that your customer can see, smell, touch, and relate to.
Be sure to follow the following guidelines:
- Keep it simple: The human mind best grasps concepts in a maximum of 7 parts (7 digits, 7 words, etc.) Your verbal message must adhere to this. Your visual message must similarly be easy to grasp and free of clutter. A basic web page with a clean design is the most engaging and pleasing to the eye. Good examples are Mint.com, Nimble, and 99Designs.
- Use straight talk: Don’t confuse your customers in a misguided attempt to show off. Your goal is to communicate and engage them in a conversation about your product or service, don’t turn them off by using technical jargon or demonstrating to them about how smart you are. Mint.com is again a good example at this; they make the scary and highly technical world of finance easy and fun, turning it almost into a game.
- Go 3-D: When FedEx delivers your package the next day, the FedEx message is physically attached to an important object – your package. You can create the same effect by using meaningful three-dimensional marketing. Make your message memorable, even outrageous. The book Outrageous Marketing has hundreds of creative examples of how you can differentiate your message from your competition (sending season ticket order forms in a box with a dressed up rubber chicken is particularly inspired).
- Do the unexpected: Use blogs, social media, and events to remain in contact with your customers. But try the unexpected too. Instead of emailing back, occasionally write a personal handwritten note to show your customers that they are important to you. Partner-up with a complementary brand, support a charity your customers care about – be in places that will surprise them and engage their interest.
- Test your messages. While doing branding research is usually a blind study — it doesn’t have to be. You can include your customers in testing your messages and your mission statements by running an online survey. Tell your customers what you’re up to and enlist them to help you. Create short 5-question surveys using QuestionPro or Survey Analytics.
Don’t get frustrated with your customers because they are not listening; take the responsibility and make sure that they hear you. When you deliver a strong and simple mission statement, they will respond to your message in ways that will surprise you.