This is the theme I want to explore in what promises to an epic post. I’ve been wanting to write this post for at least half a year and have been slowly collecting ideas and inspirations for it. At this point, I need to put out what I’ve got and I would love to get your honest reflections on it.
Here’s the starting point: if you have a business, you are going to be known for something. It’s inevitable. The question is this: will you be known for the right things? Will your reputation bring you the kinds of clients you want?
Up until now, I’ve seen that there are six things you can be known for – but over the past few months, I’ve felt drawn to add a seventh – your message. I’ve realized that your message to the world can actually be one of the most powerful things you can be known for.
Don’t market yourself, market your message.
That was a phrase I heard from my colleague Morgana Rae (who’s message is: ‘make money by putting love first’) that got me thinking about it. Something in it made sense to me.
And then I was looking at my colleague Mark Silver’s website where it stated his core message so clearly: ‘every act of business can be an act of love.’ So clear. So evocative. So meaningful.
For the past year, I’ve been beginning to talk about the message of ‘slow marketing movement’ (in the same vein as the slow food movement) and noticing the resonance that has with people far beyond talking about marketing tactics and tools.
I’ve noticed that when I share the message that ‘marketing is a vital part of doing good in the world’ it resonates with people. When people understand that marketing can actually feel wonderful, warm and be a force for building community and expression of our values that people light up.
I’ve noticed that the businesses I’m most drawn to tend to have some sort of a message they’re promoting.
So, I want to explore this theme here and welcome your feedback on it.
I am writing this not being totally clear on what my own core message is but knowing it’s an important conversation to have.
What it is?
So, what is a message?
This is, honestly, the part that still feels a bit fuzzy to me and where I could use your help.
Here are my thoughts so far . . .
Your message is like the words on a coat of arms, a motto, a slogan or tagline. It takes your whole platform and distills it down to the essence. It’s the thing you can’t help but talk about and steer every conversation towards.
It’s an idea that you are so passionate about and find yourself reading about, listening to TED Talks about it but . . . you feel like there’s still something missing that you want to see brought out into the world.
It’s the drum you beat. It’s your core thesis you want to prove. It’s an idea you know that, if it were embraced on a mass level, would change the world. If this message were really ‘gotten’ there’d be so much less suffering. It’s the way things oughta be.
It’s often the words you wish you’d really understood when you were younger and struggling. It’s the words you really want a particular group of people to hear.
Your message is likely the answer to this question: ‘What would your TED Talk be about?’ Every TED Talk is about an idea. Some might feature projects – but they all have a crystal clear message in them. Something simple, direct, easy to understand and uplifting.
A message is not a promise of a result. It’s not empathy for their struggles. It’s not a full blown point of view. And it’s not just a statement of values. There’s a point to it.
Standing up at the front of a room and pitching people is just saying, ‘buy from me!’ But sharing a message is saying, ‘Whether or not you buy from me, I want you to know _______ because it will make your life and the world a better place’. And that’s attractive. It’s coming from a place of giving, not trying to get anything.
Don’t market yourself, market your message.
Seven Criteria of a Good Message:
Again, this idea is new enough that I’m not even sure what the criteria is but here’s what makes sense to me right now.
- A New Idea: A compelling message usually isn’t a trite platitude (though it could be). Ideally it’s a new idea or an old idea said in a provocative new way. It’s an idea that’s been missing from a larger conversation. It’s something that no one else is saying it or saying in quite the same way you are.
- Short: It can be summed up briefly. Like ten words max. It’s a simple idea.
- Provocative: It’s a statement that makes sense but provokes further questions and deeper inquiry.
- Repeatable: It’s something you could say it repeatedly throughout a keynote talk and it would make sense. It’s like the chorus to a song. Think, ‘I have a dream’. It’s the kind of idea you could base a keynote talk around entirely. Don’t market yourself. Market your message.
- Simple: Not a crazy, complicated idea. A simple idea with profound implications.
- Well Crafted: Crafting matters here. The exact right words. Bust out your thesaurus. Toss it by people. See which version seems to land the best with others and which feel best to you.
- You: your message should somehow reflect or be an authentic expression of you. It fits you perfectly. It isn’t just said to sound good or used as a marketing tactic. It means something to you personally. It excites you. You love the idea of being known for this message and spending years (if not a lifetime) exploring it.
What a message will do and won’t do:
A message won’t sell your product on its own.
No one will read a nice slogan or tagline and say, ‘yep. I want to spend $1000 with that company. What a great message.’
But a message does give your business a center of gravity.
A message becomes a core idea that you can keep spiraling around and weaving everything back to so that, over time, they come to appreciate the depth and complexity behind the idea more and more.
A message is something you can become known for.
A message is something that will help attract the right people (who are also passionate about that message).
A message will help you find hubs (who also work to promote that message).
But a message alone won’t sell anything. You can’t just print it on your business cards and your website.
For a message to be alive you need to find constantly new ways to express and explore it.
Expression without a message is just noise.
A message without expression is just an idea.
But not just expressed by talking about it – expressed in the design of your website, in the names you give to products and services, in how you dress, your logo, your pricing. Ideally, though likely impossibly, everything you do should be expressing your message.
I’d welcome any thoughts , wisdom and reflections you have on this at this point in the comment box below.