James E. Laero marketing / communications / business development

ARTICLE: One Core Message

Every business needs one core message.

The worst kind of worker is the one who is a jack-of-all-trades and an expert at none. The same holds true for businesses. This is especially true in today’s world of micro-niche specialty markets. Today’s B2B and general consumer customers often relate credibility with specialization.

A local auto repair garage (Bob’s Auto) claims to be a specialist at installing remote car starters. He advertises that claim everywhere year-round; billboards, door hangers, newspapers, yard signs. Bob sells a lot of remote car starters, more than anyone else around. Bob actually does all sorts of automotive repairs and customizations. But he has one core service. And it drives business through his doors, all kinds of business, because once he brings a customer in for a remote starter they are exposed to dozens of other services that Bob offers. Bob’s core message is simple, “Top quality remote starters installed by experienced technicians and guaranteed for two full years.” His slogan is, “We install more remote starters than anyone else in town.”

Every business needs one core message. I’m not necessarily referring to your slogan. Your slogan may be more of a condensed version (or the spirit) of your core message. A core message is everything you are in one or two sentences. For example, if you are selling computer repair services your core message might be: Complete computer repair services with guaranteed results, a fast turn-around and affordable rates to match every budget. And your slogan might be: Your Premier Hometown Computer Repair Professionals.

So why is a brief core message so important to building credibility with consumers? In most marketing opportunity instances you have about three to five seconds to communicate everything about your company, your products, and your services in a manner that offers credibility. Take for example, billboards. I am constantly amazed at how poorly billboard designers abuse the space they are given to communicate a company’s message.

Recently, while driving down the interstate at sixty miles-per-hour, my eye caught this billboard advertising a local restaurant chain with six photos of everything from hamburgers to sushi, ten lines of product text, a phone number, an address and a web site URL - and all of it was completely useless with no core message to grab me. And at sixty miles per hour I never had time to read it all. Just down the road came the next billboard advertising a competing restaurant. It displayed one logo and a picture of one gorgeous steak dinner with one line of copy that simply read, “Voted - best steak dinner in town. Satisfaction guaranteed! Exit now” I had a great steak that day.

That restaurant had a simple but perfectly effective core message. It hooked me. I trusted it. It took me about three seconds to read the sign. It told me why his steak was special. It assured me that his steak was better than anyone other in town. And he guaranteed my satisfaction.

When building a core message remember that you are not selling to yourself. You are selling to other people. There are a few questions you need to answer to be able to turn your company’s special qualities into a condensed high-impact core message.
1. What makes my product or service special to my customers?
2. Why is it better for my customers to buy from me than from my competitors?
3. How does my company guarantee customer satisfaction?

The answers to those questions might involve; quality of service, quality of design or production, pricing, selection, warranties, attention to detail, technical support, etc. Once you compile your answers, try turning them into one or two sentences that communicate everything effectively. And then test it. Have your employees read it. Ask a few of your closest customers to read it and get their opinions. You will know immediately if it is effective or needs more work.

When you arrive at your core message use it consistently in all of your marketing communication processes from your brochures to the way your employees answer the phone. And use it when you make business decisions to ensure that there is substance behind the claims of your core message. This consistent exposure of your message, and adherence to its claims, will build credibility in the hearts and minds of your clients. And credibility builds their comfort level regarding doing business with you.
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