Getting Your Marketing Message Right: Ask Not What You Need to Say, Ask What They Want to Hear

Whatever side of the political fence you sit and whichever side of the Atlantic you live, the big event of last week was the results of the American election and Barack Obama’s success in winning a second term. There is a marketing lesson hidden away in his success, it's linked to developing your marketing message. Mr Obama’s victory is historic for many reasons and it’s hard not to be impressed by the scale of it.  For me, however, the most extraordinary thing was not simply the victory itself, but the victory speech that accompanied it.

As a marketing professional I work with people who are good with words all the time, whether it’s for eye-catching adds, persuasive PR or compelling case studies.  It’s not often, however, that you come across someone who can make hard truths inspirational and who can express sentiment without ever becoming trite.

Not many of us will ever have to give a speech that’s watched by millions around the world, but all business leaders have to decide what messages they need to deliver to their audiences and how best to express them. Those audiences don’t just include customers, but may also encompass shareholders, staff, suppliers and other influencers, all of whom will only accept what you say – verbally or on marketing materials – if it matches their own experience.

And that was what was so clever about the Obama speech; he made no attempt to hide the difficulties of the past four years or the challenges of the next four, instead he made a virtue out of honesty and, most importantly, appealed to a disparate audience to work collaboratively towards common goals.

There’s something to learn in this for all of us, whether we’re delivering marketing strategies or simply dealing with customers and colleagues. Obama didn’t just think about what he wanted to say when he was putting that speech together, he also thought about the information he needed to get across and what his audience wanted to hear.  He then, expertly, brought all of that together with sincere and measured delivery to ensure that his messages were accessible and, above all, credible.

If you build all of your marketing messages on those principles, you too can tap into that credibility.  Your customers will see that you are not just selling to them but providing them with the product or service that they need and they will trust you and the information you give them. Consistent messaging is at the heart of any communications campaign and once you have that, you can begin an articulate dialogue that will help you communicate effectively, whoever you need to speak to.