3 Rules for Creating a Message That Sticks

Imagine you’re at work, and a co-worker drops by your cubicle to tell you about their latest exercise routine. You’re very busy, and the last thing you want is a detailed lecture about the remarkable benefits of whatever new fad your co-worker is involved in. But let’s say this co-worker is different, and instead of just handing you a thick packet of detailed exercise techniques, they say, “I know you’ve been having trouble getting motivated to hit the gym, and this has really helped me. This is how I think it could help you.”

Are you more likely to listen to that co-worker? And are you more likely to remember the details of what he or she said?

In our last blog post, we talked about crafting a compelling message for your customers. But what happens when that phone call with the customer ends? What will that person on the other end of the phone remember a few minutes, hours, or days later? Creating a message that sticks is about more than just providing hard data; it’s about making repeated, relevant, and concise appeals to your potential customer. Today, we’d like to suggest the following 3 rules for creating a message that sticks, so your customer leaves the conversation remembering the details he or she needs to invest in your product or service:

1.  Make It Relevant: To be successful, a salesperson should take an “outside in” approach, trying to see the problem(s) a customer faces through their eyes. Further, they must clearly explain how the product/service being sold can help to solve their problems. Inc. contributing editor, Geoffrey James says every message should answer two simple customer questions:

  • Why would I buy what you’re selling?
  • Why should I buy it from you?

The answer to the first question should relate to the customer’s particular situation: perhaps they need to lower their monthly living costs, or they need insurance with better coverage. It’s important to know all the technical details of your product or service, but your message must connect the dots between those details and the specific needs of the customer.

Once you’ve done that, you can answer the second question: your message must explain why the customer should buy from you, and further, why your competitor isn’t the solution to their problem(s). Here’s where you can contextualize the details of your product or service: how does what you’re selling help them lower their costs? How has your product or service helped to do that for other customers? 

2.  Make It Simple and Concrete: 80% of calls go to voicemail, and 90% of first-time voicemails are never returned. How can you make sure your call is part of the 10% that gets a call-back? By giving your listener a message that sticks through simple, concrete details.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of the best-selling book, Made to Stick, outline several steps towards making an idea stick, and two of those steps are to keep your message simple and concrete. Ask yourself: what is your message’s one essential point, if you boiled it down to its core? “If you say three things, you don’t say anything,” the authors write. What’s the main takeaway for your listener?

Giving a message concreteness comes from what Chip Heath calls the “Velcro theory of memory”: if there are hooks (particularly visual hooks) in your pitch or story, it has a better chance to stick in the listener’s memory. Analogies, with their ability to reference something already familiar to the customer, can be a helpful way to make the message stick in their head. The authors note that providing a concrete context by setting a visual scene–providing names of people, and examples of past customer experiences–can also be helpful way to stick the message and provide context for your numbers and more technical details. 

3.  Make It Again (and Again): Sales and marketing blogger, Craig Rosenberg suggests the importance of multiple touches: he recommends making 6-8 calls or sending emails over a two-week period for success. The concrete specifics of your message and their relevance to your listener are two important elements of your message, but so is the act of repetition– making sure you reach the customers you want, and that they hear your message more than once.

Creating a “sticky” message is about more than selling a product or service; it’s about finding those details of storytelling that allow you to create a memorable relationship with your customers. By taking these 3 rules into consideration, you have the opportunity to make your message stick in the customer’s imagination, inspiring them to engage with your service, and help you to close a sale.

How do you help your company to create a message that sticks? Please share stories in the comments below!

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