Craft the right message for success

Andrew Ballard

Marketing is a complex pseudoscience, one that has become even more challenging to get “right” in the adolescence of our digital era.

And your success depends on crafting the right message.

This is the second installment of a four-part series detailing the “four secrets to marketing success,” which covers “the right message.”

After you “target the right market” (the first secret), you’ll develop messages that are compelling and relevant to your target audience.

When crafting messages, remember that you are writing for your future customers, based on their values, and not for yourself.

To truly understand what your prospective customers care most about requires research. Growth strategy nerds like me refer to this research as “voice of the customer.”

Understanding the preferences and perceptions of your customers is arguably the most important business information you can acquire.

It gives you insight into how other people like them (prospective customers) make buying decisions. You can gather voice of the customer information through interviews and focus groups.

Once you know what your customers care about, there is a tried-and-true formula that will help you properly sequence your messages to improve results.

Many successful copywriters use the AIDA method, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

These are the four stages a consumer or purchasing agent go through (during the buying process) as they consider and eventually make a buying decision.

The length of time it takes a consumer to go through these four stages has mostly to do with the product category.

When purchasing a loaf of bread, a consumer isn’t even aware of the buying process… it takes a matter of seconds. However, when considering a larger purchase, such as a new car or cloud application for a business, the buying process can be lengthy. Following is the AIDA messaging process.

Attention: You need to cut through the clutter before you’ll get anyone’s attention.

The most important copy you’ll ever write is the headline or hook.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy started by writing up to 16 headlines for every ad he wrote.

And he made a gazillion dollars doing so; you might consider following his lead. Asking a poignant question and using a stunning illustration or photograph are also effective attention-getters.

Interest: You want to communicate “what’s in it for them” early in your message to peak your prospects’ interests.

Use short, simple sentences that convey advantages and benefits. A list of features won’t get prospects excited; benefits are why people buy. Explain how your product or service will make your prospect’s life better, safer, more fun or productive.

Desire: All purchases are motivated by either “decreasing pain” or “increasing gain.”

Make a connection with your audience’s underlying motivation based on the solution or satisfaction your product or service will provide.

This is the part of your message where you’ll make an irresistible offer, a strong guarantee or astonishing claim (as long as it’s legitimate).

Action: A “call to action” is imperative if you want to generate a response.

Be specific about what you want your prospect to do: call for more information, go to our website, click on our app, schedule an appointment, etc.

Creating urgency (limited time or inventory), building value (third-party endorsement) and offering an incentive can also increase action and response rates.

Another best practice in crafting messages that succeed in generating results to be very clear and concise.

Don’t try to cram in every copy point imaginable… stick to a single selling proposition. Following the AIDA method — and order — will most likely improve your results.

When you target the right market with the right message, you are halfway there. Check out my January column to learn about the recipe for selecting the right communication channels and media to deliver your message.

Andrew Ballard is president of Marketing Solutions, an agency specializing in growth strategies. For more information, call 425-337-1100 or go to

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