Human interaction is at the center of everything we do. Whatever your target person looks and feels like, you can bet emotion somehow factors into the messages that will determine whether they do business with your or your competitor.

Your audience wants to a task to be easier tomorrow than today. They want to be viewed uniquely within their organization and need help to make that happen. They’ve been charged with a challenge they’re not sure how to overcome.

Your first critical step is understanding which force is driving your potential customer--that way you can key your messages into your marketing strategy.

6 Steps forward

Key messages create cohesion, it helps define your focus and serve as the pillar of your branding, marketing, and internal communications. They ensure accuracy and consistency, help you stay focused during every twist and turn, thus providing a gauge to measure marketing success. Yet defining your company’s messages (and especially branding) can be a daunting task. Start here:

  1. Identify your target audiences. Once you’ve identified a few key personas, start “interviewing” them. What are their pain points? What are their hopes? What do they fear? Which brands do they identify with? How do they see themselves within their organizations? Are there phrases to which they’re likely to respond? The answers to these questions should infuse your messaging.

  2. Review your company goals. Before you spend time honing your key marketing messages, it’s important to understand what those messages need to achieve. If your company is a startup, your primary goal may be branding, so key messages should be long-term to support the brand image you want to convey.

  3. Establish your primary value and benefits. This is the bottom line of a good key message. How is your business or product different? What makes you special? What special capabilities, expertise or accolades set your company apart? How do you do what you do better/faster/smarter/cheaper than the next guy? Arrange these benefits into one or two sentences to help your audience understand what’s in it for them.

  4. Research competitors’ messages. That’s research, not copy. It’s important to understand what your competitors are saying – and what seems to be resonating with their customers – to ensure your messages are hitting the right points and to counter their claims.

  5. Brainstorm keywords associated with your brand. What words do you want your audience to associate with your brand? Gather your team and throw out all the words and emotions relevant to your company, product, and mission. Then refine the list until you arrive at a handful of descriptive, powerful words to weave into your key messages.

  6. Test, test, and test again. Your message is only as strong as it works, so once you’ve developed your messages, it’s time to test them out. Work the messages into written materials and conversations internally and externally. Are the messages easy to convey? Do they sound as strong verbally as they do on paper? What reactions do they elicit? Take the time to test and hone your messages until they’re perfect, and then roll them out across your organization.

Key message development is a time-consuming process, but it’s one that should be done before you embark on any other part of marketing efforts – including your branding, identity, website, your content and social media strategy, your media relations outreach and more.