4 Ways to Sharpen Your Firm's Message

A lot of companies lose market share because potential customers don't understand what makes them unique.

Many companies struggle to create a succinct message that's memorable, meaningful and clear. It's not as easy as you think. But there are strategies that can make a potentially painful process a little simpler. Here are four:

Interview managers: Have an outside firm or consultant interview your company's employees and ask them to describe what makes the business unique. They should offer adjectives that reflect the company's mission.

Interview clients: Have this outside consultant interview your customers to find out why they pay for your company's goods and services. They should be asked for words that describe the company and what sets it apart from competitors.

One of my clients sold 3-D print technology. We asked clients for words to describe their product. They offered the words "magic," "dynamic," "memorable" and "powerful."

Use image association: Ask employees what images they see when they think of your business. I had a client that specialized in professional and personal development seminars. The company's employees said they envisioned a Michelangelo-like statue of a man breaking out of stone. The image serves as a powerful metaphor to explain the firm's business.

Consider your firm's values: Find out what motivates the people who work in your industry. I worked with a money management firm and the founder said he started the business to help retired employees become financially secure. He said his parents struggled to manage their money and fear they would be broke one day. The company's owners value safety, security and warmth.

The next step is taking those adjectives and images and creates one- or two-sentence messages. You might have to write five to 10 descriptions before you find one that fits.

Once you've settled on a few messages, use an online survey service such as Survey Monkey or an online marketing service such as Constant Contact to test them out. See how the market responds before you decide which one to use.

Companies and consumers have become increasingly discerning in light of the weak economy, which has crimped spending. To compete for this smaller pool of clients, you must have a clear message that resonates with them.

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