Sometimes I feel like Paul Revere delivering a secret message in the night, and the phrase I whisper is, “Your message is more important than your audience.”
I meet business leaders who are fixated on “targeting” and are willing to spend time and money on any technology that will help them ferret out the ideal customer. They are romanticized by agencies that promise big benefits from Big Data insights.
At first, I’m misinterpreted as if I’m saying audience is not important. It most definitely is, but all the data digging is wasted if you don’t have anything original to say. It’s like inviting all of your best friends over to a house party and not having any food to serve.
If Paul Revere were alive today, he’d be Gary Vaynerchuk.
And he’d tell you that getting the message right is more important than targeting the right audience because that’s the way he did it way back then. (Gary Vaynerchuk is the founder and leader of VaynerMedia and arguably the most well-known advocate for originality in the social media space.)
The Message Determines the Audience
When Paul made his famous ride at 10 P.M. on April 18, 1775, he had been asked by his friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, to warn local patriots that British troops were about to march into Concord and Lexington.
There was something important to share and before a decision was made about how to tell people, the message was priority number one.
And contrary to the poem by Henry Longfellow, Paul didn’t ride around on his horse yelling, “The British are coming.” Instead, he rode stealthily from house to house so as not to be captured by British patrols and told each home, “The regulars are coming.” (The colonists called the British troops ‘regulars’.)
A Message Worth Sharing
Many of those colonists then got their own horses and ventured out to warn others, so as the night wore on there were probably forty people spreading the news. That’s called a viral message!
If Paul Revere were Gary Vaynerchuk, he’d never mount a horse.
Instead, he’d pickup his smart phone, record a ten-second video on Snapchat and trust that the through the power of sharing the right people would know within minutes instead of hours.
In today’s socially connected world your message is the most important thing to get right, because if your message is good enough, people will find the right audience for you.
Even if what you have to say doesn’t apply to them, when you say something that matters — they will think of a friend or family member who absolutely, positively must hear your story.
Is Your Message Worth Waking Up For
The biggest problem for people trying to market their business is not targeting the right people, it’s lack of originality.
Insurance companies, real estate agents, urgent care providers, website designers, printers, auto repair shops, law firms, travel agents, etc. are saying the same thing that everyone else in their category is saying.
And please, rewording, “We value our customers,” is not a differentiator.
It takes guts to craft a message worth waking your neighbors up for. People are bored by bland marketing and immune to over-hyped messages. Your prospects are asleep and unwilling to stir for anything less than original.
When you’re ready to work on your message, don’t copy what everyone else is saying, and don’t mimic what the most successful company in your niche is doing.
Start with a simple declaration. Don’t add fancy words to it, don’t be vague, and for heaven’s sake choose clarity over cleverness.
How to Know You Have a Good Message
A pool supply client recently expressed a common frustration.
I can’t think of anything different to say. We have good people, but so does our competition. They have the same resources we do and offer the same services.
Here’s the advice I used to get him unstuck, “Start with a message that inspires you.”
“What gets you fired up? What do you wish people knew, because if they did you know it would improve their lives.”
This is obviously just a starting point, but if you aren’t excited about your message, no one else is likely to be either. And one more hint: you can’t fake this, because it can repel people when they realize you’ve been pretending to be excited.
Somewhere in the world there is an audience who needs to hear what you have to say just like the colonists needed to hear what Paul Revere had to say 139 years ago.
The big difference between then and now is that people don’t have to ride a horse to share important messages with their friends.