‘HOW TO WHY’ SERIES: FOUR
You have your purpose. You know your competitive and collaborative climates. You know your primary audience and key constituency. Now, what can you promise them that no one else can, and is your promise of real benefit to them?
The answer to this question forces you to truly move from cause to effect. Your business purpose can be something quite meaningful to your organization, but there are occasions where purpose is meant for internal use and does not speak directly to your key audiences. This is where you take the step from purpose to promise. You must be able to truthfully present your primary benefit into a principal idea that will then underline all communications. This is your marketing value proposition. This is your benefit statement. This is the part of your story that serves the interests of your key audiences. It’s the answer to “what’s in it for me?”
For example, a research group’s purpose or reason for existence could be to “ensure our discoveries improve the human condition.” But what about its audience or its primary customer? The primary audience of this organization are CEO’s of technology companies. What direct benefit can they get from this organization improving the human condition? The answer is very specific to the needs of their primary audience. They determined their promise is: “We have over 1,500 fresh technologies that can improve your bottom line.”
Another example is a financial institution that exists to “personally help”. But what’s the benefit of this purpose to their primary audience, depositors? The promise of this this financial group is that they “will personally help you achieve financial health and freedom.”
Sometimes your purpose is embedded or integrated into your benefit statement. Sometimes it isn’t. An effective promise or benefit statement needs to be truthful and authentic. What makes your promise different from your purpose is that your benefit statement is unique to you. It is something you can own. It is something only you can legitimately promise to your market. For example, your purpose can be to “alleviate poverty.” Chances are there will be other businesses or organizations that have this as their purpose. But chances are they are in different industries or different markets. And, if they are in a similar arenas as you, you most likely are helping to alleviate poverty in a way they aren’t. The answer to this question should appeal to either the self-interest of your audience or their market interest. It’s what you do, what you provide, what you offer that is of direct benefit to them. The powerful thing about having a promise made to ensure achievement of a noble purpose is that the self-interest of your audiences actually transforms into a benefit for the greater good.
Let’s take a minute and discuss the difference between features and benefits. Benefits are the good things that happen to your customers or primary audience when they use or are involved in your business, product, or its services. Although we are focusing on your benefit statement, it is important for you to know how best to express the features of your product or service. Clarity here is just as important as in any other aspect of communications. You may find that your features are part of the support points you’ll be collecting when you begin to answer the question ‘How can you prove it to me?. A features list for your product, service, and business is best communicated where time and space allow you to go into more detail and description. Features of a shoe may include what the sole is made of, how pointed the toe is, the arch architecture, color choices, comfort, waterproof, and whether it comes with a guarantee.
Your promise is shaped by the benefits of using your product or service. The most effective marketing focuses on a single most important benefit. Your benefit emerges from the experience of using your product or service. When you consider benefits, consider the question, “What does my primary audience receive from experiencing this feature?”
To go back to the shoe example, what is the benefit of your shoe having a slip-proof sole? What are the benefits of its arch architecture replicating the arches of Olympic runners? What are the benefits of the shoe being available in purple?
Classic benefit statements usually talk about how convenient you make things, or how you save time and money, or how your experience translates to dependability. Take a look at car marketing. Car brochures and online descriptions may list features, but their core impression with their audience is usually based on benefit. Most car buyers are not determining what to purchase based on the steering radius or the tire size or the number of cup holders. They buy the car because of how it will impact their life in general. How will they feel in the car? How will others feel in their car? Will their children be happy in the car? This is an emotional appeal. It touches what people think of themselves and makes the car part of that definition or perception. Now, imagine if you take this classic Madison Avenue brandthink and integrate the element of purpose into it. Suddenly emotions become real and perception is stripped of the superficial.
Now, look at your features. Pick the most significant feature in terms of providing audience benefit. Will that feature save time and money? Will it cure a disease? Will it make them more comfortable? Will it improve their relationships with others? With themselves? Will it help them achieve things they have always dreamed of achieving or doing? Will it make their world a better place?
You are not writing a tag line or headline here. You are crafting the most crystal clear and focused value proposition possible. This statement will be the kernel or nugget from which taglines, headlines, ads, posts and other communication tools emerge. There is no pressure to create a statement that is poetic or clever or entertaining or shocking. The key is to use laser-like precision in explaining what you have to offer your audience that makes them want to learn more and/or make contact with you.
You crafting one sentence captures and communicates the key value that you bring to the marketplace. That value is always being framed around the hopes and aspirations of your key audience. But here is where you realize the real power of communicating from a place of purpose. It compels you to elevate your value and benefit to a place that fulfills meaningful, sustainable needs and aspirations. Once you have discovered and validated your noble purpose, it will be virtually impossible for you to go the route of dumbing-down, spinning, hyping, or manipulating the marketplace. You will naturally appeal to the higher instincts, intentions, and dreams of your audiences. This is also where you realize that this approach to business and communications is the courageous breath of fresh air you have been longing for.
Always keep in mind that your benefit statement is a means to an end. It is your means of attracting and keeping customers or supporters. It’s this relationship between you and your customer that determines how effective you will be in fulfilling your purpose. It’s the purpose of your business that drives your need to connect to the marketplace. It’s the purpose of your organization that transforms typical “brand promises” into benefits that truly make things better. Just as your purpose creates deep meaning and passion for you and your business, your benefit statement will have the meaning necessary to create passionate loyalty and buy-in from your customers and key constituencies. Your benefit statement should have great redeeming value as opposed to creating redeeming value via coupons and rebates.
Now, craft your promise statement
Consider what it is that you do that makes someone want to do business with you. What do you do that causes them to stop, consider, buy, invest, contribute, support, partner, or learn more about you? What is the value proposition you have for your audience? What do you have to offer them that will make things better for them, or, help them meet an important need? What makes this benefit unique to your business? What makes this benefit truly compelling? Craft a short and sweet statement that captures this benefit. Is it true? Is it meaningful? Does it fortify the fulfillment of your cause? Make sure every word in this statement counts. When you’ve done this, you’re ready to move on to answering the question: How do you be true to your word?