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messaging sequence

Have you ever packed for a trip before knowing where you’re going? Have you ever purchased furniture for a home you have not yet seen? Have you ever proposed to someone before you’ve met?

All those questions are absurd, clearly. Yet more often than you might think, people come to us to create their logo or website before having a brand strategy. Even more often than that, people come to us because they have developed a logo or website before creating their brand strategy and are flummoxed by the fact that it’s not working.

As with all complicated processes, messaging sequence matters—the sequence of how it’s developed and how it’s delivered. Here are some high-level guidelines to keep you on track:

  • The end. The messaging sequence should start at the end. What is the end result you want to affect? In other words, who do you want to do what? More importantly, why do you want them to do it? Paint a picture in your mind of that end state.
  • The needs. Next, it’s critical to think about what they need to feel in order to get there. Just as importantly, what will they need to know? I can’t overstate the importance of this step. It’s easy for all of us to forget that not everyone knows everything we do, because to us, it’s second nature. Here’s where market research can prove invaluable.
  • The test. However, before committing to that path, it’s best to test it out on a group representative of your audience.
  • The path. Once you know what you want people to do, it’s time to plot out the when and where. Remember when we had to give directions to one another before our smartphones did? Think carefully about all the stops they’ll need to take and landmarks they’ll see down the path from where they are now to where you want them to end up. Think of them like the directional signs on the highway. Move them from one exit ramp to another. One approach looks like this:
    • Emotion. What are emotional drivers that will motivate them to act? This typically comes first because even though we like to think otherwise, most of our decisions are made emotionally. We often use facts and analytics to justify our emotional wants.
    • Facts. What are those facts that will help them justify their emotional wants? How many do they need? What are the most authentic and compelling?
    • Emotion. Once they have those facts—once they have given themselves permission to do what they want—it’s time to reinforce the emotional driver one more time.
  • The activation. It’s only now, five steps later, that you can hit that virtual send button, that you start your message sequence.
  • The review. You’re not done yet! Once your message is out in the world, it’s time to review it continually to ensure that it’s working the way you intended and to find incremental ways to improve it even if it is.

This messaging sequence can apply to almost any form of communication, from the foundational (such as a brand strategy) to executional (such as a social media marketing campaign).

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