Back in the halcyon days of the Nineties and early Noughties, Australia was a dominant force in world rugby. At times a stunning combination of skill, persistence and guts, during this period, memorable moments were etched in Wallaby history; many of them under the determined and focused leadership of John Eales. One such moment is firmly embedded in rugby folklore.
During the final moments of the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand in 2000, with a penalty to seal the fate of the match and Australia’s regular boot, Sterling Mortlock already off, Eales was left to kick the goal. No pressure.
With millions of eyes upon him (watch it here), and the precision of someone who had perfected the kick through hours of practice, the football soared perfectly through the uprights to win the game for Australia by a single point (24 -23) on NZ turf (a feat sadly achieved on far too few occasions, particularly in recent history).
If you’ve never played or even watched a single game of rugby, you may be thinking, who cares? I do.
Having followed rugby at all its levels, I love how analogous it is to business and life, even at the very grassroots level of junior rugby on Saturday mornings.
What was most striking about Eales’ famous kick and relevant for business now, was his focus and precision – a result of practice and constant refinement – which gave him the confidence he would hit the target.
Hit and miss is not board game
Ever wondered why there are times when it seems no matter what you say or do, you can’t get your message across? Frustrating, tedious and even demoralising, it can contribute to discussions that lead to nowhere, opportunities that go begging, and even relationship demise.
By contrast, a bullseye shot when you’ve hit the target demonstrates the power of a message which is articulate, precise and meaningful. Cultivating a strong sense of appreciation in both messenger and recipient, the bullseye has sniper-like accuracy, economy of words, and depth of meaning.
Crafted and considered, this kind of message reflects what you’re all about succinctly, in ways that illicit exactly the response you seek from your audience. It’s a simple task, although not necessarily easy. Constructing such a message takes careful planning and research of your market. It also requires imagination and creativity to give it life.
Daily in the world of content marketing you’ll find a plethora of tools and tricks for designing your message. Here are just a couple I’ve found useful.
Message maps – the Whereis of content
Ideas abound as to the way your key message can be developed. One useful tool is a message map. Frequently used for internal communication, the message map concept is adaptable to any small business or individual looking for a way to capture what to say to whom, and in what language.
Working from a ‘home base’, the well researched pillars of your brand (product, service, you) can be worked into your main messages. Based on tangible proof, your key messages may espouse benefits and differentiators, and then be supported by real stories, case studies or facts.
This great blog by George Stenizer covers this topic very nicely.
Features, benefits, evidence
Back in the corporate bidding world, we followed a system called “Winning Bids”, which kept the bid writers focused on the features, benefits and evidence of our proposal. Via a process involving those responsible for the tender’s development, we assembled our research, collective ideas, client knowledge and understanding of the service offering to prepare a winning bid. Well, sometimes the bids were successful.
Regardless of outcome, the process we applied to thinking through and articulating a clear message paid huge dividends.
It cut out much of the waffle, which is a not so distinguishing feature of tenders from professional services firms. Messages that would have been missed if it had only referenced the perspective of one area (say engineering, for example) were introduced and went a considerable way to the audience feeling their needs hadn’t fallen on deaf ears. Yes, they’d been heard. Wow.
While it may have involved more effort, the process also integrated different ways of thinking across the organisation. In turn, this lay the foundation for a deeper appreciation of the diverse perspectives marketing and technical offer.
Did someone say “To Sell is Human”?
Love it or hate it, Dan Pink’s icon of the modern day market, To Sell is Human provides practical how to’s for getting clear about your message. A central tenet of this book is that regardless of what you do, whether you’re in business or working as an employee, you’re in sales. If that’s the case, then getting your message right has become an important life skill.
I’m inclined to agree with Dan. If we don’t care enough and take time to understand what’s important to our market (or boss, partner, children, colleagues) and communicate it in a way which makes sense to them, we’re always going to have a tough boat to row. Think of any bad day at work and there’s every chance that crossed wires were involved.
One exercise from the book, which I found valuable for focusing my thoughts taking the time to articulate my message in progressively fewer words.
Starting at 50, then 25, and working my way down, I found myself becoming increasingly ruthless with my words, until I had distilled my message down to a core of just six.
Try it. You’ll find it almost liberating to leave the excess behind.
There may be more method than madness to this concept. If you understand the sales process and that our attention span is ever decreasing (American attention spans have shrunk to eight seconds), creating a laser focused message is vital.
Irrespective of the way you choose to refine your message, once you do, it is almost like reaching holy ground. Making it your practice to refine your message so it conveys what’s important about you in terms that show you understand what’s important to the message recipient is a skill. Master it and you’ll have the best chance of kicking the winning goal in your very own Bledisloe Cup.