By Walt Jaschek
Someone’s missing from our messaging meetings. Not Marissa. She’s still at lunch with the client. Good. Not Marv. He’s under his headphones. Let him be.
The missing person is our prospect.
That’s “prospect,” singular, not “prospects,” plural, nor (ugh) “target audience.” F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Begin with an individual, and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created… nothing.”
An individual prospect should be present in all messaging meetings — not physically, fun as that would be — but virtually. If we don’t have research, qualitative and quantitative, then the prospect P.O.V. can be represented via a unique scientific innovation I call “best guess.”
It starts like this. On the whiteboard I draw a cartoon figure of the prospect, give that “person” a name, because a real name invokes a real conversation, and for the sake of this post, let’s call “her” “Winona,” and if that name invokes an a certain film actress, well, pure coincidence. (Paid stock photo above notwithstanding.)
Then we as a group look at the cartoon avatar (now popular called “personas,”) and list a few things we “know” about this person. Often, participants in the session can be effortlessly, ridiculously specific, because they often actually know, In Real Life, an individual prospect: “She loves her new Tesla.” “She only drinks reds.” “She probably has never heard of our product.”
These avatars, then, “participate” in the brainstorm, as we channel their reactions to our messaging ideas. When someone takes a stab at a differentiator – “our people make the difference” – we toss that to Winona. Maybe she agrees; maybe she calls “B.S.” But at some ideas, she smiles, and I draw the smile. The ones we feel she truly “gets” are usually more relevant, more authentic, and, praise Odin, less complex.
About that, a great book called Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn, says this:
“Complexity is a coward’s way out. There is nothing simple about simplicity, and achieving it requires empathizing (by perceiving others’ needs and expectations), distilling (by reducing to its essence the substance of one’s offer) and clarifying (by making the offer easier to understand and use).”
Hmmm. That’s a lot of parentheses for a paragraph about simplicity. But of course I believe they’re right.
I believe the mission of message strategists is not to make our product or service understandable.
It’s to make our prospect feel understood.
And at that, look: Winona smiles!