How do you cut through the noise?

I gave a talk at a function the other night, and was asked an interesting question by one of the guests, being how do we cut through the noise to market our products, services and ourselves. The Zen answer is, you make a different sound by being silent. The practical answer is, you need to focus on three things to cut through the noise:

1. The message.

2. The messenger.

3. The context for your message.

These points were made and backed up by social research in ‘The Tipping Point', a book which I urge all marketers to read. This article uses the tenets of the book to suggest how to best cut through the noise.

1. The Message

Make sure you have the right message

Test your message on the target market

Your message needs to deliver something - what is the point of it?

Are you delivering the whole message, or just part of it?

Is the content of your message memorable? What do people remember? Are you sure?

Are people responding the way you want them to? Maybe your message doesn't match

your defined market.

If you think you have the best product or service in the world, and no-one else is

responding the way you have, what is it that you haven't communicated?

Understand what drives your target market, to gain a better understanding of what aspects of the message will be important. For example, the book states that Volvo lost market share over a period of many years for not releasing a sporting car onto the market sooner.

Just because drivers want safe cars, doesn't mean they don't want image or style.

Work through this by stating your current message, and test it on someone who knows

your product or your service or your business.

2. The Messenger

The point about the messenger is made very eloquently in ‘The Tipping Point', but the one aspect of that argument which I'll use here is to talk about the most powerful messengers, after the ‘Salesperson'. The latter is referred to in its most powerful form, that of charmer, captivator and mesmerisor. Most people do not fall into that category, which is just as well or we'd all be buying everything we could.

'Six degrees of separation' did not come about because of the movie of the same name. The expression came from a social research experiment back in the ‘60s. A sample of 160 randomly selected people in Nebraska were given a letter whose target was a lawyer who worked in Boston. The bottom line is, of the letters that reached him, (and I think I recall correctly, but forgive me if I haven't), 15% reached him in 5 or 6 ‘degrees'. They were mostly all delivered at the final point by 3 people. These 3 people were ‘connectors'.

If you tell a connector your message, they will spread it to 100 people, for example, but if you tell someone who isn't a connector, they may only tell 2 or 3. Connectors typically know many people from many different ‘camps' - for example, a person who has changed the direction of their career several times may be well connected in several industries in different geographic areas, and have a vast network of people they can access, or at least spread the word to.

Look for connectors amongst your clients or contact base, and give them the right message.

Market to groups within your target area, to maximise the number of people and potential connectors, who hear and can spread the message.

3. The context

The context for our message is how we communicate and in what environment? As an extreme example, don't hold a special customer event, where you want to showcase new products and new developments in your growing company, in a low cost second-rate environment. The message may be clear and memorable and on-target, but the context is wrong.

'Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood' was a movie adapted from a book. The reason the book sold so well was because of the context in which it was marketed. Initially, book readings were the main form of marketing to launch the book, during which women met and chatted and shared the story. Life imitating art? As a result, groups of book clubs started to read this book and it became ‘the book of the moment' in that context. Many people shared it at once, and then told many more about it. Word of mouth ‘tipped' the sales of the book into mega units. The context for the marketing message was far more successful, for that book, than other traditional book launch activities.

So, next time you evaluate your marketing strategies, or are about to release a new product or service onto the market, remember ‘The Tipping Point' and the 3 points here: the message, the messenger and the context, done well, can cut through the noise.


Jenny Stilwell is a business mentor, consultant, speaker and author of ‘Small Business CEO'. Her unusual credentials combining senior executive and CEO roles, with starting and growing several successful consulting practices of her own, make her well qualified as a specialist in helping others create the right structure and strategy for growth.

Jenny provides one-on-one mentoring and CEO advice, consulting services and a range of resources across all aspects of managing a growing compa...

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