Recent national studies indicate the average consumer is exposed to no less than 1,000 marketing messages per day. They come in many forms: ads, brochures, signage, e-mail, Web content, presentations, newsletters, sales scripts, billboards, fliers and coupons, and the list goes on. That’s a lot of noise if you’re a business operator trying to get a prospect’s attention. How do your messages stack up? Your marketing messages represent a large investment of time and money. If you think they should be working better than they are – and who doesn’t – this might be a good time to check your messages.

Messages have many characteristics that add or detract from their ability to communicate and persuade, including: words, visuals, volume and even smell. For today, however, let’s just stick to the written aspect of your marketing messages. Here are 10 rules for making sure your marketing messages are clear, convincing and compelling in whatever marketing vehicle you use.

Be clear

Have something to say and say it clearly. Sometimes we get caught up in clever presentation that actually detracts from the real message. Remember, what you say is more important than how you say it. Clever is risky – clear is better. If you don’t have a message that offers compelling value when clearly presented, you might think twice about spending the money to promote it.

Have single purpose

The most effective marketing messages are designed to accomplish a single action. “Call this number right now for a free evaluation.” “Click on this link to receive our new white paper.” “Try this new internet browser for 30 days to see if you like it.” Don’t try to do too much in one message. If you want them to call you – focus on that. Maximize your results at this step in the process and then focus on the right message for the next step.

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Make message fit medium

Every medium has inherent strengths and weaknesses. The yellow pages are two-dimensional, radio spots are audio-only and window displays require walk-by traffic. A great newspaper ad makes a poor Internet ad.

Good marketing will leverage and integrate the components of your different program – not duplicate them. Create messages that take advantage of the strengths of each medium.

Get to the point-quickly

Give them the good stuff first. Most of the time, your audience won’t make it through the entire message. Most people don’t get past the headline of most print ads, nor get all the way through an e-mail. Make sure you tell them what is important up front. If they’re interested they’ll keep going, and you’ll be able to provide the detail about the how, why, when and where of your offer.

It’s not about you

If you want to engage your audience, remember to keep them the center of the discussion. Announcing a product improvement or a new store opening is only valuable in terms of how it will benefit your customer. Keep the focus on your audience and you’ll get their attention and hopefully their business.

Get personal

The best promotional copy is written as if you are sitting across the table from your reader (or listener) communicating one-to-one. This mental image will help you keep the message conversational and in the “active” voice.

The more you know about your audience, the better you are able to tailor your messages. Contact management tools, CRM software, and sophisticated CTI technology can help you deliver tailored messages more efficiently.

Be specific

Details are always more interesting than generalities. And, they’re more believable. When you present specific information your audience will often give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have the data to back it up – which brings us to the next point.

Tell the truth

At the exact point when your audience thinks you’re not being honest with them, they will tune you out and refuse to believe the rest of your message. Don’t say you’re “the only one” if you’re not. Don’t announce you’re “the biggest” or “the cheapest” unless you offer proof-points to back it up. No successful business is built on promises it can’t live up to. Think about how you might use real customer testimonials, the latest industry research or statements of support from a recognized expert. If you are exaggerating to make a point, make it obvious.

Tell them what to do

Make the “call to action” obvious. Assuming you have designed your message to accomplish a single purpose, don’t’ leave your audience hanging.

Tell them precisely what you want them to do: i.e. “Call this toll-free number before midnight July 31st and request a free sample to be express mailed to you at no charge.” Remember, yours is just one of more than 1,000 messages they’re exposed to today. Make it easy for them to take the desired action.

No errors please

If you want to be taken seriously make sure your message is accurate and error-free. Double check the dates, times, phone numbers, names and addresses. And check for typos and language errors as well.

Remember, the default expectation is your information is perfectly accurate. Your customers are quick to link sloppy marketing to the quality of your products and services.

When you follow these rules to build market-facing messages you’ll be able to get more value and better results across all your marketing investments. Good marketing requires good messaging – and those are the rules of the game.

Lon Hendrickson is president and founder of AlphaBrand Strategies. He can be reached via e-mail at lon.hendrickson@alphabrand.com.