4 Steps To Help You Clarify Your Market Messaging

“Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal buildings and non-Federal buildings occupied by the Federal government during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason of internal or external illumination.”

That’s an actual government directive issued in 1942, soon after the outbreak of World War II. How long did it take you to understand what the directive meant? How quickly could you have sprung into action to obey it? Did you need to re-read it several times? Or did you give up halfway through and skip to the next paragraph?

When President Franklin Roosevelt read the directive, he understood both its intention and its need for clarity. 

So he clarified it: “Tell them,” Roosevelt said, “that in buildings where they have to keep the work going on to put something across the windows.”

Ah-ha! Light bulbs of understanding went on (behind the blackout curtains, of course).

If You Confuse, You Lose

Every year, businesses spend thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns that yield disappointing results.

Is your business one of those? If so, you might be losing a key battle for your customers’ minds.

Every day, human brains are waging a battle with an invisible and overpowering opponent–Information. 

Books, billboards, smartphones, news feeds, social media, Google–every minute, your potential customers are bombarded by information.  

In Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller identifies two things the human brain is always trying to do. 

1) Survive and thrive. God hardwired our brains to look for answers to our problems and ways to move in a positive direction.

2) Conserve calories. We tune out information that does not help us survive and thrive.

Since the human brain works this way, we only listen to companies that communicate simply and clearly. As Donald Miller puts it, “If you confuse, you lose.”

You might be asking, “What exactly do you mean by a confusing message? Give me some examples.”

Examples of Confusing Messages

Let’s suppose that you are a farmer looking for a reputable company to tune the engine of your diesel-powered combine harvester. Here are headlines you might encounter during your search.

1. Too Specialized

Synergistic Combustion Optimization and Injector Synchronization

for Supreme Torque and BHP Enhancement.

If you are a diesel engine specialist, this is your language. The terms are common and the expressions are familiar. To the average customer, however, this jargon is a foreign language.

The expert assumes that his customers understand the industry language that is familiar to him. Often his customers simply don’t understand his message. For them, it’s like being at the Tower of Babel. They just hear loud, confusing talk. And they find another company who speaks their language.

This communication gap is sometimes called the “Curse of Knowledge.”

2. Too Vague

Cutting-Edge Diesel Technology

What service does this company really offer? New engine development? Emission reduction? Hybrid technology? Improved fuel efficiency? California particulate compliance?

If your company doesn’t say plainly what it offers, your customers won’t be sure if you are the right company for them. And they will move on in search of certainty.

3. Too Broad

Get the Power, Efficiency, Productivity, and Reliability

You Expect From Your Farm Equipment. 

Don’t promise the farm! This headline is simply too broad. When prospective customers need to process too much random information, they begin to ignore your message and move on to easier reading.

Did you notice the multiple commas in this example? Too many commas in your messaging may be a warning sign of too much information.

4. Too Clever

Purring or Puttering?

Your One-Stop Tune-up Shop.

In a crowded information space, every company jockeys to grab attention. Cute headlines, surprising statements, and clever wording may have marketing merit, but not if they come at the expense of clarity. 

Customers don’t care how clever you are until you’ve proved that you can solve their problems.

5. Too Self-Focused

Central Oklahoma’s Unrivaled Diesel Tuning Masters

Ugh. Yes, a company should project confidence and competence, but notice how this headline puts the focus on the company itself rather than the value it offers its clients. A bragging company actually erodes its customers’ trust by appearing either cocky or insecure. 

Your company is not the hero of your relationship with your clients. You exist to guide your clients in solving their problems. Customers can sense what motivates a company, and if you promote yourself, they will find another company that solves their problem.

How to Clarify Your Message

If you’ve recognized that your message is muddled, what are steps you can take to clarify it? 

Following are four steps you can remember using the acronym AMPS. Your answers to the questions in each step will form the backbone of a strong messaging framework for your company.

1. A-udience 

Who is my ideal audience?

Before you can speak your customers’ language, you need to understand them from the inside out.

  • What characteristics do my ideal customers share?
  • What primary frustration are they experiencing?
  • What do they say they want to fix their frustration?
  • What do they really need to help them overcome their problem (even if they don’t know it yet)?

When you are crystal clear on who your audience is, you’re prepared to connect with them. You are able to build a bridge between their needs and your ability to meet their needs. And you can build that bridge of relatable planks–humanity, empathy, shared experience, and common language.

Messaging that directly addresses their frustrations (and how you can help them)assures your potential customers that they are the central focus of what you do. When they know that you understand their problems and can guide them to the answers they’re seeking, prospects are well on the way to trusting you with their business.

2. M-ission 

What is my company’s niche mission?

Few businesses survive by trying to be “all things to all men.” A business thrives when it clearly defines and articulates the niche it fills and fills well.

  • What is the single most important product or service of my business?
  • How do we serve our customers?
  • When people think of my company, what do I want them to picture?
  • What core values do I hold in my business?
  • What motivates us to do what we do?

Only by defining your niche and mission can you understand the true value your company offers. Understanding the value you offer enables you to clarify your messaging. 

When you clarify your message, you distill your work into words that attract your ideal clients.

3. P-lan

What simple steps can my customers take to work with me?

Have you ever read a well-designed email that fizzles because it offers no clear next steps? Have you ever read a very helpful webpage that gave you no prompt to take the next logical action? 

A simple, incremental roadmap to doing business with your company removes much of the hesitancy and resistance blocking your prospects.

  • What three simple steps can my prospects take to get started doing business with me? 
  • What is the first step I want them to take? (Call, fill out a form, schedule a consultation). 
  • Is my Call to Action (CTA) simple, clear, and prominent on all my marketing material?
  • Is my website scannable? Within a few moments, can visitors understand how you will help them solve their problem?
  • Am I selling a solution instead of a product or service?

Remember, customers are looking for a solution to an aggravating problem. Their lives are complicated already. Your business wins when you give clients the tools they need to solve their problems. If you make the solution simple, prospects will want to do business with you. 

4. S-tory

How can I engage my clients in a compelling brand story?

Researchers say the average person spends 30% of his time daydreaming. One of the most effective tools to stop people from daydreaming is story. 

Think back to your childhood. Which teaching method made you sit up and pay attention? A) Being told that God used David to defeat the Philistines. Or B) Hearing the story of a young shepherd boy who threw off the king’s heavy armor, picked up his sling and five smooth stones, wound up his sling just like he had practiced on sheep predators, and sent a stone whizzing straight for a broad forehead looming 9 feet over him. (Cue a mini earthquake and rising clouds as Goliath bit the dust.)

Story is one of the most compelling tools available to engage and influence the human brain. God created our brains to connect with the emotions of a story. You tell a story. Your client engages with your story. Click! There’s an emotional connection between you. 

Story marketing shows your customers that they are at the center of what you do. It shows them that you understand their problems and that you can guide them to the answers they’re seeking. 

“Story is one of the most compelling tools available to engage and influence the human brain.”

Your marketing message has to be simple enough for your customers to understand, but still compelling enough that people want to follow along with the story you’re creating. 

  • Is my marketing drawing clients into a story loop or simply offering them a product?
  • What stories of pain or frustration do my customers tell me?
  • How do their stories change after working with my company?
  • Who do my clients aspire to become?
  • What are the successes I provide my clients? What failures do I help them avoid?
  • How can I weave these story elements into my marketing message? (more specifics on this in a moment)

Filtering your marketing message through the elements of a story is the best way to engage your audience.

Customers connect with a story in which they are the hero who needs a transformative answer to their frustration, and they are confident knowing that this transformation is possible with your guidance.

Does this website header pass the AMPS test?

Earlier we looked at some muddled messages a farmer might encounter while searching for a reputable company to tune a diesel engine.

What about a company with this headline and call to action? Would you do business with this company?

Precision Diesel Engine Tuning for Agriculture

Optimize Your Equipment’s Efficiency

Schedule a consultation


  1. Audience: No confusion here. The company serves agricultural clients.
  2. Mission: No ambiguity here. The company tunes diesel engines.
  3. Plan: No roadblocks here. The first step to take is a phone call to schedule a consultation.
  4. Story: While the headline and CTA alone may not tell a complete story, the subheader hints at the storyline that will be developed by the rest of the website copy: 

Farmers are squeezed by high fuel prices and undependable commodity prices. This company helps farmers optimize their diesel equipment to economize fuel, resulting in savings in the bank and fewer wrinkles on weather-beaten faces.

The Seven-Part StoryBrand Framework

Rosewood Marketing uses the StoryBrand framework to simplify and clarify our message and our clients’ messages.

The StoryBrand framework is a marketing process that helps brands transform their messages to resonate with customers. The framework is detailed in Donald Miller’s book, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen.

The StoryBrand framework is a 7-step process to building and telling a story that builds marketing success for your brand.

Step 1: Identify the desires of the hero (your customer).

The StoryBrand Framework puts the customer at the center of the marketing process and enables you to focus on what matters most to them.

When customers look at your website and other advertisements and sense that there’s nothing about your content that can help them, their brains automatically tune you out.

Step 2: Identify their problems.

You are marketing to people who have problems, and they hire you to help them solve those problems. The problems could be emotional or physical or both. What matters is that your message brings their problem into sharp focus.

Step 3: Introduce your business as the guide who can help your customers overcome their problem.

This part of the framework is more about what you do than who you are. You can guide clients through their problem because you’ve done it before. Let your hero know that you have the empathy and expertise to get it done.

Step 4: Give them a plan.

Show them a roadmap they can follow. Show them the way. Give your customer the tools they need to succeed. 

Step 5: Call to action.

The call to action is a clear message about how your hero can move forward in their journey. 

Step 6: Help them avoid failure.

The hero can easily get lost and experience failure if they don’t have a guide to help them. If they choose you as their guide, you can help them avoid failure. 

Step 7: End their story in success.

The finale to the StoryBrand Framework paints a picture of the customer’s experience when they choose to buy your product or service. Use words that allow them to visualize the story as clearly as possible.

“Clear marketing messaging tells a story that starts and ends with the hero (customer) in mind.

Wrapping It Up

Listen to Donald Miller summarize the power and necessity of clear market messaging. 

Imagine your customer is a hitchhiker. You pull over to give him a ride, and the one burning question on his mind is simply ‘Where are you going?’ 

But as he approaches, you roll down the window and start talking about your mission statement, or how your grandfather built this car with his bare hands. This person doesn’t care.

Everybody wants to be taken somewhere. If we don’t tell people where we’re taking them, they’ll engage another brand.

When you take the time to clarify your marketing message, you do the work so your customer doesn’t have to.

The company that communicates most clearly and simply will win. 

Will that company be yours?

Do you want help to clarify your marketing message?

We recognize that while  every business needs a clear message, some are still growing into a fit for Rosewood’s full Marketing Guide Path™.

We are excited to now offer stand-alone messaging projects to develop a StoryBrand framework for any business. After we deliver your StoryBrand framework, you can choose additional packages to get the words and layout sketch from which you can develop your web home page, lead generator, and sales email sequence.  

3 Easy Steps to Message Clarity

  1. Collaborate

Schedule a phone consultation.

  1. Clarify

Work with our team to clarify your company’s message.

  1. Climb

Use your StoryBrand messaging to propel you to marketing success.

Visit our Storybrand webpage

About the Author: Lyndon Martin is Rosewood’s Messaging Director. He collaborated with the Messaging Team and the Sales Team to create this article. Contact Lyndon and the Rosewood team at lyndonmartin@rosewood.us.com