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How to Know What Messages Work

How to Know What Messages Work

December, 9 2020 | Hillary Hovinga of HAVEN | a creative hub

Stantout MessagesOn any given day, the average US consumer is exposed to more than 20,000 messages. Add to that the breakneck pace of modern life and the ever-presence of mobile devices, and it can feel nearly impossible for organizations to capture their target audiences’ attention. So, how can your organization break through the clutter and capture your audience’s’ attention with meaningful messages? 

One effective way to do this is through regular message testing. Message testing is used by the most successful organizations (e.g., McDonalds, PepsiCo, Under Armour and more…) around the globe to determine which messages resonate with their target audiences and drive them to the intended action (e.g., making a purchase, donating to a cause, or signing up to volunteer).

Message testing typically seeks to answer the following questions about each message under consideration:

  1. Is it likeable?
  2. Is it believable?
  3. Is it memorable?
  4. Is it unique?
  5. Is it relevant to the wants and needs of the customer or supporter?
  6. Will it influence donation/purchase decisions?

By exploring the target audiences’ responses to these questions, organizations can narrow down their potential messages to only the most effective ones on the list. These messages can then be used in advertising or other outreach efforts.

Despite the importance of message testing, many organizations choose not to engage in this type of testing due to concerns about the time and cost involved. However, the benefits of investing in message testing far outweigh the costs.

WHY message testing is crucial to your organization’s success:

Save Time
By determining which messages are most effective, you won’t have to second guess your work or go back to the drawing board when a campaign is not producing the desired results. Do it right the first time, and you won’t waste time and energy on ineffective approaches.

Save Money
Although there will be some cost for message testing, the overall savings are worth it. If your messaging is off-target, you will end up spending more time and money in the long run. Plus, there are some creative and low-cost options at your fingertips (keep reading for the HOW!).

Reach Your Goals
Are you trying to reach new donors to support an important initiative? Do you need more volunteers? Would you like to recruit a more diverse set of board members? Whatever your goals, message testing can help. By reaching the right audience with the right message, you will dramatically increase your chances of success.

Strengthen Your Brand
By sharing meaningful, relevant messages that are on-brand, you build trust and differentiation. With a consistent, research-based approach to messaging, you can create lasting loyalty and deeper connections with your donors, supporters, and followers.

Know Your Audiences
What if you could read your donors’ minds? Oh, wait! You can! By performing ongoing research (including message testing), you will better understand their needs, wants, preferences, and behaviors. With this information at your fingertips, your organization can keep a pulse on your audiences and become experts at keeping them engaged.

WHAT types of message testing your organization can utilize:

Qualitative Research
It is helpful to test your messages out with people who represent the target audience for your campaign. For example, let’s say you are trying to determine the best messages for an end-of-year fundraising campaign. Consider reaching out to some of your trusted donors to review the potential messages and give you feedback. If your goal is to reach new donors, determine the profile characteristics (e.g. female, 30’s-60’s, specific location-based) and see if your staff members or friends could reach out to a handful of people in their circles to get feedback.

Quantitative Research
In addition to getting qualitative feedback, you can gain additional insights (and more reliable results) from some basic quantitative feedback. There are a number of tools you can use for message testing. Survey Monkey is a fairly easy and cost-effective program. There are a variety of templates for research, including a message testing template you can start with and modify to fit your needs. There are also more robust research and testing programs such as Zappi, Qualtrics, and AYTM.


Be Heard.

Take your organization’s messages to the next level with the Amplified Message workshop on 2.11.21. This hands-on training will provide your organization with ready-to-use tools to test what messages work best.

This training is approved for 2 CFRE CE Credits

Members: $50.00

Non-Members: $100.oo

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