One of the definitions of message is “an inspired communication from a profit or religious leader.” Message is also defined as “an implicit meaning” – as in, what was the unspoken intent or significance of the communication? what was the author’s true, underlying goal?

Since people are generally smart and sensitive, they quickly “get” what the true message is, and they react accordingly. Most messages “fall on deaf ears” because the recipient “gets” that the message is really a “pitch” and all the sender wants is to sell something. The recipient has been reduced to a human credit card.

In the end, most messages have no chance of achieving the sender’s desired outcome, because the sender has ignored some very basic guidelines and has sent a message that achieves precisely the opposite of what s/he hoped to achieve.


We have learned, after reviewing thousands of messages over more than two years that successful messages need to contain three elements. They need to engage, to educate and to inspire action. We recommend that when you set about creating a message, you give careful thought to each of these elements:

Engagement, of course, has gotten harder than ever, because so many of us are overwhelmed by the torrent of communications that rain down on us from an ever-expanding range of communication technologies. Engagement now requires much more careful thought.

Our research reveals that engaging messages tend to contain the following elements, among others.

  1. you must decide whether to send or post a message at all. Unless it’s truly important for the recipient, don’t bother.
  2. keep it short. We recommend that our customers keep the message (in this case an audio-visual communication) 1 to 2 minutes in length, and it is critical that you engage the recipient in the first 15 seconds of the message.
  3. personalize the message and demonstrate to the recipient that you not only know something about them, but you genuinely believe that the message is useful for them.

This last element – the authenticity of the message – cannot be overstated. If you don’t really believe that what you are conveying is worthwhile, the recipient will be turned off very quickly. Messages should have high integrity; they should reflect the author’s genuine conviction that the content is valuable. If you don’t have true enthusiasm for what you are sharing, you can’t expect the recipient to get engaged.

Once the recipient is engaged, you have the opportunity to educate, to give something that adds to the recipient’s life. Most messages are pitches, they are typically a recitation of the product or service the sender wants you to buy. This is not educational; what’s needed is content that adds to the recipient’s life.

The content should not only be intrinsically interesting, it must be relevant to the particular circumstances of the recipient. This will often require some research about the recipient, and while you may not unearth volumes of information, we’ve found that just a snippet of something relevant goes a long way.

If you’ve achieved engagement, and you’ve educated the recipient, you now have a far better chance of getting the recipient to take the desired action. The recipient “gets” that you are genuine, “gets” that you have proactively shared something of value and is thus more likely to accede to your request. We recommend that, in creating a message, the first step should be to clarify for yourself what the precise action is that your seek to inspire.

The best way to ‘check’ to see if you’ve achieved a message that engages, educates and leads to action, is to clear your head and send the message to yourself or to a friend who has no relationship to your company. Do you really believe that you’ve been engaged? Do you really believe that you’ve received educational content of value? If not, you’re probably better off not sending it. Wait until you have a message that clearly achieves engagement, education and inspires action.

Guest Author:

Tom Hakel, CEO of Goldmail, Inc., is one of those rare visionaries that is not only smart and clever, but a genuinely nice guy. And he’s got a product that every single one of us should be using (and, dare I say, within a short time it will be expected that we all use his visual email capability). In this guest post, he focuses us on the sort of messages we should be sending. They certainly align with Buying Facilitation®.

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