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Dig Deeper To Find Your Core Message

If you ask the same, old marketing questions, you'll get the same, old marketing responses -- and you won’t get any closer to the differentiating and compelling messaging you really need.

You can’t come up with your true differentiation by, well, asking the question, ‘What makes us different?’ Not anymore than you can find your passion by asking yourself, ‘What am I passionate about?’

If you’ve ever tried that, you know.

5 layers of differentiation

Neuroscience to the Rescue

This happens when you ask a question using the same words that you’ve always used, because your brain  fires the same neural pathways that it’s always done. Our brains try to jump to the answer as quickly as possible.

That's just the way we’re wired.

That’s the reason so many companies come up with generic slogans like, ‘Our people make the difference.’ Or, ‘Price. Service. Selection.’ Or, ‘We really care about our customers.’

Yeah, ‘whatever’.

Most marketers can help you identify the category problem you solve. And they should be able to niche down to the who, where, and when. You might have read a book about the importance of 'why'.

But you're still just scratching the surface.

image of Essential Message D.I.G. Methodology | Michel Neray

At each stage of the process, the D.I.G. Methodology is driven by counter-intuitive processes and exercises designed to achieve a deeper level of understanding, and genuinely fresh insights.

Look, if you really want to identify your differentiation and core message, you have to dig deeper. You do that by tricking the brain into digging a whole new well. And you do that by taking a counter-intuitive line of questioning, one that interrupts the natural brain response of second -guessing where we’re going.

Now, I’m not asking you to describe your company as a tree, or an animal or a car or an alien. That may work for defining brand character, but it’s too esoteric to be useful for messaging – which serves as the foundation for everything else.

Think Negative to Dig Deeper

The methodology I’ve developed and I’ve been remarkably successful with, starts with a focus on the negative. I use it in my discovery sessions with company founders, salespeople, and developers, as well as in the interviews I conduct with customers, investors and other strategic partners.

I’ve developed a series of simple but profound exercises, like What Drives you Crazy Makes you Great – which looks at what drives you crazy, or, Dr. Credibility which analyzes pain points and underlying symptoms, or P-POD perceived point of difference, which looks at how people perceive the stereotype they associate you with.

Of course, we’re all positive people, so we don’t want to go all negatory. We know it doesn't look good on anyone when you slag your competitors, and we think that benefits isd where it’s at.

But stay with me here. I told you it’s a counter-intuitive approach, but it’s also an approach rooted in neuroscience. And it helps you avoid you digging the same well and coming up with the same old marketing bumph.

There are two undeniable traits of human beings.

  1. 1
    We focus on the negative whether we care to admit it or not. It’s called the negativity bias. We all have it.
  2. 2
    Human beings are problem-solving machines. We love to solve problems, and problems are bad. On the customer side, benefits don’t mean, uh anything, unless and until the customer connects them to a problem they have. But they might not even know they have the problem until we as marketers help them become, uh, painfully aware of it.

So let’s talk about problems. You think you’re solving the category problem. That’s WHAT you do, but everyone else in your category is also solving that problem. That’s WHAT your competitors are doing too.

Dig deeper

Here's the trick question that helps you do that: 'What is the underlying problem with the way that everyone else is trying to solve the category problem?'

Once you come up with a few ideas… then ask yourself, 'HOW are we solving THAT problem?'

Because that my friend, is the differentiated problem you solve. And HOW you solve it is your unique differentiation.

Now dig even deeper, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with dozens of companies, from individual advisors and consultants to investment-hungry tech start-ups to major corporations… it’s this.

When you dig even deeper than your HOW, that’s where you find your WHY, but it’s not the WHY you do WHAT you do. It’s the WHY you do HOW you do WHAT you do.

And there’s ALWAYS a story there. It's the story that connects the WHY you do with the HOW you do and the WHAT you do.. That’s the core piece of your core competency, core mission, core vision, core identity, and CORE MESSAGE.

It's what you do because it's who you are.

I grew up as a little French Jewish Kid in an English Protestant school in a French Catholic province. It didn’t matter which group of kids I hung out with, I was always the odd kid out. The kid who was just a little bit different. It’s just who I was.

And 30 years later, my clients ask me, ‘Michel, how did you uncover our difference so quickly?’

It’s just what I do, because it still is who I am.

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Michel Neray


What really drives me is helping companies and individuals to drill down to the core of their unique value and differentiation, and then craft their Essential Message' that attracts and connects with audiences and stakeholders... including customers, investors, strategic partners, and top talent. As a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant for over 30 years, I've worked with leaders and sales teams in more than nine countries around the world, from Montreal to Moscow, and from Israel to Iran.

I love to lead workshops, speak at conferences, and work with clients one on one.... as much as I love to spend time with family, paddle whitewater, ride my motorcycle (hard), and write and perform my songs...

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