Nothing is more important to the success of a company than your marketing message. Whether you're selling a multimillion-dollar computer system or just selling an idea for your startup, your marketing message opens the door, sets expectations, and is a touchstone for every future interaction.

Most companies struggle with their marketing message. The problem is perspective. When you work inside a company or have a great idea, you automatically adopt a set of assumptions about what "everyone" knows. You become so close to your product that you can only see it from the inside looking out.

Once you're inside an industry, you quickly absorb the beliefs that most people in your industry share: 1) that every company needs your product, 2) that every potential buyer understands your product, and 3) that your product is obviously superior to everything else available.

Given that perspective, your marketing message will be something like: "We have the highest quality ABC product because it has feature XYZ." (Ugh.)

To customers, such messages are both overly vague ("What does 'highest quality' mean?") and overly technical ("Why would I want XYZ, whatever that is?"). To make matters worse, chances are that message is nearly identical to every other marketing message from your competitors. The message manages to be both boring and confusing.

Fortunately, it's easy to write a killer marketing message if, whenever you make a statement about your product, service, or company, you ask this simple question:

"What's so great about that?"

For example, suppose you've created an app for an augmented reality (AR) headset that automatically recognizes the parts of an engine and shows the wearer how to service that engine. If you're a gear-head like me, you immediately see why that would be useful. Your natural marketing message is "Hey, look at this insanely cool app!"

OK, maybe not that goofy, but probably something like: "This AR headset shows service technicians how to fix engines."

However, the chief service engineer (CSE) for a manufacturer of heavy equipment--a guy who's used to having his hands covered in engine grease--is likely to take one look at the thing and say: "Look, we have our service manuals on the iPads. What do we need this fancy contraption for?" (Note: This is based on a real-life situation.)

Here's where the magic question comes in. Before talking to the CSE, you hone your message as follows:

  • This AR headset shows service technicians how to fix engines.
  • What's so great about that?
  • The service technicians will have their hands free as they perform the service and are guaranteed to have the most accurate information.
  • What's so great about that?
  • That will make it easier to train new service technicians and will reduce the average service times by an estimated 25 percent.
  • What's so great about that?
  • Your recruitment costs will plummet, and you can service customers more quickly.

Now that you've gotten to the core of your product's greatness, you have a marketing message that will make sense to the CSE, rather than just to other people in your industry. Here it is:

  • "This headset makes it easier to train service technicians and decreases average service time because technicians can see how to service the engine while leaving their hands free to actually do the service."

Unlike the tech-heavy original message, this marketing message neatly encapsulates what's important to the customer and explains how your product positively affects the customer's business.

This question can hone a marketing message for everything and anything that you might want to create or sell. Even yourself. For example, let's take a line from a résumé: "As associate marketer, I was responsible for planning trade events." Here's the process:

  • As associate marketer, I was responsible for planning trade events.
  • What's so great about that?
  • Well, planning the event made certain it would come off without a hitch.
  • What's so great about that?
  • Well, we identified about 10 new customers at each of the trade shows I planned.
  • What's so great about that?
  • Well, the salespeople closed about half those opportunities.
  • What's so great about that?
  • Well, we made about $5 million in sales that we wouldn't otherwise have made.

So there you are. You change that line in your resume to read:

  • "As associate marketer, I planned 10 events that generated $5 million in sales."

Quite an improvement, don't you think?

No, seriously, this question works with ANYTHING. Just try it. It always works. Always.