I’ve been filling your eyeballs with a bunch of information on how to pinpoint your audience based on what questions they’re asking, and I introduced this as-yet-unnamed tool where you could “place” your audience on one of three bases of a metaphorical baseball diamond:
- At First Base: They’re UNAWARE of both the “real” problem and the “real” solution (as you see both)
- At Second Base: They’re AWARE of the “real” problem as you see it (at least a little bit), but unaware of the solution
- At Third Base: They’re AWARE of both the “real” problem and solution
- Home Base is where you’re trying to get them — that’s where they understand, agree with, and are acting on the “real” problem and your solution
The “rules” are:
- You can only pick one “base runner” to focus on in any piece of content (you’ll still capture others on the way, I promise)
- Your content needs to advance your audience from one base to another (First to Second, Second to Third, Third to Home)
- As in baseball, your audience can’t skip a “base” or run them out of order… so neither can your content
To understand why, we have to look at what’s really happening with each of those base runners, and how the framing of the question (the words they use) doesn’t always equal the function of it (what needs to happen before they can move forward on the baseline).
If we think back to the kinds of questions they’re asking, it gets a bit clearer.
Someone at First Base who is unaware of the “real” problem needs to understand WHY they aren’t getting the answer to their question, even if their question is framed as a “How?”. For instance, people asking the First Base question from last week, “How can I get people to act on my ideas?,” need to understand WHY their clients or customers aren’t acting on their ideas NOW before you can get them to do something else, right? They need to understand the nature of the problem (in our example: that they’re building their case for change, not their audience’s) before they can even begin to process or even agree with a new solution. In other words, functionally, your message needs to move them to Second Base.
Why? Because someone at Second Base already has some clue as to the nature of the WHY, but doesn’t yet understand WHAT to do NOW with that information. For example, “I know the best way to get people to act on my ideas is to build their case… but what’s the best way to do THAT?” As before, the question can (and usually is) framed with “How” when your audience says it (e.g., “How can I build the audience’s case for my ideas (…so that they are more likely to act on them)?”), but functionally, they have to understand the nature of the solution before they’ll agree it solves the “real” problem they see themselves as having.
Answering that WHAT NOW question moves them to Third Base. At that point, people really do just need to know HOW to act on the “real” solution to solve the “real” problem they have, so it’s the one time when the framing and the function may align. Going back to our example, they’re asking questions like, “How do I use story structure to build the audience’s case for my ideas (…so that people are more likely to act on them)?” Which means, at Third Base, the only thing keeping your audience from getting all the way Home is understanding HOW to apply the solution you recommend. Your job with a Third Base audience is to tell them exactly how to do that.
Back to the Diamond, each base path (the space between the bases) represents the different function your message needs to serve. WHY? = Moving from First to Second, WHAT NOW? = Second to Third, and HOW? = Third to Home. You can look at it like this:
Now you see why neither you nor your audience can skip a base: WHY, WHAT NOW, HOW is the order our human brains have to process information before we act on it. Your audience has to understand and agree with your answers to those questions before they’ll move forward.
That’s why I often talk about the Three Types of Messages as (you guessed it!): WHY, WHAT NOW, AND HOW.
- A WHY message moves people at First to Second, and focuses on understanding and agreement with the “real” Problem
- A WHAT NOW message moves people at Second to Third and focuses on understanding and agreement with your high-level solution (the Change, if you’re using the Red Thread® Method)
- A HOW message moves people from Third to Home, equipping them with what they need to put your Change into Action
Each of your messages need to address all three questions (because we need answers to all three), but your message can really only focus on one of those questions at a time.
And that means that movement, real movement towards change, takes time.
That’s not bad news, though. It means you now have clear direction for how to focus your message at different points of the sales cycle. If you’re a speaker, it means you can develop different types of talks, each one leading to the other, and ultimately leading to the “HOW” of workshops or consulting. If you’re an author, it means you can set up the whole base path in your intro, and then focus the different sections of your book on the different areas (or, like a speaker, think of your book as one in a series).
And I’d say any of those would be a home run. 😉WHY, WHAT NOW, HOW is the order our human brains have to process information before we act on it. Click To Tweet
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