The goal for a lot of my clients is to get people invested in their ideas and initiatives. Sometimes that’s an emotional or intellectual investment, sometimes that’s an actual investment (which requires the other two).
Securing that investment requires written or spoken communication of some sort. After all, words are the currency of ideas.
But which words do you need to get the investment you want?
To understand that, let’s back up and think about the process of getting investment or buy-in. Here’s how it usually works:
Your initiative or offering comes to someone’s attention. There are lots of ways that can happen. This post is not about that. It’s about what you do once you can be in front of someone with your idea.
Once someone is aware, you need them to want to learn more. To do that, someone needs to understand what your initiative or offering is and why they would care. Your audience uses your answers to those questions to decide whether or not they care enough to know more.
If they decide to learn more, agreement is the next big step. But this isn’t yet agreeing to invest. At least, not yet. Before your audience will take action, they need to agree with your actions—with how you do what you do and why you do it that way. That’s because we agree with actions that are based on what we already believe. And long term, we won’t act in ways that are inconsistent with our own deep-seated beliefs.
If they agree—with all of that—then they’re more likely to act.
But there’s something else that has to be there, too. Someone can’t be interested—and certainly can’t agree—if they don’t understand. Understanding precedes everything.
Understanding → Interest → Agreement
That’s why to get those three things, you need these three things:
Your Core Message is a single sentence that combines an urgent, important question your ideal audience is already asking with your unexpectedly obvious answer to that question that your initiative or offering provides:
EXAMPLE: The best way to build buy-in is to build an argument based on what your audience has already bought into.
It provides understanding because it answers both “what” your idea or offering is and does and the “why”—the problem it solves.
Both parts help you build interest, because (a) you’ve chosen a question you know your audience is already invested in answering and (b) your answer is unexpected or unfamiliar to them.
Your Core Case is a series of three statements, structured as the simplest, strongest form of argument. That simple, strong argument structure (also known as a syllogism) looks like this:
- Because A is true
- And B is true
- A+B is true
In the case of your idea, “A” and “B” are (a) principles or “bedrock” beliefs that your initiative or offering is based on and (b) stated in a way that your ideal audience finds intuitively agreeable. When turned into a Core Case, it looks like this:
- Because every decision we make ends an internal argument for why that decision makes sense
- And we’re already bought into our own beliefs
- The best way to build buy-in for a decision or action is to build an argument based on the audience’s pre-existing beliefs.
The Core Case provides understanding because it explains how the elements of your idea or offering answer your audience’s question. Perhaps even more importantly, the principles explain why you answer their question that way.
By articulating those beliefs, you’re providing the basis for agreement, because of how arguments work. If your audience agrees with each of your bedrock beliefs, they’re much more likely to agree with your approach that combines them.
A Core Story
Your Core Story—what I call the Red Thread—presents your Core Message and Core Case in a form that humans are wired to find the most understandable and interesting: story. Story structure mimics our own natural, and usually pre-conscious, process for collecting and making sense of new information:
- What does this get me?
- Oh good! But why don’t I have it already?
- Okay, but why do I need to do something different?
- Agreed, so what do I need to do?
- Fine, but how?
- Understood, but…will it be worth it?
Each of those questions corresponds to an element of your Red Thread. Even better, each element corresponds to pieces and parts of your Core Message and Core Case:
- What does this get me? → urgent, important question your ideal audience is already asking
- Oh good! But why don’t I have it already? → one of your bedrock beliefs (introduced via your Two-Part Problem)
- Okay, but why do I need to do something different? → the other bedrock belief
- Agreed, so what do I need to do? → unexpectedly obvious answer to that question
- Fine, but how? → Your offering(s), initiative, or approach
- Understood, but…will it be worth it? → any other benefit you haven’t already captured in the original question
Getting people invested in ideas and initiatives, especially if those ideas and initiatives are new or different, isn’t easy, but it is critical for success. And while “getting the yes” is an important part of that process, it’s not the only step, nor even the first one.
Agreement isn’t just an action, it’s an indication that the other parts of the process—awareness, understanding, and interest—have all been successful. Critically for the success of your offering or approach, success at every step is more likely to mean success overall.
That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your ideal audience sees, and understands, that every element of your message—and every expression of it—includes what they’re already invested in, emotionally and intellectually. The Core Message, Core Case, and Core Story are designed to do just that.
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