When you’ve got an approach, initiative, or offering you know will bring much-needed change, you also know you can’t do it alone. You need people to become invested emotionally and intellectually so they’ll invest the time, energy, and money to bring about the impact you imagine.
Whether for pitch decks or presentations, sales conversations or marketing copy, case statements or social content, you know you’ll need the words and concepts that will generate the interest and attention that precede investment. But which words? What concepts?
Just as the strongest buildings start on strong foundations, everything that carries the core of your idea needs a strong foundation, too. The simplest way to do that? Build the foundation of your message on what you and your audience have already bought into—the outcomes you both already want and the beliefs you already share. Those are the building blocks that ensure you’re building buy-in right from the beginning.
So how do you find these elements and what can you do with them? Enter: the Buy-in Building Blocks! On a single sheet of paper, you can create everything necessary to build any and all messaging collateral you might need. It helps you outline the most critical components of any message so you can build its most flexible forms:
- Core Message—A single sentence that connects your initiative, approach, or offering to what your audience already cares about.
- Core Case—A 30-second argument for your idea, based on principles your audience already agrees with.
- Core Story—The message and case for your idea framed in a single paragraph, using the structure most understandable to your audience: story.
Simply click this button to have the worksheet and video guide delivered to your inbox, and then follow the steps below and start building yours!
Step 1: Build your Core Message.
This is a single sentence that connects your idea, approach, or offering to what your audience already cares about.
Start by writing your Qualifying Question, or Goal. Every idea needs a way in, a reason for your ideal audience to engage or act. This is the urgent, important question your audience is already asking. It’s something they want, but don’t have yet. Some requirements for this section:
- The audience knows they have it.
- Your idea answers it.
- It may even feel like the “wrong” question to you, but it must be a question they’re asking, not one you think they should be asking.
- No “ands” (or “and” substitutes like “while” or “without”!). Keep it a singular question or goal.
Next, define your Core Idea. This is your offering, initiative, approach, product, anything. In this block, put whatever name you have for it. It should represent a single shift in idea or behavior, meaning no “ands.”
Combine those two. Using the format of To get X [QUESTION], do Y [CORE IDEA] you get your Core Message. For example:
- iPod: [What’s the best way to carry my music with me?] The best way to carry your music with you wherever you go is to have 1,000 songs in your pocket—with the iPod.
- My work: [How can I build buy-in for big changes?] To build buy-in for big changes build an argument on what your audience has already bought into (“Permanent Persuasion”).
Write your Core Message in the appropriate box. Now you’ve got your entire message down to a single sentence! But, while that might explain what the message is, we need to do a little more to get people to buy into it.
Step 2: Build your Core Case.
This is the simplest argument for your idea, based on principles your audience already agrees with. It explains why you believe your Core Message to be true—and why your ideal audience would agree with you.
Split your Core Idea into its two most load-bearing elements. Even the most innovative ideas contain two familiar, desirable elements that have been put together in a new way. Write down the two key components of your idea, without which it wouldn’t exist. Fewer than two elements, and your idea isn’t new. More than two, and you’re complicating both your idea and, eventually, your argument for it.
Fill one Essential Element into each block. Each element should be a single, core component that your idea can’t exist without. A few reminders as you consider these elements:
- The components need to be individually attractive to your ideal audience, or at least not repellant!
- The components need to be complementary in combination—the audience doesn’t have to know they love the combination but you want to avoid a combination that they instinctively reject as not working together.
- No “ands” or adjectives here, either—each element should be a single-word noun.
Here’s what the two essential elements look like in the iPod example and my work:
- iPod: Variety + Portability
- My work: Argument + Identity
Link each element to the Qualifying Question. For the audience to believe that the elements are truly essential, we must explain why each element delivers on the audience’s question. Those explanations are the foundation of the element, and we call them a bedrock belief.
For each element, write its underlying bedrock belief. Some considerations as you create these:
- It must explain why the element delivers on the Question.
- It should be inarguable (or “intuitively agreeable”) to your ideal audience.
- Shoot for beliefs that are proverb or axiom-like (descriptive, present tense).
For the iPod:
- Element #1: Variety. Belief #1: More is more.
- Element #2: Portability. Belief #2: Less is more.
In my work:
- Element #1: Argument. Belief #1: Every action ends an argument.
- Element #2: Identity. Belief #2: We’re already bought into our own beliefs.
Build your Core Case by combining these beliefs with your Core Message. Using the format “I believe that [BELIEF] and that [BELIEF] which is why I believe [CORE MESSAGE]. For example:
- iPod: Because, with your music library, more is more, and with portability, less is more, we believe the best way to carry your music with you is to put 1,000 songs in your pocket—with the iPod.
- My Work: Because every action ends an argument and we’re already bought into our own beliefs, I believe the best way to build buy-in for big changes is to build an argument on what your audience has already bought into.
Step 3: Pull it all together into your Core Story.
With the components you’ve just established, you have almost all the critical pieces of your Core Story. This is your message and your case for your idea articulated in the form most understandable to your audience: story.
Insert your Qualifying Question. This is exactly what you created in the Buy-in Blueprint.
Enter your first element in Element #1. (We’re skipping the “Current Focus”, but we’ll come back to that next.) Typically you’ll find your two elements have a hierarchy where one will be the more natural one to bring up first. You can experiment with both to see what fits better.
Introduce the problem they didn’t know they had. Because we know our audience hasn’t solved their problem (otherwise they wouldn’t still be asking the Qualifying Question!) it means something is preventing them from seeing your answer. We represent that by bringing their attention to the fact that they’re currently focused on the ‘wrong’ problem. Write in the “Current Focus” box something your audience is focused on that is a contrast to your first essential element. Some tips:
- The current focus isn’t necessarily the opposite of the essential element but rather represents a shift in perspective.
- This is where current answers or current attention typically go when people are trying to answer that qualifying question.
- It isn’t an incorrect perspective, but perhaps misses a bigger picture that you’re going to bring up.
So, in our examples:
- iPod: (tend to focus more on…) individual albums
- My Work: (tend to focus more on…) explanation
Explain why the current perspective is the real problem. Now you’re going to explain why you (and hopefully they) believe that focusing on your element is the best way to achieve their goal. In the next box beside “That’s a problem because” enter the bedrock belief that corresponds to the essential element you just referenced. Examples:
- iPod: (that’s a problem because…) When it comes to variety, more is more
- My Work: (that’s a problem because…) Every action ends an argument.
Leverage a truth that your audience agrees with. So far we’ve introduced a problem that the audience knows they have, which gets their attention. Now you’ve introduced a problem that they didn’t know they had, effectively disrupting their status quo—which keeps them engaged and interested in what comes next. Now we’re going to bring up our second bedrock belief to help bolster the case. In the box beside “Not only that, we agree it’s true…” put your second bedrock belief. Examples:
- iPod: (not only that we agree it’s true that…) When it comes to portability, less is more.
- My work (not only that we agree it’s true that…) We’re already bought into our own beliefs.
Highlight your Idea as the best answer. Now we bring it all together and introduce the Core Idea. Put this into the box beside “That’s why, to achieve our goal, we need to:”
Explain the action or steps required next. This is where you put the details of your product or approach. Put this in the box beside “Here’s how:” This could be any of these types:
- PROCESS: sequential steps your audience needs to take
- COMPONENTS: necessary elements, including products, that have no prescribed order or hierarchy
- CRITERIA: qualities of a successful Change
- CATEGORIES: areas (as in departments, levels, phases, etc.) where the Change can or should be applied
Make the case even stronger by highlighting additional benefits. Not only will adopting your idea answer the original Qualifying Question, but there are likely a variety of other benefits that they’ll realize. This can be 1–3 extra outcomes that your audience might not even know they wanted or would get, but are still of high value to them.
Step 4: Leverage what you’ve built!
Now you’ve got your Core Message, Core Case, and Core Story! With these three things, you have the building blocks to build any case, in any content or conversation, for any change, at any size. Remember, this is just the framework; you are totally allowed to shift the language to best fit the application, but this will make sure anything you create will be built on a rock-solid foundation!
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