The TOP Method: How to Craft Your Message
If you pick up some of Mary’s Gone Crackers® original crackers, you’ll immediately read on the front of the box that the product inside is gluten-free, organic, and made with plant-based protein.
On the top panel, the presence of sesame seeds, brown rice, whole quinoa, and flax seeds is helpfully pointed out on images of the crackers. You’ll also find the brand’s tagline, Snack Happy, Live Happy™.
On the back of the box, you’ll discover that this brand uses rice from California farms, “whose growing fields provide seasonal wetland habitat for millions of waterbirds along their migratory route.”
Further, they have partnered with the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation to help “sustain a vast circle of life.”
On the bottom of the box, you’ll find a satisfaction guarantee, along with a statement that it is “our mission as bakers and food lovers to create food you will love to eat.” You’ll also see that the box is made of 100% recycled materials.
Mary’s Gone Crackers is clear that their product is “more than a cracker.”
What Exactly Is Your Message?
Your message is the translation of your mission across different mediums, directed at your avatars. It answers the question, “What am I trying to say?”
In the case of Mary’s Gone Crackers, one of their mediums is the box — and the brand uses every ounce of paperboard real estate to communicate what their product is, what it contains, what they stand for, and the impact of their solution.
You get a strong indication that they’re speaking to health-conscious and environmentally-concerned individuals looking for food items that provide both nutrition and satisfaction.
Condensing the entirety of what you do or sell into a handful of quick, impactful statements can be extraordinarily difficult, and Mary’s Gone Crackers has done a fine job.
Sometimes we’re so close to what we sell — the complexity and versatility of our own products — that we can’t articulate the most obvious selling points anymore. If anything, this is the reason why copywriters exist. Your message must be instantly clear to your potential customers to win them over.
In a grocery store, several seconds of glancing at a box may be all the time that Mary’s Gone Crackers has to beat the competition.
Depending on your product, people may have more time to consider what you’re selling — but the faster they connect with your message, the more likely they are to choose your product.
My goal is to teach you some guiding principles you can use over and over again to distill your message for different mediums and contexts. The framework I use is called the TOP Method. Let me show you how it works.
The TOP Method
TOP stands for Transformation, Organization, and Participation. Each concept has three parts, and you can follow them like steps.
T - Transformation. The transformation is the end result that the customer is trying to achieve. Here are the three key elements of the T:
- Step 1: Choose One of the 5 Core Transformations
- Step 2: Highlight the Transformation
- Step 3: Combine Your Differentiator with the Transformation
O - Organization. I believe that 70% of copywriting is organizing information so people can quickly understand it.
Here are the three key elements of the O:
- Step 4: Create a Map from A to B
- Step 5: Cut and Frame
- Step 6: Repeat Key Messages
P - Participation. People want to know how to participate in your offer, who else has participated, and what happens when they participate. Here are the three key elements of the P:
- Step 7: Describe What Success and Failure Look Like
- Step 8: Prove Your Claims
- Step 9: Lower the Barriers
We’re going to cover these elements one by one in future blog posts. If you can use even a few TOP Method techniques, you’ll be able to communicate your offer with greater ease — and channel the full power of your mission.
This is an edited excerpt from my book Mission, Market, Message: The Actionable Guide to Marketing for Small Business Owners, which you can purchase on Amazon.