As a business growth strategist who works primarily with small and mid-sized businesses, one question I often hear from business owners is, “What’s the quickest way to grow my business?”There are multiple things business owners can do to inexpensively (and quite immediately) see an increase in gross revenue. Many options are merely a “band-aid” approach. But, a few strategic changes can truly transform a business from the inside-out. It’s the kind of transformation that makes future marketing so much easier.We all have limited time and resources, so I try to make sure that business owners obtain the highest possible bang for their buck…for the same investment of time, emotion and money.So, where can a business owner invest their marketing time and energy to get the greatest impact? What’s an inexpensive, yet powerful, way to grow your business?The one strategy that typically yields the highest return on investment is simply to take control of your marketing message.This seems pretty basic and self-explanatory, but so many business owners misfire on this step…and the negative results can cause marketing headaches for the life of the business.Before we break down the steps of taking control of your marketing message, let’s define “marketing message.”What is a “Marketing Message”?A marketing message is the message or “point” you are communicating (or trying to communicate) in your marketing, advertising and sales. That message is the essence of who you are…and what you’re all about…as a business.All it takes is a discerning look at the advertising and marketing of a typical local business to identify that business’ marketing message.Sadly, what most local business owners communicate in their “marketing message” is, “Hey, we’re in the xyz business (restaurant, dry cleaners, etc…) and here’s our address!” The message is nothing more than, “WE EXIST!”If you don’t believe me, pick up any local newspaper or magazine and look closely at the advertising. The typical ad identifies the type of industry/business and includes an address and a phone number…not much else.The marketing message that such an ad conveys is, “We are ‘a’ restaurant and there’s nothing special that differentiates us from any other restaurant.” Not very exciting, engaging or memorable.Ok, so we’ve defined marketing message.Now how do you take control of it?The two high-impact steps to taking control of your marketing message are 1) creating a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and 2) integrating that USP throughout all of your marketing channels.To Take Control of Your Marketing Message:Step 1: Determine Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)The first step in taking control of your marketing message is to clearly articulate for your target market precisely what makes your business different/unique and why they should do business with you (rather than doing business with one of your competitors).To skip this fundamental marketing step (as most local business owners do), is to leave it to your prospects and customers to come up with their own definition of what your business is all about. They are left to categorize your business in any way they want, and their perceptions may or may not be based upon reality. Your marketing is now in their hands.And, in the minds of your target market, you’ll likely remain “a” restaurant (or “a” dry cleaners, doctor, lawyer, etc…)… instead of “The only restaurant in the Cleveland area that serves 100% organic foods, that has received the Governor’s Award for Green Cooking five years in a row, and that gives 10% of all profits to local organic farmers.”Do you see the difference? Now THAT’S a message you can proudly communicate to the world! It’s descriptive and memorable.Do you see the danger in not taking control of this powerful and crucial step?If your restaurant can actually brag about such things…and you don’t find a way to clearly incorporate those bragging points into your marketing message…you’re leaving money on the table every single day. And, I can guarantee your marketing is much less effective than it could (and should) be. Thus, you’re simultaneously leaving money on the table AND flushing advertising/marketing dollars down the drain.Perhaps that resonates with you.If so, there’s hope!To begin the process of taking control of your marketing message: 1) figure out what makes your business unique and 2) provide a clear answer as to why your customers should do business with you. The purpose is to identify your bragging points.Once you’ve done that, put those bragging points into a high-impact statement of 90 words or less. Make it memorable.Now you’ve got a USP! You’ve got the cornerstone of your marketing efforts.You’ve set yourself apart from your competitors.Now you’re taking control of your marketing message and no longer giving away that power and control to others.However, if you don’t use your newly-created USP effectively, there’s not much sense in having one.That’s why Step 2 is absolutely essential!Step 2: Integrate Your Unique Selling Proposition into ALL of Your Marketing ChannelsThis is where all of the hard work of step 1 pays off! This is where you take full control of your marketing message and begin to see real-world results.In step 1, you created a high-impact USP that articulates clearly what makes you unique and makes it clear to your customers why they should do business with you.It’s time to shout that message from the rooftops.Step 2 is to integrate and use that message in ALL of your marketing (business cards, banners/signs, website, etc…) and advertising.The goal is to constantly expose your target market to your marketing message (the message that you now control). Prospects and customers need constant reminders.It’s time for you to take control!This one-two punch of taking control of your marketing message is inexpensive and highly effective. It’s the very best place to start if you’ve got limited resources because it impacts every aspect of your marketing for the life of your business.It sure seems like something each and every business would naturally do. But, it only takes a quick glance at the advertising of most local businesses to see how rarely it’s actually utilized.So, what are you waiting for? You now know how to grow your business. Create your USP and start using it everywhere!