What you need to understand is that these compounds are basically liquid abrasive and what you're doing is lightly sanding or polishing your hull. The more faded or "oxidized" your hull is the more you need to compound/polish in order to get back to the original hull color.
Step 1 Compounding: If your topsides are really faded, you should go with the Imperial Compound 3M-06044. This stuff is great at bringing back the original color and knocking out the ugly, faded look. It is applied with the polisher and pad.
Step 2 Finishing: The next step is to follow the Compounding with a Finishing Material boat polish in order to get a glossy, bright finish. We recommend Finesse-It II 3M-09048. Again, you apply this with a polisher and a pad.
Believe it or not, you can get technical about buffing pads, in that there are pads with varying levels of aggressiveness for the compounding and finishing steps. However, generally you can get away with just using the Superbuff Pad 3M-05705 for boat compound and polish applications. You can use both sides of it--one for compounding and one for finishing, if you like. It requires the 3M-05710 Mandrel Adapter.
Step 3 Waxing: After the boat polish is applied, the final step is to protect your finish with a wax. Use 3M-09030 Marine Ultra Performance Wax. It's important that you seal and protect the finish with a good wax to maintain the gloss that you just acquired. You can use any old rag to apply it but the rag will become clogged with the wax and eventually become pretty ineffective.
The 3M High Performance Cloth (3M-67408) is textured in a way that somehow doesn't absorb the wax so that it brings out a great finish. Once you use one, you'll never go back.