BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

Do you want your customers to be dazed and confused? All you have to do is cloak your message in a blizzard of buzzwords.

Obviously, I don’t recommend that. We all want to reside in the memory box of our (potential) clients. More words = more fog.

Instead, use simple, clear words.

See what I mean in this one-minute video:


It’s always tempting to adopt the impressive-sounding biz language that buzzes around us like a pack of mosquitoes. Swat them away and use clarity of speech if you want to have a memorable impact!

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

People Buy Your Story

Recently, I was sitting through a capabilities overview from an agency in my pharma network, and it was filled with all the usual elements – we do this, we do that, customer logos, etc., etc. There was actually one potentially distinguishing message buried in there, which was encouraging; but then, toward the end, mention was made that the company has been in business for 20+ years.

And…and…nothing. The ball was teed up, but the 3-wood remained in the golf bag. There was the chance to tell a story – the company story – and it was missed. Any company in business that long has a lot of success, a interesting pathway of evolution, and a great way to build a bridge with the listener by using corporate history to be memorable.

Some years ago, I was evaluating a training company’s marketing and website, and was seeing all the typical verbiage and bullet points – just like everyone else, we do this and this and this. But buried in the web copy was a key point – one of the principals of the company had long experience on the pharma client side of the fence. I told them that their story was the distinguishing message: “We’ve walked in your shoes.” Most of the competitor companies did not have that same story.

When people are evaluating potential providers, one of the distinguishing elements that they subconsciously want to know is the story – why you exist, how you got to where you are now, how you’ve succeeded and evolved. This isn’t just customer case studies – it’s your profile, neatly wrapped with a bow of purpose and progress. People forget bullet points. They remember compelling stories.

There is a story behind my business practice of Clarity Therapy: it is an “accidental” business. I was helping partner companies figure out their professional DNA and message for years as part of my pharma client-vendor matchmaking service (Impactiviti), and I finally came to realize that this analytical ability was a unique skill that met a vast market need. To lead people and companies to an epiphany of their identity in a few hours time? How valuable is that? Yet it came about organically, not as part of pre-planned strategy.

Three entrepreneurs whom I deeply respect (Anthony Iannarino, Lisa Petrilli, Greg Hartle) all have great business stories that happen to be woven in to remarkable medical histories. Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) masterfully weaves her life story into her constant “you can do it, too!” entrepreneurial message. This past weekend’s winner of the Master’s golf tournament, Bubba Watson (pictured above – emotion is a powerful element, no?) has a wonderful story – he’s never taken a golf lesson, but just does what he does as a self-taught athlete.

Apple, Dell, the 3-M Post-it Note, WD-40 – all have memorable stories behind them. And we like to buy into something bigger than ourselves, something that transcends the ordinary, something that is a non-commodity.

Do you have a personal or corporate story? You do – but you may be so close to it, you may take it so much for granted that you haven’t teased it out. It’s one of the first things I do when I sit down with a client to help them get clear about their message – I pull out the story and help them see it.

Yes, people buy what you’re offering. But they also buy the story behind it. Don’t deprive them (and yourself!) of one of your most powerful marketing tools!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Part 1: Your Distinguishing Offering

>> Part 2: Your Go-To Market Message (in 10 words or less)

“Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

We all know the expression (where did it come from, anyway? Anybody know??) – “Let’s not go there!”

If a topic for potential discussion touches a painfully raw nerve, we’d just as soon bypass that destination. Don’t go there! Why? Because we see only pain, no gain.

To “go there,” we need a compelling WWIFM (What’s In It For Me). And it’s the same with leadership of others. People will follow a leader – if the destination looks like gain that will outweigh any anticipated pain.

I hate to go all non-idealistic on you, but my buy-in to any vision and direction is correlated to my sense, my agreement, that the goal, and the leader, are aligned with my best interests.

However skillfully we paint the picture and seek to rally support, if those that are to follow us don’t want to “go there,” we’re not going to lead them there.

Now, if know me, you know I’m an idealist. And I firmly believe that people operate best when they are involved in a cause, a mission, much bigger than themselves. But I also know that, whatever the cause – however grand and sweeping and even sacrificial it may be – the engine that will drive a group of people to follow is alignment of interests that includes a clear WIIFM.

So – how do we get others to follow our lead? Bluntly put, it’s sales – not slimy, sleazy, lying sales, but selling nonetheless. It’s selling the vision – AND selling the benefits to the customer. If you’re a leader, you’re in sales – simple as that.

What was Steve Jobs of Apple, if not a consummate salesperson? He had to sell his entire organization on his vision of supremely great user experience – and, when it was time to step down, he also had to achieve buy-in that the next leader would carry on the vision. No small task!

Take everything my LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli wrote in her prep post for our discussion this week (Leadership Advice – Getting Others to Follow Your Lead). Package together Vision, Trust, Communication, and Energy, and what do you have? Effective selling (the kind that exists with integrity).

What do you think? How do you enable others to follow you? Join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat (#LeadershipChat on Twitter) at 8 pm ET Tuesday night, November 8th as we tackle this topic. You’ll find a group of warm, smart, and motivated friends who will welcome you to our weekly chat at the leadership table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> Choose Your Lane

The Few. The Proud.

marinesIn less than 2 weeks, one of my sons begins boot camp with the Marines. Let me say right off that I’m as proud as I can be of him. He’s joining for the right reasons; it’s been his decision all along and it was not made lightly.

Gladly, and with a full heart, we let him go, into the service of his and our country. Did I mention that my wife and I are immensely proud of him? Oh, yeah, I did.

Eighteen years ago he was learning to walk. Now he’s going to take on one of the toughest challenges anyone willingly shoulders. Becoming a U.S. Marine.

Now, how did the Marines “sell” him on entering their branch of the service?

I got to watch the process up close and personal. And let there be no doubt – presenting an elite challenge is a strong message, especially to a young man.

For a certain slice of the population, striving to be the “cream of the crop” is an almost irresistible goal. The top. The elite. The first. The few. The proud.

We all know how companies (like Apple) succeed by getting people to possess and use a “cream of the crop” product. It’s borrowed status, and it’s an incredibly effective marketing strategy. But the Marines present people with the opportunity to become the elite (see this ad for their brand position – thanks for pointing it out, @TomMartin)

And for parents who want to see their children excel, yes, the idea of them taking on an elite challenge is also compelling. I’m sold. What parent doesn’t say to his/her child, in one form or another, “Be all that you can be!” (I know, that’s Army, but still…)

Of course, there are risks and dangers in the military, just as there are in any drive here in the battlefields highways of New Jersey. But there are no ads during football games in the fall extolling the elite status of urban commuters. I don’t see young men hungering to prove themselves as just one of many in a faceless crowd. Some people are driven to reach the top, and…putting on my marketing hat now…those may be the customers you should be pursuing most vigorously. If you have something elite to offer.

The Marines look for the ones with that glint in their eye, the ones who want to be the cream of the crop. Do you? Do your customers see themselves as the few, the proud? Or, perhaps even more importantly, do your employees?

Some people just want everything easy. Others want to excel. They’ll tend to be the faithful ones.

Semper Fi.

DaveNateDadsmThe Marine recruit, lined up with brother and Dad sporting “solidarity” military haircuts!

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Two Successful Calls to Action

tacoversmallToday, I did two things that I’d been putting off. However, good marketing – effective calls to action – put me over the edge in each case.

I’ve been intrigued by the new book just released by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith called “Trust Agents” – I figured, in the murky intentions of my mind, that I would buy it eventually. But then Chris put out this blog post, and it was the motivation I needed to finally take action. Why? Because it was Chris, and it was important to him, and I knew I wanted that book anyway (plus, it gave the the ‘Amazon Free Shipping’ excuse to make the long-overdue purchase of a David Meerman Scott book I’d been putting off). If you want to order a copy, here’s the place to go.

PastDueI also made a LONG-overdue visit to the dentist, where I endured gentle ribbing for my neglect of office-visit dental hygiene. Now I have very good teeth, and in fact there were no cavities (though a thorough cleaning was definitely in order) – but what motivated me to take action was the little personalization on the reminder postcard. I was successfully able to deflect all the other ones over the years, but his one both amused and shamed me, as it was intended to, so I finally made the appointment.

Which makes me wonder – what little tactics do you employ (or should you try!) to get people over the edge, and give them a reason to do what they know they ought/want to do? What are the most effective calls to action you’ve seen? Please share in the comments!

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What’s in a Name?

Today, I received an unsolicited e-mail from a company looking to introduce themselves. Since this company at least was positioned somewhere near my sweet spot of interest, I went to the website to find out more.

And found a great way NOT to introduce yourself:

What’s in a name?
When we were thinking of what to call ourselves, we looked at both the approach to what we do and the context in which we do it. Not that earth shattering, but we think we came up with a great name. _______ covers both approach and context.

Lesson #1 – I don’t care what you think of your name, nor is the process by which you arrived at it of any significance. I’m there to learn WIIF Me. Taking these intro sentences and saying, “we…ourselves…we…we…we…we…we…” all with a note of self-congratulation, doesn’t inform me about what you do and why I should be engaged.

When you introduce your company, immediately tell me what the value is – what you can do for me. You have maybe 10 seconds to make your first impression, so give me one powerful sound bite that addresses a real business need. Save the historical explanations for a footnote. Because what’s in your name doesn’t address my pain.

Five in the Morning 022309

fivelettersThis morning, let’s talk a little bit about ego, selling, and success…

How to Sell with a Clear Conscience – This is great stuff to mull over if you’re involved in selling in any way. It took me many years to grasp my selling “style”. From the Men with Pens blog.

Self-Promotion Reluctance – Karen Swim explores the theme of hesitancy to self-promote in Caressing you Softly with my Song. Self-promotion begins with a belief that we are capable. Your dreams will never come true if you don’t take the steps to make them happen. You may sing like an angel, but no one will know if you never open your mouth and let your voice be heard.

Copyblogger discusses Jack Welch – What a Cocky CEO can teach you about World-Class Blogging. What was the key to his success? Certainly more than one factor contributed to it. But if I was to name one singular and solitary reason for his dominance I’d say it’d have to be his philosophy to cut any businesses that GE couldn’t be #1 or #2 in…How can this idea help you in blogging? Easy. Figure out what market you can enter where you are guaranteed to be #1 or #2.

From Mashable: Does Social Media make us better people? My take: It certainly can, if we use it properly – and, as the blog posts suggests, the instant exposure of social media can help throttle down bad behavior. But people are people, and I think we’ll always see a mix of goodness and folly in any method of communicating.

Here’s a minimalistic Twitter Rule Book. Is it really just…all about you? What do you think? Agree? Disagree? From Danny Brown. And while we’re thinking about Twitter, here’s how Kris Colvin is using it (7 Habits!) to succeed in business.

Finally – if you know people involved with corporate training, can you help me out with something?

Oh, and btw…Fast Company has a nice new look. Check it out.

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(Image credit – created via Spell with Flickr)

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