The original value proposition within your business story — whether you were around to create it or not — used to be so straightforward: A + B = C. Add this solution to this problem and you end up with new and happy customers. Somewhere along the way though, things got complicated. New products and services were added to the mix. New staff members were hired. Investors got involved. The list goes on from there.
Here you are today, trying to market a suite of vague products or services that appear to offer a bit of everything for seemingly everyone. And as a result, all your employees are now telling their own version of the same jumbled story—making up some details, forgetting other key points, and ultimately losing people along the way.
It’s time to stop confusing people — yourself included — on what you sell, how it makes life better, and why people should care. It’s time to regain some clarity. It’s time to start telling a much simpler business story.
Central to the marketing process for any business is being able to explain to others your reason for existing. What product or service do you provide? How and under what conditions do you supply it? How well do you do it? In what ways are you better at what you do than your competitors?
You’re responsible for communicating this information to outside sources. To communicate effectively, you must know your information inside and out. It may seem like a no-brainer when thinking over the question, “Don’t we know what we do for a living?”
If you think about it, you may find you’re not quite as clear on the facts as you thought. And if you can’t tell your potential sources or business partners what you do or what you sell, how can they direct people towards you and your business?
To ensure that your business story is as effective and marketable as possible, take some time to get a clear picture of where your business stands today. You may think you know why you’re in business, but perhaps it’s been years since you’ve given it serious thought. Fortunately, it’s easy to get back to the beginning.
Start with these eight simple questions to rediscover your story:
First, ask employees if they know how you got started. Do they know who the founders are? Do they know why they began their endeavor to start this company in the first place?
Perhaps there was a funny story or odd happenstance that launched a legacy. However it happened, ensure employees can articulate the company’s history. When employees know where this all came from, they are more likely to instill trust in the minds of prospects when speaking with them.
It seems like an obvious question, but not everyone at your business answers that question the same way. Some expound ad nauseam, while others speak in bullet points. Go on and pose that question to a few of your employees to see what they have to say.
Make sure they are focused on the benefits, not features of what you sell. If they are getting caught up in the details, it may be time to sit employees down and outline the basics once more.
Again, an excellent opportunity to let employees answer what they believe to be the best method for selling.
You might have very strict guidelines for times when it is not appropriate to market specific solutions. For instance, a fireplace company will likely offer installation and designs all year round, but will not handle certain cleaning services via the roof in wintertime due to hazardous conditions. It’s important that employees know seasonality, as well as market trends, to support when and how services and solutions are sold.
As good internal marketers, employees should understand the goals for selling and generating leads. Are you trying to build your leads list up by 150 percent by June? Are you hoping to acquire 10 new clients by the end of the year? If these are the types of goals you are reaching for, communicate them clearly to the team so they can support you in their efforts and help to create dedicated messaging for these goals.
If these goals are not fully fleshed out, we highly recommend creating SMART goals with your team (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based). These will give workers specific tasks directly related to company goals so that everyone works together in sync.
If you haven’t already done so, it may be time to start sketching out some How to Create a Buyer Persona personas for your top 2-3 target audiences. What’s a day in their life like? Their median age? Income? Education? Goals? Pain points?
Target audiences, or personas, need to be a regular part of the communication people see in and through the office. This way they know, without a doubt, who you are selling to and can recognize the best prospects when out and about.
These can be both direct and/or indirect competitors. Take some time to list out exactly who or what is taking away prospects from you. Once you have your list, take some time with your team to review resources these competitors have such as their website and social media.
What do you notice about the way they sell? Are they direct? Do they have pretty graphics or short and simple language? Do they boast awards on their site? Are they thought leaders in their industry? Note these items down as they might spur ideas for you as well as allow you to focus on the mediums or audiences they are NOT going after.
Take some time with your team to really think about the following and come up with a list of things you do really well. Don’t underestimate even the most simple differentiator because it may be just the key to you standing out above all others:
What do your clients really appreciate about your service? Why are long-term clients still with you? What was one of the nicest things a client ever said about how you conduct business?
The challenge for service businesses is to clearly identify what you do best in a way that is visible to your target. Many service-oriented businesses appear to all be the same. They offer the same services for about the same price. Stand out by really understanding what you do best and exploit it. Come up with something unique that adds value over your competition that you can offer.
This question can be asked on a personal level. Why do you, the employee, do what you do here? And it can also be asked on a global level. Why does our business exist? What’s the angst that exists in ourselves and in the marketplace that we’re out to solve.
After you’ve collectively answered these questions and documented your discoveries, you’ll then need to work toward consensus on the company’s statements. Strip away the right or wrong opinions and find the truths. Taking time away – with everyone – will ensure the business is all on the same page when it comes to communicating a story that is simple and straightforward.
It’s these concrete details that will return you to a sharp company with a simple business story that people won’t soon forget.