Treating The Epidemic That Is Crippling Your Marketing Efforts
There is a raging epidemic going on out in the business world – and I’m not talking about flu season. Lately, it seems as though every new client or prospect that walks through our agency’s door is suffering from the same affliction. Their symptoms often include stagnant or declining business growth, fewer leads and sales and diminishing market share. They come requesting the popular brand-name medicines: web design, social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, and marketing automation. Trouble is, these remedies usually don’t address the root issue.
Stop Treating Symptoms and Start Addressing the Cause
Like any good doctor, I prefer to form my own diagnosis before writing out a prescription – not least because, 85+% of the time, the patient’s got it wrong. They’re asking for a Vitamin B shot when their real problem is a ruptured disk. The ailment most commonly suffered by my “patients” is almost never the mere presence/absence/condition of any one marketing tactic. In my experience, more commonly it’s the complete and utter lack of strategic positioning and messaging, or “Strategic Positioning and Messaging Deficiency Disorder” (SPMDD).
SPMDD: The lack of a clearly articulated, meaningful distinction between the subject’s brand / product(s) / company identity and those of other competitors in the market as perceived by the prospective consumers of their products and services.
How to Tell if You’re Crippling Your Marketing Efforts with SPMDD
In addition to the symptoms of flagging growth, losing market share or traction, or declining sales, another key symptom of this disorder is that your sales team is afraid to send prospects to your company’s website for fear of confusing the prospect out of buying. And usually this is because the website is a feature-dense relic that offers no clear point of differentiation, no coherent message that says “this is what makes us different and why you should care.” If the message exists at all, it’s often buried in an “about us” page. But more often than not, it simply isn’t there.
First Things First: Do the Sane Thing, and Stop Talking to Yourself
Let’s be clear – I’m not talking about “Mission Statements”. Mission statements are what the company says to itself. They’re usually fluffy pie-in-the-sky corporate babble self-talk stuffed with generic ideals and aspirations. It’s rare that I read one that doesn’t make my eyes glaze over within the first 5 words, even rarer that it tells me anything meaningful, “real” or unique about a company.
Positioning and messaging, on the other hand is about how you talk to – and are perceived by – your target audiences. It requires an honest, in-depth knowledge of your business’s true strengths and weaknesses, and a clear, concise expression of the unique value it brings to its audiences within the context of the market. If your core message isn’t clearly spelled out – or worse, if you aren’t even sure what that core message is, you’ve handicapped all of your marketing efforts from day 1.
Feel the Burn, Get the Glow
Correcting this condition is not about modern “miracle” cures. What it really requires is some good old-fashioned, unsexy hard work: thorough research, careful analysis, and critical self-reflection. It takes time, energy, and deep management buy-in. And yet, the results are so worth it. In fact, we find that the results of this exercise are among those about which our clients get most excited.
Reviewing honest feedback from your past and present customers, partners, and resellers; seeing exactly how your competitors are attempting to position themselves (or failing to do so); hearing directly from key players within the company about the company’s identity and vision for itself – these are very often fascinating discoveries. Reaffirming in some ways, eye-opening in others.
Identifying what the company uniquely brings to the marketplace that is different or better than any of its competitors is remarkably invigorating. When this unique offering is clearly articulated and resonates deeply with what the company is actually about, not just aspirationally-speaking, but authentically, it’s like getting a new lease on life. It infuses the company with energy, pride, purpose, and direction. All aspects of the business – not just marketing, but human resources, sales, customer service, research and development, existing customers, new prospects, etc. – benefit from this renewed focus and clarity.
Why Calling the “Doctor” Beats Self Diagnosis
The problem is that most companies are too entrenched in their own corporate culture to really see themselves as their prospects see them. They don’t have time to do the homework needed to understand the bigger picture, or lack a clear process for getting and processing the information they do uncover. They write and design their websites to please themselves. What they often fail to account for is that THEY are not the target audience! What excites, provokes, or compels them is rarely the same as what excites, provokes or compels their audiences.
What’s more, your prospects aren’t looking at you in isolation. They are actively comparing you to other competitors in your field. That’s why an outside set of eyes can be so crucial. You need a fresh perspective looking not only at you, but at your competitors and your audiences as well. An experienced eye can analyze all three from a more objective point of view that you can achieve internally and provide the added value of perspective from having performed the same exercise numerous times for other businesses like yours.
Regular Check-ups Help Your Company Stay Healthy and Thrive for the Long Haul
Positioning and messaging should not be thought of as a once-and-done type of proposition. This is about the core of what your business is vis-à-vis the world: your customers, your prospects, your competitors, and your partners. Any time your business experiences a fundamental change, either internal or external – whether that be new markets, new competition, new product lines, new management, or new locations – it’s time for a check-up. Perhaps not all of these changes will require a surgical intervention, but it’s important to make sure that the positioning and messaging of the company is still in line with the company’s core identity.
Companies that succeed in distinguishing themselves with crisp, clear and thoughtful positioning and messaging are the companies that grow and thrive under all economic conditions. Those who don’t, end up spending countless thousands treating symptoms, growing steadily weaker and risk fading into obscurity. Take it from a professional, this is an ailment to be ignored at your peril. Get the treatment your business both requires and deserves. To your health!