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    What Did You Say You Do?

by Roberta Guise, M.B.A.

Roberta Guise, MBA, works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A marketing consultant and speaker, she owns San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. You can reach her at 415-979-0611or .

Recently I bumped into an old business friend, and after hugs and how-are-yous, I asked what he was up to. He launched into a detailed explanation about processes, systems and new paradigm shifts. After about three minutes of listening I told him I needed to get going. We hugged again and parted ways.

I didnít have a clue as to what he was talking about. Itís awkward to feel your eyes glaze over when you donít understand the person in front of you. Itís worse if youíre the one others donít understand.

Concepts Need Legs To Stand On.

If you sell a service you know how challenging it is to quickly convey what you do and why someone would want to buy from you. If you sell products, lucky you, and remember that youíre really in the service business.

A service is an intangible, or a concept. Unlike products ó which you can touch, feel, smell, see, or hear ó you canít use your five senses to grasp a concept. Concepts require thought, tap into our intellect and knowledge, need a context, and demand a whole range of other mental frameworks for us to grasp whatís being communicated. But just when you think youíre conveying your conceptís real value with absolute clarity, you realize itís clear as mud.

Discussing product values and features is a relative breeze. Next time youíre in the kitchen read the label of your dishwashing liquid. Mine is Palmolive (brand name) dishwashing soap (what it is, the feature). Its value? Tough on Grease, Soft on Hands ó two big benefits bundled into a single phrase thatís convinced millions of consumers to buy, and to come back for more after they discovered the product delivered on the promise.

Unless youíre an architect, doctor, attorney, real estate broker or someone in a profession thatís easy to find in the Yellow Pages, you need to know a few tricks for boiling down your processes, solutions, benefits and features that are as easy to grasp ó and buy ó as Palmolive dishwashing soap.

Positioning: The Holy Grail of Marketing.

Finding just the right words to describe who we are, what we do, who benefits and, most important, why anyone should care, is to many the Holy Grail of marketing. Experts have written about it since the beginning of marketing time, with Al Reis and Jack Trout perhaps the most well-known with their classic book, "Positioning: The Battle for your Mind."

Positioning, the authors tell us, is to look inside the customer for their perceptions of need and solutions. And in our incredibly noisy and cranky world, the simpler the message the better. To get into the prospectís mind and understand what their hot buttons are, we must, well, get into their mind. You goal is to end up with a statement, namely, your positioning, that tells readers and listeners what you do, who you do it for, and whatís in it for them. The order in which these points appear doesnít really matter.

A Methodical Approach.

Iíve developed and use this basic 3-step process with my clients for crafting a compelling positioning that any reasonable adult can understand. Use this process whether youíre creating a pithy slogan or tag line, or a longer statement for adapting to your various promotional pieces.

First, ask your favorite customers to describe the value they get from working with you. Ask for descriptive words. Also ask how they feel about your products or services.

Then, do a "brain dump" and write down your own descriptive words that convey your value, your services and also describe you, the person. If you have a partner or employees, write about the personality of your company.

Finally, write a short paragraph using the strongest phrases and words that your customers and you thought of. Give yourself bonus points for creating a slogan or tag line for attaching to your logo.

For example. At a typically noisy networking event, Sue Young of ANDA Consulting in Colchester, Vermont, introduced herself. "I prevent software development projects from failing," she told me. Fascinated, I probed further. "Well," she continued, "I save companies millions of dollars by finding out early whether project objectives are realistic and actually add value. I was a database administrator for 15 years, so my consulting work is mostly for relational database projects."

Now I donít know a thing about big database administration. But because Young spoke in plain English and painted a vivid picture about preventing software project failures, I got what she does, and her target buyers for sure know how theyíll benefit from working with her.

A client of mine is a blast consultant who, with her team of engineers, designs buildings and structures to withstand the effects of terrorist attacks. From an engineering standpoint, her work focuses on how a structure will behave in the event it is attacked. I created a value statement for her that reads:

"People have a right to feel safe in any building they enter."

With this phrase, my client is telling her customers that the ultimate objective of her blast mitigating designs is to protect people from a terrorist explosion. We are always careful to weave this core value into all the companyís marketing materials, whether they be printed, on the Web or spoken.

Practice, Test, and Practice Again.

After youíve written your statement or slogan, practice a brief spoken version. You want it to slide off your lips when talking to people who donít know you. See how they respond. Get their feedback. Make changes and test again. Repeat as needed. How will you know it works? Youíll find your listeners hanging onto every word you say and wanting to know more.

Visit www.guisemarketing.com/articles for more articles and tips to help you with your marketing challenges and increase your visibility.

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