Make your offer crystal clear

Sonja Jefferson

It’s the one thing that holds so many companies back, and it comes up time and time again. It seems obvious yet it ties people in knots. We’re talking about the question of clarity.

This month at Valuable Content we’ve been working on several projects distilling the messages of new clients, and working on masses of content creation for existing ones. We’ve been wrestling with the importance of getting those most basic messages clear, so we thought we’d share our thoughts with you.

Before you think about starting your marketing, get your story absolutely straight. If you want to get really good results out of marketing, put time and effort into making sure your proposition is crystal clear.

No amount money on your website, no amount of tweeting, blogging, or public speaking will get you the results you really want if people don’t really know what you do. Want to get more referrals and leads? Be clear on what you do and who you do it for. Let people know what you want to be famous for, and then spread the word.

We know it’s difficult. Many business owners fear closing the door on potential opportunities, and see being pigeonholed as a recipe for lost sales. The temptation is to want to be all things to all people, but this leads to nebulous positioning. Dilute your message and it becomes weaker. The result?  No one truly understands what you do (see our recent article: Narrow your niche for more leads).

So what can you do?

5 ways to get clear on your message

It’s all very well saying you need to get your offer clear, but how do you achieve this clarity? Here are 5 ways we help our clients to get to the heart of their business message:

1. Look at what you do from your clients’ perspective, not from your own. Your clients don’t care about your products or services, they want to know what’s in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes. Here are 5 questions to help you communicate what you do from their perspective – 5 questions to help you communicate what you do

2. Talk to your clients. Everyone talks about knowing what your customers want, and listening to them, but if you want real clarity you should ask them directly. Read our article on the power of asking your clients for direct feedback – Ask your clients for feedback

3. Think like a book author. We find that the clients we help to produce a business book have a blinding moment of clarity on their business proposition too. So, think like a book author. If you were going to distill all your knowledge into a book for your client base, what would it be about? What would it say? Some of these book planning questions will help –12 questions to plan your book with clarity

4. Get some emotion into your offer. People respond to emotion, not logic when they’re buying. read Jim O’Connor’s excellent article – Emotion, not logic will get your message across

5. Get some outside help. This is really, really hard to do by yourself.  Get a view from the outside. Hire a talented copywriter like Sharon to help you here.  Helping businesses get to the valuable heart of what they do, and creating the voice to tell their story, is what she likes to do most.

So what are you waiting for? Get thinking, asking, and talking. Cut out the waffle surrounding what it is you do, polish up the jewel at the centre, and shine!

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5 Comments

  1. You are so right (I would say that after you have recommeded one of my posts, wouldn’t I?!).
    Seriously, when people’s attention spans are so limited, and markets are so crowded with similar offerings, if you don’t achieve clarity your marketing is doomed to failure before you start.
    It’s getting harder to acheive clarity, because products, services, markets and life in general is becoming so complicated and confusing.
    I hope a lot of people read your post and act on it, because it would make my life so much easier – when a client is unclear on what they are trying to say it’s a nightmare for the writer!

    Reply
  2. Excellent advice Sonja. Too often messages are much to general – written to a general audience about a vague offer (if there is even an offer rather than a “hi I’m me, I exist, it may be something you’d be interested in sometime.”)

    Reply
  3. Sonja,

    We learned from David Baker how critical positioning is to the success of a firm, and have worked ever since to continually focus speaking to the needs of small to mid-size agencies (just the kind of firm that David works with, too). So, you’re #1 is spot on. Our clients don’t care so much about the technology as they do about making sure they can lead their clients without stumbling over it.

    As for #2, yes. We’re in just the right business to do that all the time. Because the technology is always changing, we are constantly operating as educators. Through our articles, webinars, books, and participation in events, we are trying to make that information as accessible as possible, but nothing beats a direct line of communication. When we’re not writing or creating some form of content, you can bet we’re on the phone or meeting with our clients and agency partners, continually getting to know them better.

    One other point about #3. Mark, Newfangled’s President, is about to release his first book called A Website that Works: How Marketing Agencies Can Create Business Generating Websites through RockBench press (David Baker’s imprint, btw), and I’m close to finishing my first book Thinking Before Doing: A Designer’s Guide to Web Strategy, which will be published late this year with HOW Books/F+W Media. We thought long and hard about the positioning of these books to ensure two things: (1) That we had a very specific reader in mind that would be hungry to learn the material that each of us was uniquely suited to write about and (2) that these were two different personas so that Newfangled would get the most value out of having two books published in the same year. Though we’re both writing from Newfangled’s core positioning: working with ad agencies to build conversion-focused websites for them and their clients, each book has a specific positioning of its own. Mark’s book exists to educate agency principals (decision makers) in a 9-step web planning process. My book exists to educate designers at large (often influencers) about web strategy in order to broaden the scope of their perspective on designing for the web.

    This is a great list. Each point resonates. By the way, on point #5, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to plug David Baker (ReCourses.com) for any agency needing help with positioning, financial management or personnel management, or Blair Enns (WinWithoutPitching.com) for any agency needing help with new business development and freeing themselves from the chains of the pitch!

    – Chris

    Reply
  4. Thanks Jim, Paul and Chris for your well considered comments.

    Jim – you’re right, you’ve got to have a clear base to communicate from.

    Paul – I think that is the vague hope that so many websites seem to express.

    Chris – Thanks so much for your comment. You sound as if you have it covered at Newfangled and I love the clear positioning and huge amount of useful, focused content on your site, and on David Baker’s too. Good luck with the books this year – the icing on the cake.

    Thanks again and do keep in touch.

    Reply
  5. Sonja,

    Thanks for this timely post. You stated “If you want to get really good results out of marketing, put time and effort into making sure your proposition is crystal clear” and that is so very true.

    While this comment is evergreen, it is particularly true as firms are looking to ramp up for the Fall. In professional services it seems like most people slow down in August (at least in DC it gets pretty dead) — that time is a great opportunity to do the soul searching of “what is the real value” your firm brings to an engagement. No amount of money thrown at a marketing plan or unfocused marketing “activity” can equal the power of a clear value/differentiator.
    BTW, at Hinge we are big fans of points #1 and #2.

    Best, Sylvia

    Reply

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