One of the most important ingredients of effective communication is knowing what you are trying to say. No duh, right? But when it comes to strategic marketing, this isn’t as easy or as obvious as it sounds. It is not hard to make noise and get attention, but if you really want to turn your audience into fans you must know exactly what your brand stands for, what your businesses does, and who you are trying to reach.
This is why one of the first steps in our process is to conduct an in-depth brainstorming and research session with our clients. This is probably the part of my job that I enjoy the most (besides cashing checks), because it is really exciting to see what makes successful brands work, and also how asking some simple questions can help our clients walk away with a better understanding of what they do. At least a few of our clients have completely changed the way they present themselves after walking through this process.
So what are some of these allegedly magic questions? Here are five of the most important we have found:
1) What is the elevator pitch description of what your business does?
At first glance, this question sounds totally obvious… of course everyone knows what their business does! Maybe so, but very few people are able to communicate it clearly and concisely in just a few sentences, and some aren’t even sure what their core offering is. An elevator pitch shouldn’t just include details on the product that you’re selling. It should also emphasize what a valuable resource you are to your customers and what separates you from the rest of your competition.
For example, an elevator pitch for Starbucks might sound like this, “Starbucks provides a relaxing environment and free wifi where guests can meet and enjoy premium yuppy drinks in comfortable chairs.” If Starbucks was all about coffee, it wouldn’t sound any different than the local gas station store. But it isn’t. Good coffee is only part of the picture. Starbucks is marketing an image and an atmosphere people will pay through the nose for. A customer doesn’t just shell out the bucks for the comfort of enjoying a hot beverage. They purchase the whole package-a genuine Starbucks experience complete with soft leather chairs, custom labeled cups and urban cafe appeal. Sold.
2) Who are your target customers?
The more specific your answer is to this question, the better off you will be. You may actually have several different types of customers you target depending on what your product or service is, but even then you need to know exactly who they are. There is always a common thread that binds your customers together. You simply have to look hard enough to find it. Over time it is a good idea to build a profile of what your ideal target looks like.
Here is an example of what our ideal customer looks like:
Need: To explain and promote a complex product or service.
Industry: Technology, Marketing, Financial
Criterion: Must have existing web presence
Company size: 25 – 150 people
Occupation: Marketing Director
Age: 35 – 55
3) Who are your competitors?
It doesn’t matter how unique or new your offering is. You have competitors. They may not do exactly what you do, but if they offer anything at all that your customer base could use as a substitute, then they are a competitor. It is super important to know who you are up against and what they are good at so that you are able to answer the next question.
4) What are your USPs (unique selling points)?
This could be phrased “What makes you ROCK?!”. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, all successful businesses do something better than everyone else, and that is their unique selling point. If your USP isn’t obvious to your customers, the only thing they will look at is price to make their purchase decision, and that is almost always a death spiral.If you aren’t sure what your USP is, then don’t do anything else until you sit down with a pen and notepad and come up with something! You should start by looking at your ideal customer profile, then figure out what they value that your competitors are not offering. Even if the difference is subtle, you just need something to start with immediately. A great book on this subject is Purple Cow, by Seth Godin. Be sure and check it out when you have a chance!
5) What is your Brand Promise?
If your brand could be reduced to a guarantee what would it be? Walmart’s is low pricing. Apple’s? Insane design and intuitive usability. What is yours? When it comes down to it, your brand promise should be your most important USP. As long as it is something your customers really value, you need to shout it loud and clear from the rooftops until everyone knows what it is. Just make sure you don’t go back on your word. When you make a promise be prepared to keep it.
There are a lot more questions that could be asked, but if you start with these and work on coming up with serious and meaningful answers, you will be in a position to communicate your message very effectively to the world. So get started today!