There’s a song from the 70’s you might have heard called “I Can See Clearly”; the Jimmy Cliff version is best known and most played on the radio.
The lyrics aren’t all that complicated or hard to understand: I can see clearly now the rain has gone, I can see all obstacles in my way, Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.
Maybe we should adopt that as SeeSharp’s theme song because it’s one of the things we spend most of our time explaining to (and trying to achieve for) our clients.
It’s rainy out here
The estimates of how many marketing messages – whether they’re straight advertising, sponsorships, branding on items we consume, or referenced in conversation – we are exposed to each day vary wildly.
Some people have bandied around numbers in the thousands, which may be true if you count every message that’s around us during our waking hours, but I prefer to use the logic Shari Worthington has outlined in 2014, where she explains that we actually see between 300 and 700 per day. That’s still a lot.
So, as a business owner with something to sell, that’s the rain you’re dealing with, and you really want your one little ray of sunshine to poke through and hit your target right between the eyes.
The term “cut through” has never been more apt.
What’s not clear?
If consumers – potential customers – are going to see your product or service as the ray of sunshine they’ve been searching for, your message has to be very clear, even bright.
That means you have to be very clear about what you’re selling.
You can’t possibly make that clear if you’re not clear yourself.
As an entrepreneur, as well as being immersed in the operations of the small business community my company serves, I believe that too much emphasis is placed on the why and the how.
The why – expressed in your vision and mission statements – is still an important foundation, because it helps everyone who works for or with you appreciate your motivation.
The how – the detail of methods and processes through which you create and deliver products or services – is also vital to your business, because you need to get that done in the most efficient (and profitable) manner.
But those things are more important to you and your business than they are to consumers, so don’t let them become obstacles in the way of giving the outside world a clear message about what you do and what it means to them.
That means you have to be very, very clear in your own mind and within the four walls of your business because you can’t communicate something well if your thoughts are muddled.
Do you even know your own “what”?
If given only 30 seconds, most businesses owners struggle to articulate what their business actually does, let alone what makes them stand out from their competitors.
Think about it: the information that customers want is too hard to explain!
How many websites have you visited with large swathes of copy, links and buttons sprinkled seemingly everywhere, images that look nice but seems irrelevant with no clear, singular expression of what the business does?
The reason for this is simple: owners know too much about their businesses and they don’t want to leave any of it out, just in case that piece of information turns someone into a customer.
I see it as a version of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): “what if miss a business opportunity because of something I cut out or didn’t say?”.
The thought that customers won’t know the full extent of the business’s offerings if you present less information is, understandably, hard to reconcile.
I can certainly relate, as it’s a constant internal battle for me, too.
Making your “what” clear
Start by stopping. Stop caring so much about every little detail of your backstory. Stop worrying about your motivation. Stop the FOMO.
Focus instead on what stands out most to your customer … and make that the focal point of your marketing.
If you make your “what” extremely clear it will be so much more effective than the all-inclusive-but-a-bit-messy approach, that it will attract more customers, not fewer.
Just imagine your hot water service is on the blink. You search for plumbers and the top two results are Blue Water Plumbing Services and Mr Hot Water.
You wouldn’t even scan through the 15 dot points itemising Blue Water’s range of services, would you?
Do both businesses have the same skill sets and offer similar services? Probably, as do dozens of other plumbers in your area.
The advantage Mr Hot Water has over Blue Water and all the others is that it has cut through. If you have a hot water issue, there are no “obstacles” between you and Mr Hot Water.
To be honest, they don’t even have to be an expert in all things hot water related, they just have to give that impression to be most likely to get the custom.
Of course, it’s not always as easy as saying it with your name, but it shouldn’t be much harder than that to articulate your “what”.
Didn’t I say “stop worrying”?
If I’ve heard this follow-up question once, I’ve heard it 200 times: “Won’t Mr Hot Water miss out on other customers?”.
I look at it this way: if you don’t even get your foot in the door, you’re missing out on 100 per cent of customers!
What that practically means is that Mr. Hot Water offers a 5% discount off their fees if the house owner allows him to do a FREE Plumbing Healthcheck (the topic of perceived value will certainly be another blog topic), then upsell from there.
Mr Hot Water gets his foot in a lot of doors simply because of his clear, direct message. Then he can offer great deals and incentives to get more business.
Creating the best messaging for your business to get its foot in a lot of doors gives you the best opportunities to upsell, build a great reputation, earn customer loyalty (for repeat business), and so on.
Look at Man With A Van – they probably have more trucks than vans nowadays!
So focus on doing one thing really, really well, stop worrying about doing everything – even if you can – and make sure people can’t help but “get it”.
Premium branding is clarity
I’ve discussed the definition of branding before but, in this context, I think it’s worth reiterating the aim of branding.
According to BusinessDictionary.com (gee, I wonder what they do?) “Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers”.
To make your presence “differentiated”, you identify a specific, desirable niche.
To make your presence “significant”, you make what you do so clear that it stands out from the clutter.
Now keep in mind that this doesn’t impact on your broad range of products or services, it simply means that you don’t try to outline them all right off the top.
It’s about creating the easiest, most obvious entry point for consumers, because – at least initially – it’s all about giving them a reason to choose you.
Is it bright and sunshiny yet?
I know some of these concepts aren’t ground breaking, so much so that idioms such as “less is more” and “keep it simple, stupid” have started to sound like jargon.
But we do have to keep those things front of mind, because the temptation to lay it all out there is so strong (that FOMO I mentioned earlier).
At the end of the day, it’s a mental game for us as entrepreneurs: are we willing to give up what we think is important and valuable and start giving what the customers want?
As business owners, we have to force ourselves to think more like consumers, which is why it’s often extremely helpful to get some outside opinions from fresh, unbiased eyes.
As consumers, we wish the rain would go away and we even learn to ignore a lot of it, but as business owners (and sometimes as marketers) we just make more rain.
As Donald Miller from Story Brand puts it: “When you confuse you will lose, noise is the enemy”.
That’s why at SeeSharp we have developed a full system to help business owners gain clarity around the “what” in their business.
Clarity is, after all, the enemy of clutter, and stripping away the clutter helps you see clearly.
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