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Solution or Convolution?

April 25, 2012|Erin Provey

The rise of solution marketing has left in its wake a convoluted tangle of corporate messaging. I know this because I’ve been to your homepage, and I still don’t know what you do. So, let’s set aside industry lingo like “value proposition” for a moment, and I’ll be as blunt as I’m asking you to be: What do you do? What are you selling? Is it for me? How is it different?

The rise of solution marketing has left in its wake a convoluted tangle of corporate messaging. I know this because I’ve been to your homepage, and I still don’t know what you do. So, let’s set aside industry lingo like “value proposition” for a moment, and I’ll be as blunt as I’m asking you to be: What do you do? What are you selling? Is it for me? How is it different?

The classic marketing messaging test is a hypothetical situation, the opportunity of a lifetime: You’re alone in an elevator with the person to whom you most want to pitch a particular idea. You have the length of an elevator ride to explain the concept in a way compelling enough to make them at least want to know more, and at best want to buy it. Does your core messaging pass this test?

If the two primary ways by which people experience your brand – your Web site and your sales force – cannot clearly articulate a captivating “elevator pitch,” your messaging is broken. If you’re not willing or able to pick up the phone and make a cold call using the highfalutin messaging you’re trying to wrangle reps into using, then why should you expect them to? Maybe it’s not that they don’t understand it; maybe it simply doesn’t work.

Many b-to-b communications professionals are missing a huge opportunity by hanging on to the old “we write it, you say it” relationship with sales – a narrow one-way street. Front-line feedback is a key source during the discovery phase of any strong b-to-b branding project. You say: “But they’re all off-message.” I say: “Well, why?” The more inconsistency, the more important it is to understand the root of it, which must then be reflected in new/more effective positioning as well as the necessary education and tools to support the new direction.

As marketers, we’re all knee-deep in content these days – both consuming and creating. We’re not alone in this information onslaught – as your products evolve into solutions and the marketplace shifts, your reps, customers and prospects face learning curves that they either will or won’t choose to overcome. If you’ve never heard someone say that they’re looking for a “high-performance, unified collaboration platform” (huh?), then maybe it’s time to start doing some primary research into what needs your products, solutions and services are meeting – and consider leveraging your skills as a communicator to say more by speaking plainly.

Like Hemingway, your aim should be “to put down on paper what [you] see and what [you] feel in the best and simplest way.” And as Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Erin Provey

Erin Provey is Service Director, Strategic Communications Management, at SiriusDecisions. She has more than 10 years of experience in brand strategy, including positioning, identity, public relations, digital strategy, copywriting and account management. Follow Erin on Twitter @erinprovey.
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