How To Avoid The “Solutions That Matter” Trap
For this post on strategic marketing messages, I was trying to invent a vague and completely meaningless example. The result: “Solutions That Matter.”
Then I Googled it, just for fun. I invite you to do the same.
I’m not sure how “Solutions That Matter” could add value to any brand, in any situation. Is it supposed to contrast with “Solutions That Don’t Matter”?
Major brands can spend millions developing strategic messages to use throughout their marketing. And still they get it wrong. Your business can do better, even if you’re bootstrapping it.
So with no further ado…
THE MARKETING MESSAGE STARTER KIT
As a business owner or manager, you should be able to fluently articulate ideas that can make an emotional connection or start a conversation. If you can’t, you risk killing relationships before they begin.
Here are a few types of messages every business should develop and refine. Think of them as tools in your messaging toolkit. They’re based on knowing your audience and the choices that compete for their attention.
Message tool #1: Company story
Think about your company story as just that, a story. Stories are more powerful and memorable than a dry recitation of facts or history. Use it on your About page, in sales presentations, and in hundreds of conversations you’ll have.
Some points to remember:
- Great stories have great characters with interesting motivations, an interesting plot, an emotional climax, and an uplifting plot resolution.
- It’s not so much about you, but about your customers and their crucial problems that you’re solving.
- Define your customers in flattering, even heroic terms. What are they like? What do they need and why? And don’t forget – how do they feel? A great story appeals to their emotions.
- Why are you or your solutions different?
A company story can be as long as a novel, but you should have a two-paragraph version practically memorized.
Message tool #2: Positioning statement
A positioning statement says how you’re different, and better, than other solutions or competitors. It’s your position vs. theirs. The original marketing guru of Silicon Valley, Regis McKenna, made this format famous:
For [a particular group of people], [our product] is a [category name] that provides [main benefit], unlike [main competitors] which provide [lesser or irrelevant benefits].
Easy huh? Here’s an even easier form, from Marty Neumeier:
Our [offering] is the only [product category] that [benefit].
Could a bold, well-supported positioning statement improve your home page?
Message tool #3: Value proposition
When you must get someone’s attention fast – in a sales letter or phone call – you have to express some significant, specific, credible value that they can’t ignore. That’s the value proposition. One value prop may not fit all. You can create versions for your company, for particular offerings, and for different kinds of prospects.
Jill Konrath is a master at value propositions. She advises using metrics or numbers to express the most important results your customers can expect.
- Employers in Eastern Washington are 75% more likely to grant job interviews to students in our programs than to other non-graduates.
- In a company similar to yours our HR solution reduced paid sick days by 43% in the first year of implementation.
Sometimes you can’t express benefits quantitatively. Consumer goods often express emotional value.
- Old Spice makes you feel like a man
- Red Stripe captures the fun and attitude of Jamaica.
Value propositions aren’t always easy. But if you can’t express value, maybe you need to go back to the drawing board, and design some value into your offering.
Message tool #4: Key benefits
A benefit is a desired result or outcome. Don’t confuse benefits and features, which are components of your offering, and are often poor selling points. Benefit are often expressed as performance measures, cost savings or time. They’re similar to value propositions, but on a smaller scale.
- Your car will hug the road like never before.
- Mow your lawn in 20% less time.
Features are less compelling
- Improved Diamond-Form™ tread design
- New 22” cutting diameter
List all the benefits you can think of, prioritize, and create consistent language to use in a variety of communications.
There are other key messages worth developing
But these three are good starters. They address important issues that your audiences want addressed. And you can fine tune them with time.
What do you think? Are these helpful, especially for small and midsize businesses? What would you change or add?