I speak frequently before audiences of producers. Often sponsors of the event are provided an opportunity to give a short commercial. Representatives from carriers and general agents troop up to the podium and give their two-to-three minute pitch. Apparently, like Lake Wobegon, the folks who work for these enterprises are all above average. At least that’s the conclusion one would draw after hearing virtually every sponsor brag that “our people are what makes us different.”
After a while the phrase becomes a sort of talisman, a magical incantation that conveys a host of deep meaning to the sponsors, but to the audience quickly becomes a boring, trite spiel. In short, a waste of time and opportunity. These sponsors may actually have great people. Their marketing message, however, not so much. The question is, if asked to describe our own businesses in two minutes, who among us would do any better?
The goal of marketing, as Al Reis and Jack Trout describe in their seminal work Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, is to “position your product in the mind of the prospect.” What your message means to you is unimportant. What matters is focusing on what the audience cares about and speaking to that interest in a way that enables them to grasp and retain your message. Crafting a marketing message that accomplishes this task, one that stands out from the crowd, can be challenging. The right structure can make this process easier and, fortunately, Doug Hall, author of Jump Start Your Business Brain, offers a great framework.
According to Mr. Hall, an effective marketing message is one that conveys your:
- Overt Benefit – a concise statement clearly identifying and describing the value you offer customers
- Real Reason to Believe – hard evidence that inspires confidence you can deliver this value
- Dramatic Difference – proof of a uniqueness to your offering and how it relates to your Overt Benefit and Reason to Believe
“Our people make us different” is speaking to the speaker, but not to the audience who assumes every firm tries to hire good people. Worse, when everyone is saying the same thing, by definition no one is unique. They are missing the key too standing out: clearly stating what you do that helps your audience solve their problems, what makes you different from others providing that solution and why they should believe you Next time you’re asked about your business, think about what you do that speaks to your prospects’ needs (“we’re a company of experts that can help you save money on benefits…”).
Explain why they should believe you (“… as any of our numerous references will tell you”). Then tell them what makes you different (“If we determine your needs will be best met by someone else, we’ll introduce you to a competitor”). Let your competitors brag about their wonderful people. Because while they keep using that phrase, to their prospects it doesn’t mean what they think it means.