In another Foundation episode, Dom talks about one of the basic mistakes many businesses make when marketing themselves: not being clear about what services or products they offer.
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What Do You Do?
Dom Goucher: Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of PreneurCast. Just me, Dom Goucher, this week. Pete is off doing some serial—not parallel—stuff. He’s working on a really big project at the moment. And so, this week, we’re going to be having another one of my Foundation episodes.
Now, I had two or three of those at the beginning of this year, and I thought it was about time we had another one. There’s been something has been really, really bugging me for a while, and I thought it was worth doing an episode all about it. The topic I want to talk to you about this week is really what I believe to be the most important marketing message that you need to get right.
We talked a lot about specific marketing techniques, things like differentiation, that we talked about recently with Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers, about how you can identify what makes you different, what makes your products different, etc. Great interview, if you haven’t listened to that, by the way.
But this is far more general, and, actually, is where people, I think, are overlooking the biggest issues, and this is in telling people who you are and what you do. Now, this whole thing started a long time ago. As I travel around the world and in various places, I see an awful lot of vehicles, and what a lot of companies do is they sign write their vehicles.
They write their logos or their company name on their vehicles. The next time you’re driving around, have a look. How many of those vehicles just say the company name, or just have the company logo? Or, because we like call-to-action, we know we tell you to encourage your customers to contact you by whatever means, and sometimes they do have a phone number or a website.
But, very often, that’s where it stops. Very often, you will see, trucks, cars, vans with the name of a company and a website or phone number. That’s it. So there’s no actual reason to contact that company because, well, you’ve no idea what they do. Maybe you do have an idea because, maybe, at some point, you’ve been exposed to some kind of branding activity.
But if you’re not careful and you just copy this example, what you’re doing is spending pointless money on pointless marketing. If you think about the Preneur Hierarchy, the hardest people to reach are the people that are completely unaware of you, and not existing customers, and have never seen your marketing messages anywhere.
If you’re going to reach those people, you need to concentrate on these basic concepts of telling people who you are and what you do. Don’t expect people to know who you are or what you do, because they don’t, they won’t. In this day and age, people who are searching the internet, or looking through magazines or adverts, they’re going to skip over you if it’s not clear whether or not you can help them.
Whether or not you do what they’re looking for. So you need to identify yourself and your products or service. You can’t just say, hey, we’re this person and give us a call or we’re this company, give us a call, which is what these vehicles are doing. And all these started with this vehicle sign writing.
When people have spent a lot of money on this, by the way. They spend a lot of money getting stickers made, or having their vehicles painted. It’s basically pointless, but it also happens with lots of other places. It happens with shop signs, with the signage on the shops.
I’ve seen numerous companies that just have the name of their company over the window. Unless you’re willing to actually look in the window, or go through the door, you’re not really aware of what they do and what they sell. This is serious. You look around. If you look around and pay a little bit more attention, you’ll see this.
The other place it really happens is on business cards. Now, business cards are the same as vehicle sign writing, as far as I’m concerned. You might get the name of the company, and you might get the title of the person. Neither of those things actually matter to the person who picks up a business card six months later and goes, oh, okay, why did I pick up this business card?
Why have I got this? Why did I think it was important? I make a habit, by the way, of writing on business cards when I get them because that reminds me why I picked it up in the first place and whether or not it’s of any use to me. But it would be really helpful if that business card actually said what the company did.
Another place I’m seeing this in more recent times, if you remember back to our conversation with Wayne Breitbarth about LinkedIn. As you may know, Pete and I are getting more and more involved in using LinkedIn, growing our networks in different ways, which we’ll talk about in another show.
But one of the things I’m seeing is very, very common, and this is one thing that Wayne talks about in that conversation and in his book, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. He talks about the fact that you have your name in your profile, and then you also have this sub-head about what you do.
And very often, in a company, you get these people and they’re like Manager at XYZ Company, that’s it. That’s fair enough, as long as the company has a company page, and that company page is linked to their page and everything, and then the company page explains what the company does. Great.
But if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a solo entrepreneur, or you’re a consultant or someone like that, then, very often, you’ll have some meaningless words. If at all, you just have consultant in your title, and I see this a lot. Another thing that is very common is physical businesses, especially restaurants.
Now, this is something—I’ll give you some examples in my local area. Probably in its worst possible incarnation in my local area, because I live—as you may know—in a coastal fishing village somewhere in the outer regions of Spain, nowhere near any big cities or anything.
And so, the concept of marketing and business development and things is a bit lost on the locals. Not to their detriment. They’re quite happy as they are, and I’m quite happy they are the way they are, but it’s interesting to observe how far away from big business it gets.
So, for example, in the local newspaper or local magazine, you’ll see a lot of adverts for restaurants. They literally just have the name of the restaurant and maybe a phone number. They don’t bother telling people where they are. Now, I might live in a fishing village, but we get a magazine from an area, a location.
We get a local magazine from the next town, the next—not quite county area, but there’s a good possible 25 to 50 miles between me and wherever the people who are advertising in this magazine actually physically are. But they don’t bother to mention it.
So, if I’m looking for somewhere nearby, I want to know it’s nearby. And this adverts—99 out of 100 of them miss out where they are. Or they may have a street name, but not what town the street’s in. They probably don’t know whether this magazine reaches out to quite such a wide distance.
But, still, it’s one of those things. Everybody is expecting other people to know something, and you can’t do that any more, in my opinion. You can’t expect people to know who you are, what you do, how what you do benefits them, why they should use you, where you are, any of these things.
The worst offenders, and you’ve heard Pete and I both talk about this repeatedly, the worst offenders are websites. People make these mistakes more commonly on websites than anything, not least of which because websites are easier and cheaper to build than, say, having sign writing on your car.
You’re more likely to have a website than you are sign writing on a vehicle. No matter what business you’re in, you’re going to have a website—I hope so, anyway, except for some of the local businesses around here, but that’s another story.
Websites miss all of this stuff off. They don’t say what the actual business is, they don’t say what the core services are, they don’t make it clear to visitors of the site what the particular benefits of using that particular company or person or whatever are. It’s all buried in menus, if it’s even there.
And the time is coming where this basic stuff will make the difference between you getting a customer or losing a potential customer, and also missing opportunities. The number of people that I talk to that can tell stories of not having clearly identified the services that they offer.
And, at some point in their business, they’ve been approached by somebody who’s an existing customer, even. They’ll tell the business owner a story about how they’ve been somewhere and done something, and the business owner will say, so, why didn’t you come to me for that?
And this customer will say, well, I didn’t know you did that. And this is an existing customer. If you’re not clear about what you do, the services you offer, what products you offer, you’re not continually clearly communicating that in clear language, then you can’t expect people to guess.
You can’t expect people to know, and, therefore, you can’t expect people to do business with you. That point about common language, as well. Everybody’s industry has terminology, and it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. It doesn’t matter who it is you’re talking to or about.
Everybody gets into the really bad habit of using the industry terminology. Now, whether it’s with an existing client, and you sometimes get away with it, and you just keep talking and you might use an industry term they may not know, or you may use it in your marketing.
Let me give you a really, really simple example of unclear industry terminology. Now, I’m not picking on anybody. This is just me, and, off the top of my head, I thought of this example, and the example is Chartered Accountant. Now, you’re going to see that.
You’re going to see that on letterheads, you’re going to see it on, possibly, the outside of the offices of a chartered accountant. You’re certainly are going to see it on that business card. You’re going to see it on their LinkedIn profile. There’s one unfortunate minor detail about Chartered Accountant as a job title, or as a business description.
I have no idea what that means. I have no idea why that benefits me, why it’s better, why they’re different, or how they’re different from another kind of accountant. Are there other kinds of accountants? What can a chartered accountant do that another accountant can’t do?
Is it a can-or-can’t situation? So, if I’ve got a business that just says Chartered Accountant on it, and I’ve got another business card that says we do tax advice, we do business accounting, we do personal investment advising, etc. I’m more likely to go with the second one.
And that’s a really simple example of industry terminology. Just even your job title, your business title, the description of what you do, it needs to be in common language if you’re trying to attract people that don’t know what you do, which is basically anybody who’s not an existing customer.
People don’t look for industry terms all the time. They look for solutions to problems. Pete and I talk about this a lot. They are looking for a solution to a problem, so you should try and communicate what you do in terms of those kinds of solutions.
Otherwise, you’re just losing potential customers and missing opportunities. So that’s really the problem statement. Any time you’re expecting somebody to work something out, you may not realize you’re doing that. And I think I’ve kind of described the problem, but you might not realize that you’re doing it.
That’s why we do these Foundation episodes. That’s why I’m highlighting it here, and that’s why I’m going on about it. If you review your marketing materials, and when I say your marketing materials, I mean your website, your business card, your letterhead, the signage of your business, any of these things, adverts that you’re placing in trade magazines or local magazines or whatever it might be.
If you review all of your marketing material just for this one mistake, just for a missing description of what you do in common language, or where you are if you’re a physical business like a restaurant, I imagine that pretty much everybody is going to find that they’ve made some level of assumption about the person that is looking at that marketing material.
And, as I say, the biggest and probably the easiest and cheapest to fix, is the website. They’re the biggest offenders, but they are the easiest to fix, usually. You can get that website modified, hopefully inexpensively, and make that change relatively quickly.
We’re not talking reprinting a thousand business cards or letterheads, or rewriting on your vehicles, or any of that. Just making sure that your website is up to scratch is an easy change to make. But also, it’s quite likely to be the source of all of these problems.
Also, it’s the one that’s going to reflect the biggest issue because people searching for you online—and, again, we’ve talked about this—they’ll find you via the search engines, and they’ll go to your website. If your website is pretty much all about your spinning logo that animates and jumps up and down, and says, “This is my company name.
My company name is this, this is my company name, my company name is this.” A lot of people believe that’s branding, but branding is associating your name with a product or service. If all you’re doing is just shouting your company name, it’s not branding. It’s just a waste of time.
So, I’ve told you all the problems. I’ve told you a lot of the problems and things to look for. So let’s look at some solutions for you, because we don’t like just talking problems. We like to talk in terms of solutions. The first and foremost is—and whatever it is, whatever your marketing materials are, whatever those marketing solutions are—come up with a way to describe what you do in common language.
Now it could be as simple as a tag line. Now, a lot of websites have tag lines, sub-heads. We used to call them slogans. But a lot of these slogans are, ‘Strength through, insert random word.’ That doesn’t help anybody until you tell them what you do. ‘Helping small businesses succeed online,’ that’s a good slogan.
That’s good—ride it to your company name, which may not reflect anything about what you do. So you just say clearly what you do in common language. That’s a good start. Secondly is put less emphasis on this idea of pure branding, this idea of shouting your name.
As I said, people need to know what you can do, what you can do for them, before they can associate it with that brand name. Better to be known for doing something than for the color of your logo, or what color of shirts your people wear, or whatever else. Well, there are simple things you can do.
On the reverse of a business card, list the services, certainly our website. List the services that you have, your main services. Just slap them on there. “We do this, we can do this for you, we can help you with these things.” And it doesn’t matter; remember again that episode where I talked about the funeral director.
Where the funeral director expected me to know what the process was. But your customers—you can help your customers understand what you do and how you can help them, the problems you can solve. Don’t forget, if you’re a physical business, to include your address, or some way of locating you.
Possibly even—and this is an additional, this isn’t actually a marketing mistake, it’s just a benefit and a tip—is include a map. If you want people to physically find you, include a map. Give them some context, because just giving them an address means they’ve got to do some work, additionally, to translate that address into physical instructions to get to you.
Whereas, if you put a map in there, they’ve got some context, so that can be helpful. Some more advanced tips are things like using custom website domain names. Now, a lot of people will own the name of their company as a domain name. XYZCompany.com, .net, .info, whatever it is.
Or your name—BubbaBrown.com, whatever your name is. Unfortunately, unless you have associated a service or product with that name through branding activities, and through clearly communicating it, then, really, a domain with your name in it is useless unless your company name quite clearly states what you do.
And, even then, XYZ Plumbers—so you’re a plumber. How do I know you can do what I want? My boiler’s exploded, or I need my boiler servicing. So, I’ve still got to visit your website, and then, I’ve got to be absolutely sure, by you having clearly listed on your website, that you service boilers.
So there’s always friction between me as a potential client and you as a service provider. What if you spend an entire $10, or whatever the going rate is, with a company like GoDaddy, and register a domain like BoilerServicing.com? I imagine you won’t get BoilerServicing.
But you might get BoilerServicing, and then your town name, or your county name, .com or .net, or whatever, and either put up a single page on there or just redirect it to your main website. But don’t underestimate those simple, simple solutions, which literally will cost you the price of a domain name.
It expresses the solution that people are looking for, and, at the end of the day, this is what matters. It matters that you express the solution. If you solve their problem before you turn up, they don’t care what your name is. They care whether or not they understand clearly that you can solve their problem.
And people always want to be able to self-select that way. They always are going to be looking for a solution. They want a clear indication that you can solve it. They want confidence. People want confidence before they pick up the phone. Because, in this day of infinite choices on the internet, they’re not going to pick up the phone to ask you the question.
They’re not going to pick up the phone to ask you if you service boilers, if there are two equal listings, and whether it’s even in the Yellow Pages, or two listings in a search engine. If one of them clearly indicates that they service boilers and you don’t, that second one is going to get the inquiry.
It’s going to get the request to quote, it’s going to get the callout, whatever it is. People are looking for solutions to problems. If you don’t list what you do, what your services are, then, really, nobody is going to know, and they’re not going to ask you. This is a key point. So, help people select you by listing what you do, by listing where you are.
And, in some cases, if you want to save yourself some trouble, you can list what you don’t do as well, usually in a positive way. You can express that you focus on something, you can say that you’re a specialist in this, or a specialist in boiler servicing, on matters throwing in examples.
The minimum that you should be doing is telling people what you do. And, by all means, tell them who you are. Because, if they came to you via referral, they do need to know they’ve come to the right place. They’re not interested in you animation skills unless you’re an animator, so I wouldn’t worry about animated logos.
Just make sure they can see your company name, and then get on with telling them what you do. So, hopefully, this is giving you some food for thought to go and review your marketing materials, and make sure that it is clear to your potentials customers and existing customers—the services that you offer, how you can help them.
It is a really big problem that I see in a lot of cases, and it’s a really simple thing to fix. So, action point for the day, whenever you’re listening to this, is to go and look over your marketing materials, especially your website, and make sure that it clearly lists what you want to do.
And, just to reflect back to one more episode, when we talk about core business and attracting clients for what it is you want to do. Remember, if you list what you do, you’re more likely to attract the clients that want you to do that kind of thing. Then. You’re more likely to attract people that want to do the things that you want to do if you tell them what you want to do as your list of potential services.
So, with that, this being a Foundation episode, I’m going to keep it short. I will remind you, whenever you’re listening to this, that you can visit us at PreneurMarketing.com, the home of PreneurCast now. And if you visit PreneurMarketing.com/Win, there will be a competition for you to win something from one of the many authors and guests we have on the show.
There’s always going to be a competition there. We cycle through the different prizes that we get. They may be books from an author, it could be anything. So it’s always worth popping over to PreneurMarketing.com/Win to see what the competition is, and to enter it.
Now, normally we close with a request for you to comment, and you can always leave us a comment on iTunes. Also, you can leave us a comment on PreneurMarketing.com under every podcast. PreneurMarketing.com is where you’ll find all the show notes, and you can download the episodes if you want to listen to them.
You can also find us on SoundCloud, and you can also leave comments on there. But what I want to close with is a thank you. This is a heartfelt thank you to everybody who listens to the show. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who reminded me that they are overwhelmed by the number of business marketing entrepreneurship podcasts that there are out there.
Just on iTunes. I mean, there are a number of platforms other than iTunes, but iTunes is—there’s a huge number out there, and it’s growing. Podcasting is growing again. There’s lots of factors in that that, maybe, we’ll talk about another day, but we’re aware that you have a huge choice of shows to listen to.
So, we’d like to say thank you for listening to this show, for taking the time to give us feedback, to reach out to us with your comments on PreneurMarketing.com or iTunes or SoundCloud, to send us an email via preneurcast [at] preneurgroup [dot] com or any of the other means.
We’re really grateful for the feedback, and we’re grateful that you are our listeners and part of the Preneur Community. So, with that said, back to normal next week with Pete and another conversation with an author. Looking forward to speaking to you next week. Take care. Have a great week. See you all soon.
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Previous PreneurCast Episodes:
Episode 088 – Determination vs Discipline
Episode 089 – Valuing Your Time
Episode 090 – Investing in Yourself and Your Team
Episode 092 – Core Business
Episode 095 – LinkedIn with Wayne Breitbarth