What To Do When Your Value Proposition Feels Stale
By Linda Lindsey
If you’re from Atlanta, you know Tom Shane. For as long as I can remember, he’s been on the radio talking about his company in new and unique ways. I can honestly say I’ve never heard the same Shane Company ad twice. This guy is my muse. Whenever I’m stuck writing ad copy, I try to channel “my friend in the diamond business” for inspiration.
Amazon Web Services releases three new features each day. Can you imagine the team of marketers it takes to message all that information in a cohesive way? The average company has a much slower release cycle leaving marketers with potentially long dry spells between inspirations. For years I worked at a company whose roadmap was mostly back-end process improvements – which didn’t give me much to cheer about to customers. That’s when I learned some valuable marketing gems.
Stop Talking About Yourself!
Good marketers have armed their sales force with a PowerPoint presentation that sings the company’s praises. There’s a logo slide, perhaps a map of your locations, a list of all the awards and accolades you’ve received from unbiased third parties and, if you’re lucky, a few customer quotes. If you’ve ever watched a corporate sales pitch with one of these PowerPoint decks, I can guarantee you’ve fought to stay awake, picked up your phone, or started thinking about the weekend ahead.
What Do Only You Know?
Prospects are immune to how great you think you are; they want you to teach them something. The people your sales teams are pitching have limited visibility into the market. They know their own company and have some insight into competitors, but your salespeople deal with hundreds of prospects and customers. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve got data you can turn into valuable information.
For example, I help sell data center space. In a nutshell: we sell space, power, and cooling. (I’ll wait for you to finish yawning.) Think of data center space like buying storage space for all those gaudy Christmas decorations and the antiques from your dear old Aunt Louise. At the storage facility, they ask how much space you need, how long you need it, and if you need a space with air conditioning.
As consumers, we are bombarded with marketing-speak and we are all numb to it.
Here’s the cool part. We have metrics for all this information. Imagine the reaction when our salespeople say, “62% of companies like you pay for more power than they are using – we can make sure you’re only paying for what you need.”
You Probably Don’t Work for Maytag
Read your website and customer-facing materials with a critical eye. As you’re reading, ask yourself if the words are specific to your industry. Does your product or service “increase efficiency” and “reduce costs”? I call these phrases, “Dishwasher Marketing.” These statements are true, but they are also true of my dishwasher. Most marketers use vague descriptors because they don’t know enough about the product or service to be more specific. At my company, we used to say, “We save you time!” When I dug a little deeper, I uncovered how we do that. (We let customers order services online in minutes at their convenience rather than calling our sales desk.) As consumers, we are bombarded with marketing-speak and we are all numb to it. Strive to be as specific as possible to break through the clutter… words matter.
Google used to tell you what keywords people searched to find you. (I’m showing my age.) That was a great way to get a sense of how people thought of your company. We stuffed our web copy with strategic keywords. Then, Google changed their algorithm to place less importance on those words when determining how to rank you. Most marketers still use keywords just to be safe. If you go to a competitor’s website, right click on a specific web page, click view page source and look for “keywords” and “description”. You might find a few gems to add to your own value proposition.
If All Else Fails, Ask Somebody Else
As much as we’d like to believe we have all the answers, many times we don’t. Most marketing departments are good at getting internal alignment on messaging but use a best guess on what the market actually wants to hear. Companies typically do a post-mortem to analyze where a potential opportunity failed. Great companies also track why they win. Think about conducting a win-loss survey with an open-ended question asking why you won. Customers can clearly articulate what differentiates you from your competition.
P.S. While writing this article I stumbled on this early blog post from Mr. Tom Shane himself. I was shocked to read he has, “no personal love for jewelry.” So, maybe I don’t have a friend in the diamond business, but you have a friend in the marketing business! Find me on LinkedIn if you want to chat.
About the Author
Linda Lindsey is a Senior Marketing Manager for QTS Data Centers. An Atlanta native, Linda has been in the marketing and advertising arena for almost 30 years. She has developed and executed marketing and communications programs for a wide range of public companies including Ricoh Americas Corporation and NCR. She has a niche in marketing cutting-edge technology solutions and a passion for nonprofit organizations. Linda’s award-winning, no-nonsense approach targets customers in a way that helps them move further along the buying cycle. She’s earned a DMA Gold ECHO and a Gold Davey for copywriting.