Do you want your customers to be dazed and confused? All you have to do is cloak your message in a blizzard of buzzwords.

Obviously, I don’t recommend that. We all want to reside in the memory box of our (potential) clients. More words = more fog.

Instead, use simple, clear words.

See what I mean in this one-minute video:

It’s always tempting to adopt the impressive-sounding biz language that buzzes around us like a pack of mosquitoes. Swat them away and use clarity of speech if you want to have a memorable impact!

The Hobbit StoryHumans are hard-wired to tell and remember stories. That’s why smart business people wrap up their message in a narrative.

Master storytellers tap into our need to see a beginning, a progression, and a destination.

What’s your story? As a professional or as a business, you have one – do you tell it? It’s a vital part of having a memorable, clear message.

See what I mean in this one-minute (ish) video:

People will forget a list of facts and offerings. But we’ll remember your story.

(there seems to be a rash of posts about storytelling all of a sudden: here and here and here, for instance!)

FedEx planeThe World On Time.

Those four words summarize the FedEx marketing message. And, it’s brilliant.

What do I care about if I’m going to use a package shipping/delivery service? Reach and speed. Reliability. The heft to get it done fast and consistently. FedEx says they’ll get it anywhere (the world), and I can count on it (on time).

That’s what I care about if I’m an individual, a corporate professional, or a supply chain director.

The World On Time.

Contrast this with UPS’s misguided efforts to sell common people on the concept of “Logistics”, their phrase “Synchronizing the world of commerce” painted on trucks, and the sad effort to personalize a color (“What can Brown do for you?”).

That kind of marketing message is too much effort, trying to educate an entire marketplace with abstractions. Leave logistics to the supply-chain, operations-level people.

The World On Time is all I need to know. That’s the power of a clear, succinct, on-target message.

That’s clarity.

I’ve been doing a lot of Clarity Therapy lately.

What is Clarity Therapy? It’s an intensive one-on-one time where we dig deep to uncover your professional DNA, and come up with your unique direction, story, and message.

Clarity Therapy is like de-fogging the mirror and the windshield. When we see ourselves and our purpose clearly, we move forward with confidence.

Clarity Therapy for businesses – a half-day or full-day session – brings us to a 20/20 view of the following:

ClarityONBiz

Clarity Therapy for careers - a half-day session for individuals in transition – gets us here:

ClarityONCareer

Our goal: defining a you-based business or role. AND – we use M&Ms for props. Because gaining insight should be delicious!

If you’d like to learn more, contact me (steve at stevewoodruff.com). I can forward you all the details, and about as many testimonials as you’d ever like to see (from people just like you who wanted an objective “therapist” to help clear the fog).

And, yes, we can do these sessions over Skype.

You want one huge bonus? Here it is – the clearer your message, the easier it is for people to connect and refer you. Including me, the Connection Agent.

I’m fascinated by the process of fermentation and distillation. I’ll watch documentaries on the process, and find myself longing to spend an entire year traveling the world just to see more closely how wine, beer, whiskey, and other spirits are made.

{I’m guessing a lot of us would enjoy that tour…any sponsors out there?? :>}

MoonshineAlso, when it comes to ideas and words, distillation fascinates me. How do we boil down a plethora of concepts and messages into a distilled, compact, light-giving phrase? Can we take our business and boil it down to a clear summary?

You may not be able to offer your customers moonshine, but you can serve them a 100-proof message. 

Here’s how: Aim for 10 words. Craft a summary message that can be given out in 10 words of less. Aim for clarity, not comprehensiveness.

How did FedEx do thisThe World on Time. Allstate’s striking and unforgettable message? You’re in good hands. How about blogger Dan Rockwell (Helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less)? Can you grab one word and build your message around it, like Mark Schaefer (Grow)?

Brief. Punchy. Memorable. Non-technical.

Your 10 word message may be a quick tagline, or it may be a brief sentence, but either way, it’s compressed, like a verbal business card.

So, let’s get practical:

Start by creating this factual summary statement: I do (this) for (customers) in order to (end result) with (my particular differentiating quality). Excellent – you’re already at 40 proof.

Now, try to come up with an illustration or analogy that short-cuts right to the point in a vivid fashion. You’ve just jumped to 80 proof!

Finally, create a compact phrase that you can give to someone before the elevator door even closes. Think of this final product as a memory dart, not an elevator speech. You’re now at 100 proof!

We all need to break through the mists in the minds of our customers with a beam of distilled enlightenment. That’s lifting the fog.

Once we realize that the minds of our potential and actual clients are filled with static, distraction, clutter, and everything-but-you, it becomes clear that we have a one primary task above all others.

Break through the noise. Lift the fog.

It is not up to our customers to figure us out. Throwing a bunch of words against a wall and hoping something sticks isn’t a strategy; it’s just lazy. 

It’s up to us to give a clear, relevant, and memorable message. How?

First, we settle on ONE differentiating offering as our lead-in (that was part 1). We may do more than one thing (as an individual or a business), but we want to be known as the go-to for something.

The next part sounds shady – you need to steal. Yes, I said steal! What you want to hijack is a pre-existing idea, image, or thing in the mind of the person, and make it yours.

thief

Consider these two approaches:

“Our state-of-the-art coffee grinding, brewing, and dispensing solution combines leading technology with consumer-friendly aesthetics in order to provide an optimal beverage experience.”

- vs. -

“We’re the BMW of coffeemakers.”

What have you done? You’ve “stolen” (OK, borrowed if you like) the BMW reputation for high-end quality, sleekness, and luxury pricing, and bridged it to your product/company in the customer’s mind. Your offering, by association, moves from unknown and commodity status to an aspirational identity.

You’ve lifted the fog by giving the customer an easy shortcut to understanding. You are now placed on an existing memory hook. And, you’ve also potentially gained some reverb marketing – that is, every time this person sees a BMW on the road, guess what just might reverberate in their mind?

You – and your offering. You clever thief. There are many marketing approaches in the world. But do you see howJohn Jantsch made his memorable?

The most direct and memorable way into the mind of your (potential) customer is to latch onto something already there. After a Clarity Therapy session, my clients never look at M&Ms the same again. Why? It’s one of my props, and it has tremendous reverb value. I didn’t need to create something new. Just “steal” something that was already there.

What image or analogy will you use to bridge quickly and memorably into the mind of your audience?

For two days, we’ve been buried under a thick layer of fog. The kind that just makes you want to go back to sleep in the middle of the day.

At least it serves one purpose – it’s a reminder of how welcome light and clarity are.

When it comes to the domain where your business operates, it’s very likely that your clients and prospects live in a perpetual fog. They barely have time to process all their responsibilities – how can they process and remember everything that YOU are, and can do for them?

Don’t believe me? Think about your suppliers. How many bullet points can you jot down to fully describe each of them? See what I mean?

Fog-Lifter

Maybe Job Number 1 for you is to be a fog-lifter.

Jot down, in the next 60 seconds, all the kinds of work you can do for a client. Now circle the ONE which you’d like to be doing most of all. Or, alternatively, the ONE thing at which you are absolutely the best.

That’s the starting point of your core, fog-lifting message. Consider it your foot-in-the-door offering, your differentiator, your strong suit.

Example: What is Charles H. Green all about? In a word: Trust. That’s the heart and soul of his identity and message, whatever else he may do.

Remember, you can only occupy a very small space in the mind of a client. Don’t be foggy, or you’ll be forgettable. Narrow it down to one main thing.

There’s a lot you have to bring to your clients. First and foremost, you need to bring light. Be Clear.

Next, in part 2, we’ll look at how to position this one thing in the domain of your marketplace.

(here’s a nice angle on developing your USP – Unique Selling Proposition – from Jeff Howell)

It’s easy to spend a lot of time looking into the rear-view mirror. There’s a lot to learn back there in the past – though we can often find ourselves slowed down or even paralyzed by regrets or confusion in our timeline.

Who we once were shapes who we now are. But if we’re going to move forward confidently, we need to spend a lot more time gazing at a clear-view mirror.

What are my strengths? Where does my performance excel? What’s my DNA, my professional makeup, and how does that map to my current career path?

Sometimes we’re afraid of the truth about ourselves, because embracing our unique makeup – getting a clear view and owning it – may mean change.

After our morning shower, we instinctively wipe the mirror so we can see clearly. We need a clear-view mirror for our professional souls as well.

Let’s do that today with one simple exercise – turn that rear-view mirror*, look yourself right in the eye, and answer this question: What’s the portrait I truly want to paint with the rest of my days here on earth?

Write it down. Embrace it. Begin. Past is prologue – it is not destiny (to paraphrase Shakespeare). Change a few words in the post above, and this advice applies equally well to your small business.

Choose your direction from the clear-view mirror, not just the rear-view mirror.

*ummm, please – not while driving, OK? ;>}

You are capable of doing 10 things.

You CAN sell. You CAN manage a project. You CAN do manual labor. You CAN teach. You CAN design floral arrangements.

We all have a list of things we’ve done in the past, or do in the present.

But our focus should be the one or two things that we SHOULD be doing.

Each of us has uniquely differentiating strengths. Something to offer the world, to offer potential clients. Something where we can be at our best.

We need a career role that is not a commodity. If you’re doing what lots of others can do, and it isn’t  your unique gift, you’re in the commodity zone. You also may experience Impostor Syndrome (constantly feeling like a fraud).

Just because someone else has defined a role and its responsibilities doesn’t mean that you have to fit that uniform (which was never measured around you).

You are probably doing one or two of your SHOULD things (or have done them), but don’t recognize that all the rest of your capabilities need to become subordinate. Your current role may be 90% “can,” and 10% “should.”

Step back and take an honest look. List out 10 things you do. Then cross out eight of them. Maybe even nine.

There is your future direction.

There are millions of companies out there providing something-or-other, and millions of people doing some-job-or-other.

Don’t be one of them. Claim your market[place].

MarketplaceYou have a unique sweet spot as a company, an offering that sets you apart. That’s your [place] in the market.

As an individual, you are developing skills and competencies that are shaping you for a particularly “fitting” role. That’s your [place] in the market of work (whether working for others, or self-employed).

Your primary job, right now, isn’t winning the next project, or grabbing the next available job opening up the ladder. It’s knowing and defining your market[place].

The best way to find your niche, your sweet spot, is by asking for the honest input of trusted others (including clients and co-workers). Generally speaking, they will see more clearly than you do where you fit. You can also get outside help by way of an assessment and professional counsel.

But either way, don’t bounce from place to place based on circumstance. Claim your market[place]. And grow from there. 

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