“What the hell are you trying to say?”
Have you ever been in an argument and heard—or said—the above question?
The funny thing is that one person often knows exactly what the other is attempting to communicate. But he or she wants it stated so that the message is crystal clear. No doubt should remain concerning the point being made.
Communication is one of those things that we silly humans each think we have figured out. And if one person perceives a lack of clarity in ideas we express…
“Hey, that’s your fault, pal. I can’t help it if you’re an idiot.”
Clarity of messaging is beyond important — it’s make or break. And while, obviously, this applies to your PR, marketing, and advertising, messaging includes every point of contact you or your business has with any person, anywhere.
Maybe you need an employee or two who are going to stick around longer than a month. How are you going to attract them?
Maybe you’re trying to secure funding from investors. What are you going to say to convince them to provide you with capital?
Your target audience can mean more than just prospective customers. But if people listen to or read your message and think, “What the fuck is this guy talking about?” even a million-dollar idea will fall on deaf ears.
Effective communication for businesses starts with understanding exactly who you are and what you do. There are a lot of different ways to develop a brand positioning statement. Every industry and business is different. But if the founders don’t get clear themselves about what they do, how they do it, and who they do it for, they’re behind the 8-ball moving forward.
But here’s the kicker; you want it to be brief, direct, and to-the-point.
Let’s dig a little deeper into how not to muddy your message and deliver it with maximum clarity.
K.I.S.S. me, you fool.
You’ve probably seen the acronym KISS, for Keep It Stupid Simple.
Sometimes what seems like the simplest task in the world ends up being more difficult than ever imagined. When you’re looking for concise, powerful, and memorable messaging, it’s a case of easier said than done.
After all, your product or service is awesome, right? How do you convey all of that awesomeness into a concise statement?
Get right to the heart of what you do or offer. Features and benefits, where your idea came from…these things have their place. Make no mistake about it. But when first impressions matter, you need to have a clear-cut, easily digestible message to let people know that they need to pay attention to what you’re doing.
Business owners can overestimate how interested people are in their product.
When you consider how many messages, ads, posts, etc people get bombarded with every day, the need for brevity should be apparent.
If you’re looking to bloviate, go bloviate someone on your own time. Muck up your messaging in business, and you risk losing the sale, investment, or partnership.
(Don’t feel bad if you had to Google the word “bloviate.”)
Also, leave out the bullshit that may sound good on paper, but in reality means squat. If you tell people that you “think outside the box,” odds are it won’t even register — they’ve heard it before so many times. Don’t put a lot of emphasis on how you “are committed to customer service.” These are the old, generic standards that have people’s attention already going elsewhere, even if you have your target market dialed in.
Examples: Hit & Miss
Check out this position statement from Hubspot:
“For SMBs looking to grow their business, HubSpot is the Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation software that increases lead flow and improves lead conversions.”
Now that’s some clear messaging.
The logo suggests multiple channels of outreach. The statement leaves nothing to chance or misunderstanding. These guys know what they’re doing.
Let’s look at another example:
Quite honestly, I don’t know what the positioning statement was for Mama’s Baking.
Would it matter what the hell it was? Look at that freakin’ logo.
Someone in the company – maybe even one of the founders – thought this would be a good idea. People within that business thought that they were conveying something a hell of a lot different than what comes across.
What message is this sending? I doubt it’s the one they intended.
I’m sure it was meant to represent a homemade, Mom & Pop bakery that emphasizes quality and made-from-scratch goodness. However, the reality that I see is that Mama has a whole lot more going on than baked goods.
Clarity isn’t just about choosing your words wisely. It’s also about not putting something in font of the public that could leave them confused, bewildered, or laughing their asses off.
“Who are you and why should I care?”
Properly identifying your target audience is one of the bedrocks of business.
But it doesnt stop there.
With all the tools we have today for reaching a person you consider a potential customer, partner, employee, etc. you need to be able to broadcast on everyone’s favorite station, WIIFM…
What’s In It For Me?
Even if you sell what they’re looking for, lack of clarity in conveying that will have them looking elsewhere.
Whether it’s social media, your website, a sales pitch, don’t beat around the bush (unless you are Mama’s baking—see above). Get right to it. Don’t be afraid to speak to them in their own language, but as mentioned above, don’t go overboard with tons of text.
Say you’re a tech company offering a great accounting software that can make the lives of contractors easier and less stressful. If you ran a Facebook ad that goes into the rare coding language that your development team used, or all of the specs, you’re ideal customer’s eyes might glaze over right before they continue scrolling.
But if you come across with something more like, “We’re xyz company and we make CPA level accounting easy for landscapers and roofers,” you stand a far better chance of getting attention.
Get the Picture?
The perfect message in clarity may take some time to arrive at. You may have to tweak it a few times. It can be counterintuitive: learning how to say so a lot in the briefest way possible.
But once you have it… you have it.
Then you’re ready to cut through all the static people are exposed to everyday.
And the next time someone asks you, “What are you trying to say?”
…that’s your cue. Serve them up a nice heaping plate of clarity.