When my oldest daughter, Ava, was in second grade, Sarah and I visited her school to do something called “Parent Sharing.”
“Parental sharing” is when adults bore young children with what they do for a living.
Since Sarah and I are entrepreneurs, we decided to help 140 second graders start a business.
We took about 40 kids at a time, putting four or five kids on a business.
We had them choose a business, name it, decide what to sell, price items, and even make an organizational chart.
But most importantly, we got them to describe why their business was different and why customers would buy from them.
We got shocking results!
And by shocking I mean we had dozens of 7 and 8 year olds GET IT!
We had a photography business that sold “very expensive photos, but they’re all 3D and the customer can edit them.”
And there was a candy store that “had more sugar in their candy than anyone else!” Obviously, this candy store was not aimed at diabetics.
Of the top 35 businesses, there were only a few that were the best or cheapest.
Oh, and there weren’t any with X years of experience, great customer service, or fancy sounding certifications.
Isn’t that what adults do all the time to advertise their business?
The funny thing is, little kids know you can’t be the same as everyone else and they expect you to stand out from everyone else.
It should be a simple concept, right?
Odds are you’re unique and there’s a good reason someone would buy from you instead of your competitor.
Don’t complicate this.
Too many companies prefer flowery and jargon-filled language that doesn’t sound like we’re talking at all.
You want to make sure everyone knows how special you are and every single product or service you offer.
Also, if you’ve recently left corporate America, this jargon has been drilled into your brain as if you were a hostage reading a pre-written statement about how well your captors treated you. But now you have Stockholm Syndrome. It’s time to break free.
We want to sound professional and make sure the prospect knows we’re the best at what we do, we really care about them, and they know about the forty-one things we sell.
But they can’t figure it all out and it makes you sound just like everyone else.
Quick tip: If you use any of the following buzzwords, you’re popping a kid’s bubble somewhere in the world:
ROI, synergy, impact, core competency, sustainability, hyperlocal, next-gen, alignment, leverage, ecosystem, or anything related to being the best in the industry.
You want to talk to people like you would at a backyard cookout.
For example, we had friends over one summer for a pool party.
I happened to make eye contact with one of the fathers, who I didn’t really know, so he felt obligated to ask me what I do for a living. Really, anything longer than 2.3 seconds and you’re either asking what someone does for a living or you’ve just become a stalker.
I could have told him, “I empower small business owners, entrepreneurs and people with business ideas to innovate new products and services that compete in the global marketplace.”
It was on the website of the business coaching business I worked for.
But I didn’t want him to jump into the deep end of the pool and never resurface, so I kept it simple.
I said, “I train entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses so they can work on the business instead of in the business.”
That he understood. And even better, he was actually an entrepreneur and later became a customer.
Here’s a simple formula that never fails to clarify your marketing message.
I make/create your product or service for your target customer to get measurable results.
Let’s use my video business as an example.
I create explainer videos for financial advisors and insurance agents so they can stand out from the crowd and close more clients.
Notice, I didn’t think about how long I’ve been doing this, I added that I had a Masters in Business Business, let’s say I had world class customer service, or that I was a marathon runner. Yes, people like to put pictures of themselves finishing a marathon on their website.
I had an insurance agency that worked mostly with individuals, although they also had some commercial lines.
Their original marketing message was:
We are a world-class insurance agency focused on providing the best customer service in the industry. We provide home, life, auto, commercial, marine, condo, renters, motorcycle and more. With the help of our specialist business partners, we conveniently offer a comprehensive solution for all your insurance needs.
Ugh…did you finish it? I didn’t and had to rewrite it. I hope they didn’t say anything political to get me in trouble.
This agency was actually quite good at making policies for their clients and they could usually get you the best bang for your buck.
After following the previous formula, we arrive at this:
We provide customized insurance policies based on your actual lifestyle to make sure you get the coverage you need and don’t pay for the coverage you don’t.
Notice how much easier it was to understand? Not to mention how many times the word “you” was used instead of the words “we and us.”
It may take a few tries and you may even change it a few times as your business grows.
When you finish this message, you’ll want to repeat it everywhere.
We tend to mix up our messaging on our website, business cards, social media posts and at our networking events.
The argument is that you don’t want to bore people with the same old message over and over again.
However, we are bombarded with over 5,000 marketing messages every day. And you’ll notice that big brands don’t change their message every time you see them. There’s a reason for that.
You want people to remember you and giving them something different every time they see it is a surefire way to be forgotten.
As for the sophomores, they are all in middle school now and already indoctrinated in the buzzword.
You have to be like a sophomore and remember to have fun with your message.
Charles Alexander is director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Vol State.