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I Have No Idea What You're Saying

When did it become the norm to start describing what we do in ways that make it impossible for people to understand?

"By creating value for our customers, we create value for our shareholders. We use our expertise to create transport-related products and services of superior quality, safety and environmental care for demanding customers in selected segments. We work with energy, passion, and respect for the individual."

Whew. Thanks for the example, Volvo.

It seems that people think the more obscure the statement, the more knowledgeable consumers will think they are. I guess their ideal client is sitting there saying, "Gosh. I have no idea what they do, so they must be smarter than me. I should hire them to do something."

I was talking to a friend of about this and she pulled out her business card. I looked at three very professional-looking gray circles that intersected in the middle that all said phrases that made absolutely no sense on their own or together. It was like someone just started pointing at words in the dictionary, put them all into a hat, pulled them out and made a weird business card.

"Do you have any idea what my company does?" she asked. "We sell insurance."

Yeah. I didn't get that.

Business has a fierce, insidious enemy that, if not identified and combated, will contort our company into an unrecognizable mess. The enemy I'm talking about is noise.

Noise has killed more ideas, products, and services than taxes, recessions, lawsuits, climbing interest rates, and even interior product design. I'm not talking about the noise inside our business; I'm talking about the noise we create as a business. What we often call marketing is really just clutter and confusion sprayed all over our websites, emails, and commercials. And it's costing us millions.

Here's a question for you: Do you actually know what you do?

Sometimes I think we hide behind all this complicated verbiage to disguise the fact that we're not entirely sure. It's actually a very scary thing to say with confidence, " This is what I do and this is who I serve." We seem to think that by using vague rhetoric we're coming across as smarter and more competent than our competitors when really what we might be hiding is enormous insecurity about our business.

We've all heard about the 30 second elevator speech, but in digital marketing, YOU DON'T HAVE 30 SECONDS. You have less than 10. If you're trying to tell someone what you do in a way that makes them want to learn more, you have to be succinct in your message on your website.

Before I let you go, I want to leave you with one more mission statement:

“To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.”

That "portfolio of brands" must be why my kids are begging me to take them to Disney.


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