Five Roadblocks to Writing Your Marketing Story

Every company has a story. Unfortunately not every company has a writer. The problem many companies, large and small, face is that their best and brightest, the keepers of the company story, lack the skill to write the company story in a compelling way. They have all the knowledge. They are very persuasive face to face. On paper, however, all their passion is lost in passive verbs and lack luster adjectives.

Often, the problem lies in not knowing which story to tell first. Companies have egos. They are proud of their achievements and want to crow about them. They want to brag about their clever ideas in the hopes that people will see how clever they are and want to hire them. All these little ego-fluffing bits not only don't sell, but they often obscure the information that does sell.

As a marketing consultant, I run into home-grown messaging almost every time I take on a new job. Here are the top roadblocks that stand in the way of companies telling a really good marketing story.

1. Marketing materials lead out with the story about the company's really cool name.

The rationale goes like this: "If they understand why we chose the name, then they'll know the deeper brand meaning of who we are and they'll want to do business with us."

Baloney! I didn't know what Nike meant until I was in college, but they were the shoes to have when I was a teenager. Now they are the shoes and every other piece of sports equipment.

The meaning of the name of your company is a red herring that distracts the prospect from learning your value proposition. Without knowing your value proposition, the prospect is never going to become a customer.

2. A list of capabilities is presented as a company brand.

Trying to pass off a list of capabilities as a brand position assumes that the prospect knows what all those capabilities can do. Knowing how to allocate those resources is your job, not the prospect's. Somewhere beyond the resources, even beyond what they create for the client lies the real value. Look ahead to that - the value that the client eventually receives from your capabilities and resources.

The prospect doesn't care that you have a six color Heidelberg printer and an in-house bindery. She just wants to people to buy and praise her latest book.

3. The company's message to the world is nothing more than a list of products - a catalog.

Product peddlers are relegated to selling lifeless commodities for slim margins. When they are identified by their product, they have no identity to drive the next product. A customer who bought one widget from them (because they got a good deal) has to be sold all over again when he needs another widget.

A great company message breaths life into the product. Apple doesn't have to send out salespeople to existing customers, the customers come to them to find next cool thing.

4. Let's make a deal discounts lead every piece of literature.

This is the lazy salesman at work. Sure, discounts get attention, and at the same time they train the customer to only buy at a discount. Once a marketer starts down this road, he will find that his discounts need to get perpetually better to keep closing out his competitors. Unless a company has amazing margins compared to its competitors, it will quickly shift to losing money and go out of business.

Everyday lowest prices is the same game under a different name. Unless you are as big as Wal-Mart and can squeeze out competition through brute force, you aren't going to be able to sustain a lowest price campaign.

5. All copy fits a beautiful design.

Too many firms that need a brochure go out and hire a graphic designer before they know what they want to say. And too many graphic designers don't care what is said as long as the font mirrors the asthetic qualities of the lotus blossom image they selected. Even worse is when the graphic designer cuts, molds, and edits the text to fit the design. Some designers are good writers and some writers are good graphic designers. If you've found one of those - great. Just start with a great message before you shop for fonts.

Wrap Up
Every company has a story to tell, a unique value proposition, that will bring customers to their door ready to buy. The trick is finding someone who can persuasively write that story.