Do you have any idea who you’re talking to? Do you know who I am? Please forgive the aggressive sounding, attention grabbing title. That lead question is a topic that marketing professionals spend an awful lot of time on: trying to build a brand image for their audiences and communicate who they are to potential customers. To further complicate the issue, there are countless ways that people say something about themselves, whether or not they realize it, by how they answer the question.
Indeed, acclaimed Godfather filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola—commenting on the intricacies of communication—once said that “A number of images put together a certain way become something quite above and beyond what any of them are individually.”
Businesses have enough trouble deciding how to answer the basics (Who are you? What do you do?) , but it’s also important to consider whether they are overwhelming customers Mafioso-style or working a little too quiet with the subtlety of a secret agent. When you paint even the most basic marketing picture, it makes sense to be consistent and reinforce the strengths of your brand. To borrow a phrase, “Make them an offer they can’t refuse.”
One primary and fundamentally important step to defining your brand identity is to approach the answer with communication strategies in mind. As an exercise in brand development, you could experiment by giving yourself five minutes to write a 200-word summary of your business. Now that you’ve written like a brand ambassador, try wearing the hats of different communicators to critique and evaluate what you wrote. What would a skeptic or a psychologist or a competitor say about your words? Try using some of those outlooks to further hone the summary:
- Are you being too vague?
“We offer residential beautification solutions” isn’t the same thing as “We paint houses”.
- Are you being too aggressive?
Criticizing your competitors or your industry doesn’t always have the intended effect and can make your pitch seem less appealing.
- Are you being too defensive?
If you possess specialization in your market that isn’t being stated or capitalized on, it could be a worthwhile addition.
- Are you over-promising?
How often is “the global leaders in…” used accurately?
- Are you under-promising?
“You’ll get what you pay for” is a given. Paint a picture of how you go above and beyond.
What you say is just as important as how you say it. There are other commonly used tactics for improving your brand summary with meaningful content that may help companies define themselves. If you are searching for a starting point, try brainstorming a few primary strengths and elaborate from there. If you have existing marketing text or a brochure that has been useful, try to browse through and highlight the five most important sentences. Factual information that stands out as significant can be a useful building block for your summary.
Here are some additional strategies:
- Get perspective. Ask the CEO, the receptionist and the mail carrier to summarize your business. If their answers aren’t similar, figure out how to bridge the gap.
- Results matter. If there is a measurable statistic that reflects your competitive edge, then share it.
- Don’t forget your motto or tagline. If that is what defines your business, make sure you’re telling customers how and why.
- Industry affiliations can make the difference. Your membership in a prominent association could paint a picture of increased trustworthiness and expertise.
A great boilerplate will be useful on your website, press releases, social media accounts and printed materials because it will associate your brand with all of the positive elements you have built. Once a company has that, its associates and brand ambassadors will be on the same page in terms of knowing the core elements to speak about, which leads to a more consistent public image. Don’t leave people confused or uninterested when you ask “Do you know who I am!?!” A simple, well thought out brand summary will have your audience answering with a resounding “yes.”
For other marketing tips related to branding and copywriting, check out more suggestions from Marketing Matters at http://blog.marketingmatters.net/2012/04/27/help-your-brochure-endure/
Eric Lachs is the Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Marketing Matters (www.marketingmatters.net), a communications and design firm specializing in technology, consumer and custom electronics, audio-video and related industries.