Navel Gazing: Whom is your message targeting?
I meet with a lot of smart people who are idiots about communicating their value. There, I said it. Especially the big-suit corporate guys. When you ask what their company does, it frequently begins with something like, “Our mission is to deliver shareholder value to…” Zzzzz. There may have been words of value in there, but, frankly, you lost me at the corporate-speak.
Where’s the passion? If you’re spitting out some inwardly focused, legal counsel endorsed, sleep-inducing drivel, it’s not a story anyone outside that inner circle cares to hear. It’s like standing in front of the mirror telling yourself how beautiful you are. There is a fork in the corporate communication road: one way leads to internal messaging; the other is what we tell our public. Both can benefit from clear messaging, but it isn’t the same message.
Many of us have been hog-tied in those off-site meetings that seem to never end, brainstorming company Mission and Vision statements. Once you chew through the restraints and stop drinking the Kool-aid, you can say in plain English (or whatever your native tongue) that your mission is to do the very best you can for your customer and your vision is how everyone can make money doing so. (Okay, I’m done. Can I go home now?) That’s the internal message. Let’s allow the competent operations people figure out how to make that happen.
The external message is a different conversation. Your clients are less interested in recitations of a lofty vision statement, than in hearing about practical results you can achieve for them. The client doesn’t want to hear endless clichés that could describe any company. They want to hear specific values about what your company can bring to clients like them.
They don’t want to know how to build the thing, either. They want to be confident that
- your engineers designed the finest, most reliable widget (insert your product or service here);
- manufacturing is building the best widget consistently and not dumping a bunch of toxic junk into the environment while they do so;
- sales understands which widget is appropriate for their needs and won’t try to sell them something that isn’t;
- the technician is trained to install and service it efficiently and correctly;
- and, most importantly, that customer service is there to follow up to see that all went as planned, that the customer is satisfied and to thank them for doing business.
The same outline works for any business. Customers don’t necessary need to know in excruciating detail how you do what you’re doing for them, but they need to feel the value of it. They don’t want to see the man behind the curtain. They want to experience Emerald City magic. So stop staring at your navel, extrovert your attention and communicate your benefit from the customers’ perspective. Stand in their shoes and think “what’s in it for me?” Your value will become suddenly very clear.