The other day I had coffee with a friend who is a small business owner. He had his laptop open and logged onto his website. He said, “I want to show you something.” While it was loading, he reached into this portfolio and pulled out some brochures. He laid them out in front of me. They were tri-folds, very professional looking, all very different, but attractive retro graphics, colorful and fun to look at. The website came up; very different in look and feel with subdued tones, images of people smiling, fading in and out, with moving phrases. I guess my eyebrows sort of narrowed, as I tried to figure out what these pieces were all about.
“This is the problem!” He said pointedly. “We are doing lots of marketing….STUFF….we’ve spent thousands of dollars, but it’s not getting us anywhere!” He knew the problem and knew I would understand. You see, if you talk with a graphics designer, you’ll be told you need a new logo and brochures; if you talk to a PR agency, you’ll need an article and a bunch of press releases. So you often end up with lot of pretty STUFF, often with different tag lines, value phrases and all moving separately (and slowly) towards different goals.
Many companies are deceived by all this great looking STUFF into thinking that they are doing great marketing. It looks good, everyone likes it, and sales has a bunch of great brochures to mail out and leave behind at trade shows and mixers.
The truth is, and will always be, that great marketing doesn’t start with a brochure. It starts with a statement, or declaration, of what you do, the problem you solve or need you fulfill, and why you are unique against others doing the same thing. From this description comes your mission, your value proposition and ultimately your logo and tag line. That’s your brand, your “voice” that you will use to start a two way conversation with your customers. From your brand flows all the pieces that you will use to communicate; they are in sync with one another and with your unique value proposition. What’s unfortunate is that many companies never find their voice, because they can never really define what they do and why people will want to buy from them. So their communications pieces — the website, brochures, presentations — lack identity. Instead of being an integral of their communications, they become very pretty STUFF.
It’s never too late to identify your brand and find your “voice”. It’s not rocket science either. It takes a desire to revisit what is is that made your company special in the first place; verify it with some customers and craft a new and fresh vision of who you are and what makes you unique. Yes, you’ll still need the logo, brochures, website and all the presentations. But it won’t be STUFF.