Your Startup Tagline is Anti-Social

Your Startup Tagline is Anti-Social

Most startup marketing folk seem to love taglines. Practically every web page I see has some version of the classic three-word tagline. As a marketer I appreciate the focus on distilling down the essence of what you do to its most simple form. As a human being however, I hate taglines. I’ve written about why taglines suck on this blog before. Taglines are generic (if you use the word “connect” congratulations, you share 1/3 of a tagline with 99% of startups in the world), forgettable, and often fail to clearly communicate what the company does. However, it finally came to me exactly why taglines are such a waste of time, energy and space: They are inherently anti-social You need to describe what your company does in a succinct way. That’s what people think they are doing when they write a tagline. The problem is the format – generally three verbs smashed together – is not a format that human beings naturally use to communicate. If someone asked me what I did this morning I don’t say “Rise, Consume, Digest!”, I say I got up, drank some coffee and ate a piece of toast. Even on Twitter where barely anyone uses proper english, nobody would ever pick 3 verbs. In fact here’s the tweet that inspired this example: Coffee & toast. Nom, nom. Notice the distinct lack of verbs there (assuming nom isn’t a verb). As humans, we don’t communicate in 3 verb phrases. So why are we using this strange form to talk about what our companies do? Here is the exact reason why taglines suck: Nobody repeats your...
Should Your Messaging Use Your Competitor’s Terminology?

Should Your Messaging Use Your Competitor’s Terminology?

One of the most difficult parts of marketing messaging is describing what your product is in a way that’s both easy to understand and communicates the unique value your product delivers. I’ve seen startup marketers really struggle with how to describe their market and specifically, whether or not they should use the same terms as their competitors. For example, suppose your solution delivers many of the same features of a marketing automation solution but also includes features not typically seen in those types of tools – say built-in support for running campaign on various social media platforms or some types of pipeline analytics more typically seen in  CRM systems.  Should you describe your market as “Marketing Automation”, “CRM” or “Social Media Marketing” or should you avoid those terms and come up with some new terms to define the (clearly different) think that you do? The answer is that it really depends on your company, your market, who else is in the space and the dynamics of what’s happening in the market. Here some things to consider on both sides: Why using the same terms as your competitors might be a bad idea: Whoever “owns” those terms could own your basic positioning – Sometimes terms are heavily associated with a particular company, or have been created by industry analysts. The folks that created the terms may also have the power to shift the meaning and your basic positioning as a result. For example, if Gartner Group uses Marketing Automation as a term but decides tomorrow that it’s merely a sub-category under Customer Relationship Management – will you still be happy...
Startup Messaging: Should You Differentiate Against Your Competitors?

Startup Messaging: Should You Differentiate Against Your Competitors?

Alex Goldfayn had a great post this week called Death by Differentiation that got me thinking about competitive positioning and startup marketing.  Alex, a marketing consultant, laments that many of his clients are too focused on differentiating themselves from their competitors: These companies have focused their marketing on smaller, peripheral features which differentiate them from the competition. So that instead of focusing their message on the 80 percent of the product or service that speaks to mainstream consumer interest, they instead focus on the 10 percent that makes them different from competition, which mostly matters internally. Thinking about how I would apply this thinking to startups, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with the post.  On the one hand, I agree that vendors often care far more about tiny differentiating features than prospects do.  On the other hand, if all the solutions in a market deliver the same particular point of value, doesn’t that value become expected or assumed?  And (as is the case with many startups) if I’m entering a market with an established competitor, don’t I have to focus on what makes my offering different because my prospects will always be comparing us? In my opinion, how you articulate your value to customers should describe what makes you better, it’s just not always in the way you might think. Your messaging needs to: Take into consideration what the customer already knows about the market Highlight how your solution is better than what prospects perceive to be alternatives Be focused on value (not features) Diving into each of these – here are some things to consider: 1/ Test...

Startup Messaging and Market Frame of Reference

Messaging is one of the hardest things startups do, particularly startups in emerging markets. Your marketing messages need to describe what you do in a way that is both easy to understand and also illustrates the unique value that your solution can deliver. Often the most challenging part for startups is that the market category is not yet well-defined. The messaging therefore, not only needs to describe your product, but the whole reason that product category should exist. Folks in established markets take shortcuts you may not even notice Established products, have the luxury of working from an established frame of reference.  For example, when Salesforce.com can simply describe itself as the leader in CRM.  Their customers understand what CRM is, why you might want a CRM system, the value a CRM system can bring to the table, etc.  All they have to do it state why they are different, hence you get “The world’s most popular CRM software as a service” or more recently “The leader in CRM and cloud computing”.   Simple right? Now imagine how much more difficult it would be to describe what Salesforce does if you didn’t what what CRM was. Other really large companies will simply assume you understand what they do and skip that step entirely.  Accenture for example makes no attempt to tell you what it does beyond “High Performance, Delivered.” (although, they do use the phrase “Global Management Consulting, Technology and Outsourcing service as the title text for their home page).  Oracle states that they are simply “hardware and software, engineered to work together” and IBM is just, well, IBM. Frankly,...

If Your Message Works, Don’t Tinker With It

Al Ries published a great article in AdAge yesterday talking how a perfectly good message and value proposition can be ruined by too much “tinkering”.  The essence of his point is that when companies have a great message that’s working, there is always pressure to abandon that for something that sounds fresher.  He says: Common sense says that marketing messages have to constantly change in order to stay in tune with the times. Marketing sense says that’s nonsense. The way to build a brand is with a consistent message over an extended period of time. ….They tinker with new ideas when they should be hammering the ideas that already exist in consumers’ minds. Once a brand is established with a clearly defined marketing position, the brand’s owner should ask a fundamental question before making any significant changes. Why tinker with success? I see this a lot.  There is an almost irresistible urge to change the core messaging as often as we roll out new campaigns.   The reality is that often we are changing course just when the message is starting to resonate with the market and we lose the momentum we just started to build. Why do we do it?  Because we get bored.  Because we have seen it so many times it’s hard for us to believe that the entire world hasn’t seen it (even when our budgets are microscopic, interestingly enough). The reality is that we aren’t getting our messages in front of customers as much as we think we are (particularly when we are talking about small companies with limited budgets) and even if we were,...

The Dangers of Outsourcing Content Creation

You want to create some whitepapers, an e-book or maybe a brochure but none of your great product people are great writers.  No problem, you think to yourself, we can just hire some outside folks to write them for us.  You can, but it won’t be as easy as you think. Your Writing Probably Sucks (not that there’s anything wrong with that) Not everyone is a great writer even if they write a lot.  My writing is a perfect example of what a typical product marketer’s writing looks like.  People tell me my writing is “fine” but I know my grammar is lousy and I’m prone to using sentence structure that could politely be described as “creative” (hey, I’m an engineer by training and that English class I took in grade 12 is only going to take me so far).  I know this because I’ve had professional writers edit my work.  if you’ve never had a professional edit yours you might be shocked at how bad your “fine” writing is. But my lack of writing skill hasn’t stopped me from writing dozens of whitepapers, brochures and articles and literally hundreds of pages of web content (not to mention 156 blog posts).  Most of the time good enough is good enough, particularly if you’re a cash-strapped startup. But sometimes you will have some content that you know you are going to use like crazy in various forms and you don’t have the skills in-house.  Here are some tips on what to be careful about: Decide Why before Who – You might be launching a new product and need someone to...
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