The blinding whirling pace of a start-up creates so much velocity that a vacuum encircles the company, creating an impenetrable vortex so powerful that no outside information can get through.
Why else would so many start-ups, regardless of what they do, use the exact same language to describe themselves in their marketing activities?
A recent quick pass through The Industry Standard and the Red Herring discovered the following advertising tag lines (remember, each line is for a different company really):
“The leader in ebusiness applications”
“Leading business to ebusiness”
“Forging a better e-business solution”
“One complete e-business solution”
“The ebusiness solution”
Public relations pros don’t fare much better than their advertising brethren.
Case in point. Although it will not launch its business until June, the recently announced AdExchange already describes itself as “the leading Internet-based technology platform that allows buyers and sellers of advertising to communicate and conduct transactions in real-time.” This must come as some surprise to One Media Place (formerly Adauction.com), BuyMedia, mediapassage, and three other companies that describe themselves with the same vernacular and, believe it or not, have actually been doing business for a number of years.
So how does one avoid all this marketing mumbo jumbo and create a unique message that actually communicates what your company does and resonates with your core target audience? Here are some tips:
Understand your competitors’ positioning better than they do. A great exercise is to go to the web sites of potential competitors and see how they describe their core business on the web page and in their news release boilerplate (typically the last paragraph of the release). I always get a kick out of how all the descriptions and boilerplates are virtually interchangeable. Once you see how the herd is moving, you should be better prepared to create a message that sets you apart.
Assess the communications channels and think about how to stand out. Carefully review the environment in which you plan to communicate. Will your advertising break through the noise? When you communicate through ads, you are competing for mindshare against everyone around you, not just those in your business space.
Your job is to be noticed, not blend in, regardless of the companies surrounding your ad. For instance, actually take a comp of your proposed ad and paste it into the environment where it’s going to appear. Now flip through the magazine. How does it hold up? Did it make you stop and look?
Search outside your world for overlap. Companies outside your competitive set in entirely different industries can actually use a tag line or positioning that can pertain to their business as well as yours. When I was at Adauction, we used the phrase “opportunity clicks.” So did Korn Ferry’s online recruiting service, Futurestep.
Fortunately, our advertising didn’t overlap, but if it did, one of us would have needed to change direction. Take the time to do the appropriate searches to ensure what you have is truly one of a kind.
Beware of “best-of-breed,” “industry-leading,” “first-to-market” and other phrases of this ilk. Dot-coms have brought new life to the hyphen. And while it’s hard to actually say you’re the industry leader without using those exact words, with a solid strategy, a bit of concentration and some actual creativity, a well-crafted tag line and positioning statement is attainable. The English language is rich and diverse; give it a whirl.
Don’t stretch the truth. If you are not conducting business yet, it’s more likely that you simply aspire to be the industry leader than it is you already enjoy that enviable position. That also goes for phrases like “market leader,” “first to market,” “the only business/site,” etc. Leadership and marketshare are earned, not bestowed, and this type of positioning can hurt your credibility with a knowledgeable audience.
See you next week, when the nation’s top-read and most unique online marketing column will explore for the first time in print how advertising works.