Answering Three Questions Will Change Your Business
By Bruce Barrett, Certified SCORE Mentor
A famous, English poet got it right when he wrote, "From winter, plague and pestilence, good lord, deliver us!" Fortunately, spring on the High Desert has finally shown signs of arrival. Not only does that mean hoses need to be unraveled and weeds need to be pulled but now is a good time to ponder larger issues of life including how to revitalize your business for the upcoming season.
Let’s focus our attention on three questions your customers will be asking as they start to flow through your door. Your success this season will depend largely on your answers. The questions surround the Why, What, and How of your brand.
Why—The first question that your customer wants to know and you need to be able to answer passionately is simple but requires some thought. “Why are you doing this?” The answer is commonly referred to as your company vision. In your search for the perfect answer, review TEDx Puget Sound speaker Simon Sinek’s Youtube video, “ Start with Why.” Sinek explains that people don’t buy what you do but rather, why you do it. He suggests developing the story that you want to tell your customer about you and your business. This story should answer the “Why” question. It is crucial and will influence everything that comes after it. The good news is that the story doesn’t have to be long to be compelling. For example, the answer to the question “Why?” for the Walt Disney Company is, “To make people happy.”
In the past, common wisdom was that the vision should never change. However, some current consultants are rethinking this. If the world presents new opportunities, then your answer should be updated. Daniel Rasmus is one of those who helps businesses create a vision. In a recent Fast Company article he says, “Your vision of the future is a process, not an output. You can share your vision with people, but it should be shared with the caveat that it is updated regularly, and with the request: ‘Please share your thoughts, because we are always open to new perspectives and better ways to think about our future.’ That approach will not only make the vision more meaningful and resilient, it will make the organization behave as a learning organization, and that may just be part of its vision.”
Your company vision is the device you will use to put passion into your brand. Think how great it would be if your customers were as passionate about what you do as you are. Brands that have these kinds of customers include Harley Davidson, The Rolling Stones and Apple. If you think about it, none of these brands had fans when they first started. It is a result of their effort over time to tell a consistent story about their products and services to a target audience.
Your brand has a story and it is up to you to tell it. Let the passion you have for your business and what you offer come through in everything you are doing to get your message out. If you’re potential clients can’t see, quickly and easily, why you are excited about your business then sharpen up your story and get it out this spring.
What—The “What” question gets down to the nitty-gritty of what you are doing. This branding message is often captured in the company mission statement. The mission should say what you do, the boundaries you work within, and the expected outcome. Two highly effective mission statements include: Amazon-- Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online; Google--to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Carlos Ghosn is Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and ranks as one of the 50 most famous men in global business. Ghosn recently articulated his company’s mission in a powerful, one page message on the Nissan web site titled, “The Power Comes From Inside.” He states, “Nissan has a clear vision for the future and … we are working with passion to achieve it. Our mission is to enrich people's lives, building trust with our employees, customers, dealers, partners, shareholders and the world at large.”
Articulating a clear mission might arguably be the number one way to accelerate your business progress. It provides laser focus by defining the right customer, reminds employees of the big picture and provides clarity to your customers about how you are different than your competitors.
One of the most famous presentations of a mission statement was by former President George W Bush on the flight deck of the USS Lincoln on May 1, 2003. This was right after the invasion of Iraq that began in October of 2012. He declared that, "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." For that particular moment in time, it was an extremely effective message from all standpoints. US News reported, “The top gun cut a striking figure in his Top Gun duds, surrounded by admiring men and women in uniform.” As time progressed, the image changed as a banner in the background, “mission accomplished” became a symbol that Bush would later admit was a mistake. But most would agree that Bush’s mission was clear, simple to understand and was emotionally compelling to his audience of United States Citizens who had been traumatized by the events of the World Trade Center.
How—How will your organization communicate to, connect with, and engage its target audience to convey the value proposition of your brand? That is the third question. It should be easier to answer now that you have defined the Why and What. Again, your message will be most effective if it is short and easy to understand. Experts suggest that it last 30 to 60 seconds. This passionate, short and clear message is often called an elevator pitch. It takes planning and practice to deliver a good pitch on the spot and under pressure. With that in mind, here are 4 steps suggested by the advertising company Vista Print, to help develop your elevator pitch:
1) Describe who you are: Consider what you would most want the listener to remember about you. Keep it short and to the point.
2) Describe what you do: Provide a concise description of your product or service.
3) Describe why you are unique: Detail a marketplace problem that impacts your audience and explain why your business is uniquely suited to address it. It may help to think of this as a tagline that allows the listener to understand how using you or your company would benefit them.
4) Describe your immediate goal: Include what you are specifically asking your audience to do and include a timeframe for doing this.
Your delivery will be enhanced by having a three point outline. Bruce Gabrielle, on his website, “Speaking Power Point,” has some excellent examples and informative videos for developing the perfect elevator pitch . One of the three point models he presents includes:
1. WOW. Say something intriguing (even puzzling) that will make the other person want to hear more. A creative summary of what you do that demands some clarification. Ideally, the prospect’s reaction will be to cock their head and ask “what does that mean?”
2. HOW. Answer the stated (or unspoken) question and explain exactly what you do.
3. NOW. Shift into storytelling mode, giving a concrete example of a current customer. The key phrase is “Now, for example…”
How about setting aside a weekend with key employees, a business advisor or spouse to work through how you will answer your customers Why, What and How questions? It will change the way you do business this year. If you need help, consider contacting the mentors at CentralOregonScore.org. They are business professionals and their help is free.
Bruce Barrett is a Commercial Real Estate Broker and a Certified SCORE Mentor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.