Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Want to Understand Your Business? Write About It!

Not too long ago I sat down with a business owner to discuss the creation of a print marketing piece. This person had owned and operated a fairly lucrative enterprise for several years, but he had never really moved beyond the word-of-mouth stage of marketing. Now that it was time to expand, I asked a few of the questions I routinely throw out in an intake interview. What was his company's stated mission? How does that mission set it apart from its competitors? What was the target market's most painful problem, and which promised solution would get them the most excited?

And every time I asked one of these questions, the client would pause, smile, and say, "Let me think about it. That's actually something I've never asked myself."

This little scene demonstrates a couple of things. First, it points out how valuable it can be to have a third party look at your business from the perspective of the general public. Second, it indicates that writing about your business can be an effective method for discovering what it's really all about. My client knew how to run a successful business. He had an instinctive feel for what the public wanted from him and how to deliver it. But he'd never put all that down in writing -- and writing sometimes makes all the difference between working instinctively and working consciously.

If you ask a business coach to help you improve your career performance or clarify your company's direction, you'll probably be told to write down your objectives, goals, challenges, deadlines, milestones and so on. Why? Because all those thoughts floating around in your head may give you the idea that you have a plan when all you truly have is a bunch of thoughts -- none of which may actually come to a conclusion or link together in a constructive way. When you put your ideas down on paper (or screen, or papyrus, or the nearest big rock), you're forced to condense, codify, and make some sort of sense out of them. Your half-baked notions become fully-realized statements. Your hopes and dreams become concrete goals with set timelines.

The same principal holds true for your marketing efforts. When you sit down to write a website or brochure, you may find yourself faced with questions you always figured you sorta-kinda had the answers to. Suddenly you have to explain to your audience precisely how you can give them the exact solution to the specific problem they're having. And to answer all those questions for your audience, you first have to answer them for yourself. What do your ideal customers want? How do you soothe their pain? What makes your company a better choice for that task than your competitors? Addressing these questions and nailing down the answers once and for all is a powerful thing, not just for your marketing but also for your ability to steer your business into the future you want for it. So when in doubt -- write it out!