Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A proposition you can't refuse

My Financial Post column this week deals with an age-old problem: composing a brief, powerful positioning statement that explains what you do and engages listeners’ attention without burying them in detail.

This should be Job One for Canadian entrepreneurs, but sadly, very few know how to do it.

There’s lots of information in books, magazines and websites on how to do this right (click here for a random example). But there’s always room for more.

So this week I wrote about marketing consultants Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber of Toronto-based Blueprint, who came up with the idea of seven-word positioning statements – which they call Inspiring Propositions. Then they take it a step farther by helping you build a complete customer dialogue and corporate “architecture” around your IP.

When they started Blueprint three years ago, Chamandy and Aber weren't hooked on "seven words." They were trying to help companies plan better. But when they met with management, they found no one could ever answer the question, "Why should a customer choose you?" As they helped organizations develop mission statements, they realized the best were also the simplest. At seven words or less, Chamandy says, "they're easy to understand and articulate." And they're short enough to remember -- not just for the client's staff, but for their clients, too.

You don't need to hire a consulting firm to develop an IP, although Chamandy insists it's not something you can do by yourself. The process involves reviewing rigorously -- and from an outsider's perspective -- everything you do. "It's the difference between what you're selling and what the customers are buying."

Click here for the full Post column.
Click here for Blueprint’s website to get more information.

And here’s a bonus: a website that helps you produce your own positioning statement in five minutes. It’s pretty low-tech (and it’s a lot more than seven words), but if you don't know what to say, it’s a good place to start.
Click here to begin.

Thursday update: Reader Rob MacArthur of Halifax sends along a link to another site geared to help you pitch and promote more effectively. Click here for Vator.tv!


Lauren Friese said...

I was having dinner last night and complaining to my friend that even though I'm 4 months into starting up my company, I still can't effectively describe what I do (or even what I write about in the accompanying 'blog+'-- http://talentegg.ca/blog). I then defended myself by explaining that the description changes depending on who I'm talking to.

The brutal truth is, though, that I'm wrong and you're right. What a timely article! I'm working on my 15 second pitch as we speak. Thank you!

Rick said...

Actually, I think you're right, Lauren. There are many businesses that have more than one product and serve more than one market - and I think they deserve more than one positioning statement.

The trick is to make sure you craft the best possible statement for each niche. After that, you have to know when to use each one. Which isn't always easy.