Your Company Does What, Exactly?

“We provide robust, enterprise-wide solutions to decision-makers at multi-location facilities across a broad set of vertical industries that are facing an overarching set of business challenges.” I couldn’t help myself—I broke out laughing before he finished the sentence

“We provide robust, enterprise-wide solutions to decision-makers at multi-location facilities across a broad set of vertical industries that are facing an overarching set of business challenges.”

I couldn’t help myself—I broke out laughing before he finished the sentence.

I was at a business function, glass of wine in hand, looking to meet a few potential business connections that might be a good fit for an upcoming client project. I had read his name tag and politely asked what his company did, since I didn’t recognize the name.

He frowned at me, clearly displeased at my reaction.

“You’ve just described a million organizations,” I explained. “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and tell me, in laymen’s terms, what you do.”

He looked puzzled.

“Pretend I’m a 5th Grader,” I explained, “and your child has brought you to class on Career Day. Now, tell me what you do.”

He looked relieved. “Oh … Our company helps other company’s blast emails to their customers or prospects.”

Yup. I suspected as much.

It seems this guy has sat in the company’s strategic planning meetings and been told that the 5th Grader description was too “low brow” and they needed to enhance their marketplace positioning, if they want to be taken seriously, or play in the pool with the big boys.

Unfortunately, with so many small businesses popping up every other day, it seems this problem is multiplying. I’ve visited too many websites that position their services, on their home page, in such a complicated way that I’ve no clue what they really do. And why? What is everybody so afraid of?

Afraid that a site visitor thinks they’re too small? Not capable of handling the needs of a large, complex organization? Unable to think and work in vertical industries?

Here’s a little insight from a buyer of business goods and services: Your website is your storefront.

  • Step 1 is to make sure your windows are properly dressed to appeal to the traffic that’s strolling by.
  • Step 2 is to make sure that if they open the door and enter, it’s crystal clear that they’ve come to the right place.
  • Step 3 is to provide a logically organized set of links to other places on your site where the visitor might go to find more information. Back to the storefront analogy—if I walk over to the shelf with books on it, chances are I’m looking for a book. If you’re lucky and I ask if you have a particular book, you shouldn’t be leading me over to the clothing section. It’s more likely that I won’t ask … and it will certainly never occur to me that I might need to look for a book in the clothing section. It might make sense to put your book in BOTH sections of your store, if that book was about fashion.

Take a critical eye to your own website. Better still, ask someone who is NOT familiar with your company to take a peek and tell you, in their words, what your organization does just by looking at your home page. You may be surprised by their interpretation.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

7 thoughts on “Your Company Does What, Exactly?”

  1. It’s also really hard to tell other people what companies do with nebulous descriptions like that. Another pet peeve is when there’s no phone number. Thanks for saying something!

  2. Very funny, and very true. I see this all the time on websites and corporate capabilities brochures. Apparently it’s more important to look smart than to have people actually understand what you do or how your company can benefit them.

  3. for what its worth: the two statements have reading ease scores of 0 and 46.6 respectively and a grade index (Flesch-Kincaid) of 20.6 and 9.7. Mission/vision statements should be tested for reading ease and clarity using, at a minimum, machine tests before being spoken out loud!

  4. I laughed too. Thanks for your post! Did you ever see the book "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots" from 2005? It’s still relevant. The authors identify the main problem as fear. Business people are afraid to talk plainly because people will think they’re not smart.

    But no one ever complains because something is explained too clearly or simply. Einstein could explain relativity in terms of trains moving at a train station. And no one ever called him dumb!

  5. Thanks for all the great feedback. I think that some people got derailed when marketing folks told them "sell the sizzle and not the steak — talk about benefits and not features." The train quickly got derailed…

  6. I know how to harness the power of great website content. My photography web site brought 90% of my business sight unseen. People would call me and say the same four lines every time– "I love your web site" "Are you available on this date?" "How much is your deposit and can I pay by credit card?". Interestingly–brides usually met with me about two weeks before their weddings for the first time and I would just show up for other jobs. As far as the other 10%–it was 5% referrals and 5% face to face meetings.

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