Unfinished Houses

Here in lovely and scenic Orange County, Calif., new home construction is at an all-time high. Which is exactly what you want to see when there aren’t enough schools, restaurants, infrastructure and even water to support the new people pouring into the area.  (a story for another time). But as you’re driving by some of these massive developments, you see something interesting — a whole lot of unfinished houses.Don’t worry, they’ll be finished soon enough and new people will join us on the freeways and in line at the grocery stores. Yay!

When I look at the world of marketing, (all of the ads, websites, e-mails, sponsored posts, etc.) I see a ton of unfinished houses out there. Companies/organizations settling for poorly done, self-directed messaging with no compelling story or ability to attract the interest of an audience. Yet…they are still marketing. Still a part of the noise level. Almost every website I see either isn’t clear or isn’t very strong. And I think the problem here is that a lot of digital marketers and techno-savvy web firms who construct a lot of today’s marketing tools and tactics don’t have the first clue what messaging really is and why we spend so much time on it. There is no substitute for an actual education in marketing & communications.

It’s there you learn that messaging is not a punchline and it’s not something you “get” from the client. Messaging is the absolute core of any communications effort and must be viewed that way. When I find a company at a trade show and ask them “what is the emotional core of this brand?” and they can’t answer, yet they have a website, catchy name, full product line, corp ID materials and maybe even a mission statement (gag), I know that they’ve spent a bunch of time building decks, skylights and fancy sun porches on houses with NO foundation. So…they will probably collapse.  

No matter how much marketing changes, this will ALWAYS be true. Sender. Receiver. Message. Boom! That’s the communications model you were taught in junior high and if you’re smart you need to still be using it. Truthfully, not enough people are using it. They get SO caught up in the various ways we’re going to communicate through influencer marketing, sales funnel optimization, marketing automation, etc. (insert BS buzzwords here) that they’ve missed the very simple point. Have. a. Message.

And make that message about who? That’s right, all about them. Count the number of personal pronouns in your current messaging. If the number of “we” and “us” outnumbers the “you” and “your” start over. No one cares about you, your company, your WHY WE DO THIS statement, your mission statement and any other bunch of personal branding marketing B.S. that’s been made up and thrown at you during your career. They only care about themselves. Better said, WE only care about OURSELVES. And it’s not a character flaw, it’s biology. I think it comes from our survival instinct. Yes, I’m sorry there’s a velociraptor chowing down on YOU, but let’s get back to ME. When push comes to shove, we are self-centered creatures.

The first step to making this whole thing called marketing better is having something to say…to them…about them.  And if you’re super clever, you can find a way to intersect your message with the internal perceptions that our audiences either believe to be true about themselves or desperately want/need to be true. Doing this is called neuromarketing, but that’s a really fancy term for giving people EXACTLY what they want and need to hear at the deepest level. My company transforms ordinary businesses into extraordinary ones and we always start by fixing the message. Because you don’t want an unfinished house in a very crowded neighborhood.