Service Minded

Debra Helwig on Marketing & Leadership in Professional Services

Archive for September, 2010

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Posted by debrahelwig on September 21, 2010

Do you know Drew McLellan? Marketer, editor of the Age of Conversation books*? He’s brilliant, always. But this week he’s sent me way into raving fangirl mode with his blog post called Be Brave Enough Not to Tell the Whole Story.

Drew’s premise? When you get excited and try to tell your customers everything at once, they don’t hear anything. To quote, this “is satisfying to us, but miserable for the audience. Like a firehose — we’ve flooded them with facts, features and benefits. And in the end, they can’t remember any of it.

Yes, yes, YES. Reading the post, my little heart went pitter pat. Because in professional services, we’re probably more guilty of this faux pas than most other businessmen and women. Our work is intangible. Complex. We want people to believe in the value we provide. We want to look smart – smarter than the other firms who are bidding on the work we want to do.

Unfortunately, this desire to show off our competence often makes us talk too much.

Look around in your firm. Bets are that you know folks who manage client meetings (or collateral, or business development events) like this:

  • Telling the prospect every scrap of experience the firm has ever had in their industry.
  • Giving exhaustive bios of every professional who will touch the client’s work.
  • Providing arcane detail about technical issues so the client will know the firm REALLY knows its stuff.

And then, when the firm does’t get the work, they wonder, “Why, oh why, didn’t we win that proposal?! We had everything they wanted!”

The answer is THESE FOLKS LOST THEIR FOCUS. Toooooo much information. And it killed the story. Suddenly, there’s nothing memorable, nothing that says, “This is why you will love working with us.”

Yes, LOVE. Because purchase decisions are emotional, not intellectual. Even in professional services. Maybe especially in professional services.

Drew’s brilliant expression of this truth: “Too many words clog the brain and never allow you to connect with their heart. And that’s where the buying decision happens.”

So next time you’re talking to a client, or attending a proposal meeting, or writing a piece of collateral, I encourage you to get brutal with yourself. Find out as much as you can about that prospect or group of prospects, and decide what ONE thing they really, truly care about, and focus on that. Make that thing your theme – the single idea you need to convey. And find a way to state it elegantly. I think you’ll be impressed with the results.

Be sure to check out and comment on Drew’s post – and click through from his post to watch the Nissan ad that was the genesis of his idea.  Whether you like the brand or the message or not, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that it’s darned effective and a good example for how we might rethink messages in our own industry.

And don’t forget to let me know what you thought!

*NOTE: I was a contributing author for The Age of Conversation 3: It’s Time to Get Busy.

Photo by ihtatho (license).


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