Walking home I passed two young professionals talking about the website LinkedIn. One lady said, “I don’t get it.” The other lady responded, “LinkedIn is your online resume.” To which the first lady replied, “Oh!”
Some companies spend millions on marketing to make sure we say the right thing when a friend or co-worker asks. Others, like LinkedIn, do it without any marketing at all. I wish I could say LinkedIn has a super clear value proposition that is easily known and repeatable by the lowest common denominator, but that’s not the case for LinkedIn. I’m not totally sure why the lady I passed was able to give a response that would make LinkedIn executives smile, but she did, and that’s what I want to focus on. Let’s call it the telephone challenge.
Whether you’re a large corporation, website startup, or student group, the real test of how clear your branding and marketing are is to listen to how your lowest common denominator explains what you do to someone else. By lowest common denominator, I mean someone who should realistically know what you do, but is the furthest away from the business or group leaders. For example, if you are a student activities office, the lowest common denominator would probably be a commuter student.
If what you’re hearing isn’t what you want them to say, you have three options…
- Expend a lot of resources to make sure what is said is exactly what you want them to say.
- Make your message ridiculously clear so that it is almost impossible to mess up if explained to someone else.
- Do both.
Ideally #3 is the best option, but most of us don’t have a lot of resources to expend on marketing and branding, which leaves us to focus on making our messaging ridiculously clear. Here are some tips…
- Don’t try and sound too smart, you’ll be the only one who gets it and people will end up using their own words, not yours.
- Don’t try and use too many buzzwords, it’ll sound that way.
- Don’t try and fit everything in, it’ll be confusing and long.
Once you’ve put your messaging out there, listen to what you hear back. Be on the front lines with your end users. Then, and only then, will you know if what you want the end user to say is what they are actually saying.
In your work, have you ever overheard a lowest common denominator talking about what you do? If so what did you hear?