Could you describe in only two words what your product, service or company is about? That's right, only two words to describe your offerings or company's reason for being. It sounds simple, but this is not an easy exercise. The payoff, however, can be tremendous.
I was introduced to this challenge at business school, by a professor straight out of Hogwarts. It was a fringe class that very few people took, but this guy taught us things about marketing and strategy that I had never encountered before or since. And the absolute best thing he made us do was create two-word descriptions for various companies, products and services.
But we didn’t just throw things out like "big flavor" or "faster fesults." No, there was a very specific structure we had to follow:
1. The first word has to be an active verb, always ending with "ing"—things like "improving," "transforming," "elevating" and so on. The power of that active, present-tense word is that it takes the positioning for a company or an offering out of the realm of "Me" and focuses it on what the company or offering can do for the intended audience. It guarantees that your focus will be properly focused on the people you're serving.
2. The second word defines the target audience, application or goal. It could be something general like "business" or "processes" if you have a big universe for what you do. But even better is to get as specific as possible about who, what or why.
Two Words Pack a Punch
Let's say you're selling software for corporate accounting managers. The typical way to describe this is to say, "We make the leading accounting software package for corporate applications." And then you'd probably go on to describe several of the features and functions of the product.
A stronger way would be to say, "We help accounting managers better control their workflows and uncover exceptions through highly-customizable software." Then you could go on to talk about specific applications they might make and the wonderful results that similar customers have achieved.
That sounds good, but if you really want to hook them, first plant this idea in their heads: "Strengthening accountability." That's something that these prospects care passionately about. Failures in this area keep them at work late and rob them of sleep. And if they see you as the one company that can control or eliminate problems here, or if they at least see you as the best candidate, you've improved your chances dramatically.
People are going to remember very little of what you say, and will pass along even less of what they remember. So the more focused, refined and concise you tailor your message, the better it will be recalled—and repeated—exactly as you gave it. And what could be more concise than two words that speak directly to what they want and need to achieve?
Another huge benefit of this exercise is that this becomes a two-word manifesto that can guide so much of your business, from product development to customer service to training to the company's mission. Everything can and should revolve around this core idea.
So give it a try. See how well you can distill what your company or your offering is about. And use only TWO WORDS. That kind of restriction will force you to think hard about the value you provide, and will create a description that could transform how you talk about your business.
Editor's Note: For further details on the importance of being concise, click here. And if you want to really test yourself, see if you can boil your value proposition down to only one word.
John Windsor, an online columnist for Sales & Marketing Management, is President of Creating Thunder, a Boulder, Colo.-based communications training and consulting company. As author of the popular YouBlog, John offers a unique mix of innovation, communications, sales and marketing ideas. An award-winning marketer, John has held vice president positions in marketing, sales, and business development and has worked with companies like American Express, Reuters, Staples, and Knight-Ridder.