Category Archives: Seth’s Blog

Would your customers miss you?

Writing marketing material requires a knowledge of what makes your company different. Why do your customers choose you? That’s a fairly obvious thing to consider, but I wonder how many of us actually do that? If we did, it ought to be the first thing on our “About Us” pages, yet looking at them, I get the feeling that at most companies, we haven’t really thought about what separates us from the competition.

Asking customers what makes you different can help you get a good picture of what your USPs are, or at least what they’re perceived to be. But a recent Seth Godin thought gave me an idea: what about asking them what they would do if you disappeared tomorrow? It’s a brave, almost reckless question. But the answers could tell you so much.

Naming inspiration

Last week I mentioned the need to create decent names for your products and services, and almost immediately Seth’s Blog pointed out one of the best online tools I’ve yet seen for inspiration. It’s called Wordoid, and although it’s been around for a while, it’s more useful as ever. Have fun!


I feel like making this blog monthly instead of daily just so I can launch “BMONthly” now!

Bad Mission Statements: worse than none at all

A nice article on company mission statements on Seth’s Blog challenges organisations to actually live up to what they say. Does your company have one? Are you a little embarrassed by it, or even baffled as to what it actually means? Or is it a clear statement which keeps the organisation on the right track?

A worthwhile mission statement is for internal guidance but tells the outside world what you’re up to. It should define the type of client the company would like to have, what its products or services will do for them, and how these might differ from competitors. It’s easy to scoff at mission statements, because so many are utter rubbish, but a good one can help both the company and its customers.

Sadly, most mission statements have been written long after the stable door was left open and the horse bolted, and try to summarise what the company has been doing, if it’s had any real direction at all. They have no real point to them, other than to fill out a corporate brochure. If a mission statement contains a sentence where the opposite would be undesirable, you know it’s just waffle.

For example, it’s not uncommon for a mission statement to contain phrases such as “delivering a great customer experience” or “producing quality products”, as if any company would admit to doing anything else. These aren’t guiding principles, they’re minimum expectations. And if your company’s mission statement really is to “deliver sustained growth for our shareholders“, then just keep it internal, because that isn’t going to get customers queueing up at the door.

Anyone needing help in generating a meaningless mission statement, meanwhile, is directed to Jon Haworth’s Mission Statement Generator.

What are we actually selling here?

The great business writer Seth Godin, who I haven’t mentioned for a long time, recently asked the question “What’s it (all) for?” in respect of what actually drives us in business. He suggested that in most business-to-business situations, the answer is always the same, “to please my boss.”

Just about everybody has a boss. Godin says: “Sure, we’re good at making up backstories to explain our actions, to craft the ‘why’ that’s ostensibly behind the reason we do things. But c’mon. The answer to, “what’s it for” is all about what drives the person who makes the non-obvious decisions. If you’re always having to recalibrate your actions to match someone else’s decisions, that’s the real ‘for’.”

But don’t immediately start analysing your own situation, and wondering if you’re making decisions to please your boss rather than to do what’s best for the business or even yourself. Think about how this applies to your customers and prospects. Most of them are making decisions to please their boss, and your sales and marketing will benefit hugely if you bear this in mind. Thirty or forty years ago, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”, as the saying went. Instead of describing people aiming to please their boss, that’s just describing people aiming to avoid displeasing their boss. It’s the same thing really.

So, if your customers are making decisions based on aims like that, what does it mean for marketers? It means that you need to make your customers look good. That’s them, as people. It might be supplying a better product, at a better price, but there’s no guarantee that will have the desired effect. Switching to a product which is faster or cheaper makes the supplier look good, not necessarily the buyer. The main contribution of the buyer might appear to be just having found the supplier in the first place, and that’s where you come in. As a supplier, you need to give your customers as much help as possible to please the boss. Your customers want to be able to show that your product is good, but more importantly, need to show that this wouldn’t have been possible without their input. If you can help them do that, everyone wins.

We’ve all come across situations where we know our product is the sensible choice for our customer, but they still won’t buy. The potential disinterest from the customer’s boss is often the reason, and our task is also to sell to somebody we won’t ever meet.

What does your prospect really need?

Marketing author Seth Godin recently wrote about a hierarchy of business to business needs which, not unusually, hit the nail on the head. He provides a list of a sales prospect’s concerns, and says that “in just about every organization big enough and profitable enough to buy from you, the order of needs starts with the first one and works its way down the list.”

The list does not start with profitability – in fact, that one doesn’t appear until number 6. In any customer company larger than a one- or two-man band, how much profit you can make them isn’t going to be their primary concern. After all, they don’t see the profit personally. Instead, they have way more immediate concerns, starting with avoiding risk and hassle.

So, if the first question customers are quietly asking themselves is: “will dealing with you make my job more secure?”, you don’t want to be leading off with “the product will save your company £10,000 a year”. If that’s your main selling point, then you need to reconcile the two. Use your product to keep the risk away. There’s no risk in buying your product because you have such a good track record. If they buy your product, there’s no risk of them losing their job next year because you’re going to help them demonstrate how the product actually did save their company £10,000. And so on. The best salespeople do this without thinking, but for many of us in marketing, getting the right messages together can require a more considered approach.