“I have a dream,” intoned Martin Luther King. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”
When I sit down to write a sales page, blog post, media release or magazine article, I play this speech. Please know that I’m not deluding myself thinking I have anything as imperative or historically significant to say as Luther King did that fine day.
But I want to start big and bold. And if I stir up some controversy or invoke disagreement, mores the better.
When I write for business, I want to stir emotion. I look to question unconscious assumptions, to look at issues within a broader historical context, to explore the psychology behind transactional decisions, or address a trend I see as problematic. In business blog posts, I want to delve into the deeper issues behind things and, if I provoke negative feedback, I consider that a success.
Boldness is my business strategy.
The cornerstone of effective marketing is to be noticed – without this, your witty headlines, finely crafted prose and value-stuffed offerings will all come to naught.
But being noticed – especially for small businesses with limited marketing budgets – is becoming increasingly difficult, particularly in crowded marketplaces such as our Facebook news streams.
Know your values
Your company has values, regardless of whether you’re aware of these. Your corporate culture, your brand, and your internal communications all make up your values. It is your actions – not your words – that express your company values.
Articulating these values is the first step to be bold as a business strategy.
What do you value – and why are you insanely passionate about it? On the flip side – what do you find intolerable, abhorrent or ridiculously insane? This should be clear on your homepage, explored more deeply on your About page and ‘Our Values’ or ‘Our Mission’ pages, and peppered throughout your blog posts, your social media updates, your newsletters, media releases, advertising and other communications.
Name your adversaries
Making a public stand against the status quo will likely cause a bigger splash than declaring your positive values, though these are, or course, essential. Nobody respects a moaner with no plan to improve things.
Now before you write this off as radical and inappropriate, consider your clients and customers – at the point of purchase, are they more motivated by the negative or the positive? I’d suggest it’s the former.
A dieter who enrolls in Michelle Bridge’s 12-week Body Transformation is far more motivated to not feel humiliated during summer time at the beach. Avoiding humiliation, self-loathing, embarrassment or disaster is far more compelling to most people than feeling satisfied, proud, joyful or in control.
Apple’s ‘Think Different’ tagline worked because it went against the ‘sameness’ status quo, appealing to people who were keen to be seen as unique, innovative and creativity. That is, until Apples became ubiquitous.
The New York Times famous tagline ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’, used since the late 1890s, was a public stance against the prevalent status quo – lurid news publications. This elevated the paper beyond a news publication, suggesting it was a platform representing credibility, trust and leadership.
Your values should be bold. They don’t need to sound like Luther King’s proclamation, but they do have to be rousing. Stating the bleeding obvious of what your clients expect is not a mission statement, it’s a waste of time and a missed opportunity.
When conceiving your mission statement, imagine yourself as Luther King giving a speech – not to your staff, who have a vested interest in clapping politely, but to a disinterested crowd rushing by, umbrellas fortified against the weather, running late for work and preoccupied with lists and worries.
Your mission statement seeks to engage, amuse, enthral, provoke and inspire.
Your ideal clients and your adversaries
Each business has ideal clients who stand to gain the most from your offerings, who will enthusiastically refer others to you, and who are a pleasure to do business with. Knowing your ideal client avatar and reaching out to them in all your marketing communications is imperative to your business success.
Your marketing should also actively repel others – people who don’t share the same values you do, who don’t appreciate or respect your process, and who don’t view your offerings as anything more than a commodity. Too many of these type of clients will suck the life force from your business – they sap your energy, destroy your staff’s enthusiasm and put pressure on your prices, terms and conditions.
Bold opinions will, in roughly equal measures, attract some, repeal others, and leave yet others unmoved. Haters on social media, your business blog or via email mean you’ve successfully pushed people’s buttons.
Ideally, you’ve identified a corner of your industry in sore need of reform. Not everyone will agree.
That’s a good thing.
Fight clean – engage in articulate debate, take complaints off-line and treat these as an opportunity to improve. But also recognise when debate is fruitless. Wish these people well and send them on their way. Delete, block and ban.
Be the business you want to use
We know that our clients and customers aren’t having wet dreams over our business. They’re thinking about their problems and worries, dreaming of better times ahead and carving out the ideal scenario for their lives and loved ones.
Our business is only of value when we help people negotiate their issues and experience their dreams. They love us for how we make them feel, and that includes the kudos from their association with our business. So move people – embrace your opinion, suggest a better way, write with passion and emotion and have fun with it.
A bold business highlights what’s noble, precious, transformative or empowering and what’s unhelpful, misleading, corrupt and in need of reform.
In so doing, you attract quality prospects, engender client loyalty and referrals, and better understand what’s coming up next – what the logical next step for your business offerings will be, which relevant trends will be insubstantial and which will be revolutionary and enduring.
Being bold in your communications is the first step towards becoming great.