I’ve spent the better part of the past 25 years (and the worse part as well) in sales and marketing. One thing that has always impressed me in checking out the marketing collateral and the web sites of the major industry front runners is how I have absolutely no idea what they actually do.
You see, smart marketers learned a long time ago, that when it comes to beating the competition, you don’t have to build a better mousetrap. You just have to know how to market it better. And that starts with the words you use to describe your products and services.
Take fishing rods for example. Which would you rather own, a perfectly adequate fishing rod with an aluminum shaft that you can use for fly fishing or a triple-coated, graphite-reinforced, dual-track quick release casting system that increases your vortex flex range by up to 75%? Now, you may ask yourself, “What exactly is a dual-track quick release casting system” or a “vortex flex range” anyway? Nobody really knows, including the guy who wrote the copy. That’s not important. What’s important is that you must have it – if you want to impress your friends the next time you’re out on the lake casting for trout.
No industry has mastered this technique more than high tech. Let’s just visit a small sampling of web sites, shall we?
Ever heard of a little company called Computer Associates? Here’s what they do, in their own words: “CA Technologies provides robust management solutions that allow you to access data as you need it, across diverse physical and virtual platforms.” The headline of one page from the CA web site touts “Closed loop orchestration of provisioning and configuration across physical and virtual resources.” Well that sure clears up the mystery, doesn’t it?
Confused? You’re not alone. Hang in there. We’re just getting started. How about our good friends over at IBM – I wonder what they’re up to lately. Seems that they offer “simplified, complete solutions for integrating and maintaining multiple, scattered data resources into a scalable data warehouse.” Couldn’t have said it more plainly myself.
Or how about the heavyweight in the world of routers, switches and network systems, our buddies over at Cisco Systems. I wonder what they do. Here’s a description any 4th grader (with a graduate degree in Linux computer programming) could understand: “Cisco’s Borderless Network Architecture is implemented as a five-phase plan that moves from baseline services to advanced policy management and integration that ultimately delivers the borderless experience for users.” Don’t worry if you’re a bit fuzzy. They have a very handy chart that clears it all up for you (below):
But this technique is not limited to only the IT big boys. Seems everybody has gotten into the act. Check out this simple explanation of what Accenture does to help its clients succeed: “Accenture has continually increased our analytic sophistication and capabilities—from batch reporting … to pioneering information management and performance management solutions … to the creation of a dedicated information management services organization.“
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Of course nobody understands what exactly Accenture’s “performance management solutions” means – any more than anyone has a clue what CA’s “closed loop orchestration of physical and virtual resources” is about. And that’s precisely my point. Which do you think CA can charge more for – telling you your computers are running slowly because they need more memory? Or presenting spreadsheets with colorful bar charts showing how your mean time to failure is sub-optimized due to your network’s low yield tolerance thresholds resulting in inefficiently distributed data packets and down time in excess of optimally synchronized loads?
The key to growing your business is to learn from the industry leaders and make sure that whatever it is that your business actually does, it can only be explained in convoluted chains of three- and four-syllable words. It’s really quite simple. Just compile a list of impressive-sounding verbs, adjectives and nouns and use any random combination you would like. To help you out, I have compiled a starter list of impressive-sounding terms to get you started. Pick one of each:
Verbs (choose one): Optimize, Develop, Benchmark, Reverse-engineer, Transform, Synchronize, Monetize, Streamline, Synthesize, Integrate, Leverage, Aggregate…..
Adjectives (choose one): Scalable, Innovative, Mission-critical, Next-generation, 24/7, Real-time, World-class, Platform-independent, Transparent, Turnkey, Seamless….
Nouns (choose one): Deliverables, Assets, Systems, Yields, Channels, Solutions, Platforms, Technologies, Revenue streams, Synergies, Metrics, Convergence…
Now just combine them into a sentence, upload them to your web site home page, and BINGO – your profits will climb by 20% before you know it. Don’t worry if the words don’t seem to make any sense. It is absolutely irrelevant that the words have no bearing on your business. The key is to sound cutting-edge, innovative, highly sophisticated and completely obscure. Trust me, nobody will ever ask you what you actually do. They don’t want to risk looking stupid in front of their boss or their girlfriend.
Let’s practice, shall we? Say you’re a small neighborhood bank. You might say your business is to make loans. I say, could you be any duller about what you do? Instead, try telling your customers that your bank has INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS to help them MONETIZE REAL-TIME YIELDS.
Okay, how about if you’re a small business consultant who helps companies by training their managers to be better leaders? Somebody please resuscitate me. I’m falling into a coma from boredom here. How about this instead: You help companies LEVERAGE SYNERGISTIC MANAGEMENT-BASED SOLUTIONS.
What if you own a computer repair business? Sure, other computer repair companies may fix broken computers. But you do so much more. You go the extra mile and REVERSE-ENGINEER MISSION-CRITICAL PLATFORMS 24/7 (Monday’s through Fridays from 9am till 5pm).
See how easy it is? But a word of caution. If you own Bongo’s fast food burger restaurant, I might suggest you not try putting on your sign “BONGO’s – OPTIMIZING WORLD-CLASS BURGER DELIVERABLES SINCE 1987”. Just give ‘em the Bongo Burger and super size the fries, okay? Don’t try to over-think this.
Oh, and if you can add a complicated chart to your web site with lots of arrows and colors like the one at left, even better. Any chart will do. You can use a schematic of the London subway map or a snapshot of your most recent electrocardiogram for all anybody cares. It doesn’t matter. The key is to make it really confusing, colorful, and nebulously profound. And if you can keep it to say, a 4 to 6 point font, even better. That way no one can actually read it. Your customers won’t have a clue what the diagram is about, but they’ll be thinking “gosh, this company must be cutting-edge. I should buy from them. I wonder what they sell. I hope they accept VISA.”
Another important thing to incorporate into your marketing communications is the clever use of TLAs. Oh, I’m sorry; you probably don’t know what that means. It stands for three-letter acronyms. And it’s what separates the amateurs from the pros when it comes to brilliant marketing. Microsoft alone uses so many of them internally that they actually have a TLA dictionary for their employees (true). The world of high tech has, at last count, 14.5 gazillion TLAs – and they are growing by the nanosecond (I mean “by the NNS”). You may even know a few of them: CAD (Computer Aided Design), RAM (Random Access Memory), CPU (Central Processing Unit) and WTF (self-explanatory).
I cannot stress enough the importance of inserting random TLAs into your web site marketing copy. And don’t feel that your TLA’s have to actually stand for anything. Nobody is going to ask. Just make up random three-letter sequences. For example: “Our grocery store offers not only the finest quality cuts of USDA (technically that’s a four-letter acronym) Prime beef, but we also AGGREGATE the tastiest cuts of WORLD-CLASS RANCH YIELDS in town. Come for the best selection in BBQs and RPBs. – all made with TLC.”
So if you want to grow your business in today’s competitive world, focus on what really matters. Stop fretting about trying to improve your customer service, or shaving costs by eliminating the toilet paper from the men’s room. If you really want the competitive edge, stop wasting your time on the small stuff. Focus instead on making sure to ORCHESTRATE a CROSS-MEDIA, BEST-OF-BREED, LEADING-EDGE PARTNERSHIP MARKETING PORTAL guaranteed to assure your customers a COLLABORATIVE ROI.
Of course, you may be skeptically thinking that this is just marketing spin and has nothing to do with actual substance or building a better business, and that this is all just smoke and mirrors. To which I would ask – and your point would be?
And I should know a thing or two about marketing. My own company’s sales of mirrors are up 30% over last year. That’s in part due to another brilliant marketing idea I came up with: For every mirror you buy, I’ll throw in a year’s supply of smoke.