October 20th, 2008
For the CEO who, until now, has failed to create customer-validated differentiation in his company’s messaging, the current economic downturn will become the ultimate test of survival.
Look around. Businesses are cutting expenses, laying off employees, and filing for bankruptcy. Customers are greatly curtailing their spending. Uncle Sam has bailed out venerable Wall Street institutions and taken ownership positions in major banks. The recession is here. Will your firm endure?
The key to survival will be your company’s ability to stand out in a sea of lookalike competitors. By clearly, simply, and compellingly articulating to customers the unique benefits of owning your products and services, and convincing them to buy now, you can succeed in economic turmoil — and be in a powerful position to leap beyond your wildest dreams when the recession ends!
In tough times, buyers make vendors work harder for their money than in good times. Buyers want to avoid guilt by believing that their purchases are essential, even if they’re not. So, for example, by convincing customers that sitting around at home with family and friends saves money on gasoline, Sony could make a widescreen TV appear as a must-have purchase.
Most vendors hawk their wares by highlighting price and availability — rather than appealing cleverly and uniquely to human emotions. The result: consumers visualize these vendors as endless rows of warehouses, differentiated only by price and availability. This unimaginative marketing will not induce people to act impulsively; consequently, they’ll delay or never purchase those “warehoused” products.
Deliver a Simple Message
I’ve told a number of CEOs that, after looking for 15 seconds at the homepages of their Websites, I can’t figure out what their companies do. It’s amazing how many replied with, Yeah, you’re probably right, but we don’t put a lot of emphasis on our Website. Huh? Forcing the consumer to do all the work leads to suboptimal revenues in good times and being crushed during bad times.
With two weeks left until election day, the outcome still is not clear. Barack Obama, despite his socialistic rhetoric, inexperience, and ties to objectionable people, is ahead in the polls and has raised record working capital — during a recession ($150M raised in September alone)!
How can that be? John McCain is the underdog, despite his record and reputation, because of his inability — especially in the debates — to clearly, simply, and compellingly articulate his value proposition. McCain is working way too hard to deliver a simple message; because of that, he may not make the sale.
Ask all your employees and your top-10 customers to send you a one-sentence description (unique value proposition) of your company. Do their descriptions — which must be couched in customer-speak, not vendor-speak — match yours? If not, you’ve flunked the recession test. You have not articulated — clearly, simply, and compellingly — your company’s reason for being.
People still have wants and needs during a recession — and they will spend money, as Barack Obama’s war chest proves. The question is, Will they spend it at your company? If so, you’ve passed the test.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2008 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.