Some years ago, I was listening to a taped presentation by an educator, who was advocating the rather unconventional notion that we should adapt our teaching style to the child’s learning style.
She summed up her approach by asking this rather simple, but profound question: “What’s the point?”
The point, of course, is that the child learns. The “how” is quite secondary—if the student learns better by going out into the yard and digging up a root system rather than sitting still at a desk and reading a book, then by all means go out and dig! Just get to the point.
The phrase has embedded itself deep within my psyche and has morphed to shape my thinking about branding and my approach to consulting. Almost always, the first question that comes to mind when considering a branding challenge, a marketing initiative, a consulting project, or a written communication, is: “What’s the point?”
I would dare to say that, until you can answer that question with clarity and simplicity, it is almost impossible to succeed. In starting a business or growing a brand, in developing a message or solving a problem, there must be a very clear target that you are aiming for. Why are you doing this? What exactly are you seeking to achieve? What is your chief differentiator? What is the market need or desire? What’s the point?
When I started my own consulting practice in 2006, I had to wrestle with that question. My answers:
- My unique skills and desires were not being channeled in my current job position.
- It was unlikely that any other company was going to create a role around my aspirations, so I needed to do it myself.
- I aspired to increasingly apply my talents and creativity to entrepreneurship and network-building, after twenty years focusing on sales and marketing.
- I needed flexibility to work in a schedule that fit my lifestyle and family situation (which, in my case means starting before 6 a.m., when I am most creative and energized).
- I wanted to build something that would help others and outlast me.
Seth Godin, in his book Purple Cow, makes the point that unless your offering is somehow unique—in some way differentiated from everything else out there—you may not have a “point” for being in business. To import a term from the world of electronics, we need to have a good signal-to-noise ratio. There’s a ton of noise in the marketplace, and our brand signal—our “point”—needs to be clear to rise above it.
Ironically, sometimes, the key business stakeholder is the person least able to distill things down to the core and identify the key differentiating message. I often meet with business partners who are so involved in the many bullet points of their trees, that they can’t identify the forest.
So, what is your point? What makes you unique? Are you trying to write your brand message with a blunt instrument, or a sharpened pencil? When you can express your unique value in fewer than 10 seconds and 10 words, then you’re truly able to “get to the point!”