No, I’m not against knowledge. It’s almost always a good thing. But if what you offer to customers is at all complex or technical and you’re doing any marketing, there’s a trap that you can fall into. The Heath brothers, authors of Made to Stick, point out that talking about your product or service based on what it does just doesn’t cut it. It is essential that you communicate how what you offer will make a difference to your prospective customers. They cover a number of different aspects of communications that “stick” to customers in the book, which I recommend highly for anybody who owns a business. It offers concrete examples in each chapter of what works and what doesn’t, and it analyzes what makes some communications work. When they don’t work, it’s almost always due to what the Heaths call the “curse of knowledge”.
One story in the book really struck me: It is about members of the Duo Piano Group who were attending a seminar for non-profits arts leaders. Participants were asked, “Why does your organization exist? Can other organizations do what you do — and if so, what is it you do that is unique?” Now, these are questions every business owner should also be able to answer.
The Duo Piano Group first came up with, “We exist to protect, perserve, and promote the music of duo piano.” But when pressed by the seminar attendees, they could only say what they did was important because it helped prevent duo piano music from dying out. The other participants still weren’t clear on the value proposition. One finally asked why the world would be a less rich place if duo piano music disappeared.
Suddenly impassioned, the piano group spoke of the uniqueness of the piano as an instrument, that when you put two pianos together, the performers respond to each other, and it’s like having, “The sound of the orchestra but the intimacy of chamber music.” Suddenly, the non-piano buffs understood what was unique about what this group does.
The piano group reached this revelation because of the repeated asking of the question “Why?” When you answer the bolded questions above for yourself, make sure you keep asking Why until you get to the fundamental answer that anyone and everyone — and certainly all your prospective customers — can understand. And make that your marketing message.