You may have heard people say ‘the guy drank his own Kool-aid’ and I’m sure you all know what it means, but if you don’t, it’s from the ill-fated Jim Jones massacre, where people blindly followed their leader to their deaths by drinking poisoned Kool-aid.
Companies are doing it every day by blindly growing their company and doing things they think is correct without listening to people or the market around them.
A case in point is the company pitch; Whether it is the ‘elevator’ pitch, your blog or the website messaging itself.
When my partners interview companies to see if they are a good match for private equity financing, of course, they are going to try to impress us with everything they can say about their company. But herein lies the problem; it’s in the way they explain the company.
What happened to businesses that could explain what they do in three or four words, or with a simple tagline? Was it a simpler time twenty years ago, or have things become more complicated? I think the world is a bit more complex, but telling someone what you do for a living sounds pretty basic to me.
I was writing notes for a podcast a couple of weeks ago. One business I was going to talk about wrote “our business is a Crowd-powered Cloud™ ecosystem that drives top quality entertainment” as the company description. I sent the CEO an email telling him that I found it hard to understand and asked him to help me out. Within an hour, he sent me a 900-word description of the business that left me, not only more confused, but now dazed as well. I cobbled bits and pieces of it together to make a sensible sentence about the company (it puts entertainment talent and management together) for my podcast, but it was a lot of effort. I don’t think I will be investing in them anytime soon.
I have noticed this confusing business message happening more and more. My wife put it the best when she said, “When people are involved in what they are doing, they are totally absorbed and totally in their own box. They think everyone who crosses their path is in their box too, but in fact they are in other boxes – people need more information”.
You know the saying “You only have one chance to make a good first impression”? Imagine I am looking to invest in a company and I have a choice from two businesses. Do you really think I will put money into the one that I can’t figure out what they produce, even though it was referred to me? I’d rather give it to charity.
Lost in a Sea of Nerd-Speak
A local company recently came to me looking for private equity, and even though I know them very well and fully understand their business, I asked them for a two-paragraph overview so I didn’t have to write it. I spent time on three emails and two phone calls before they made understandable copy. Point being: Stop using ‘nerd-speak’.
Now let’s get this straight: I not a stupid guy, and I’m not punishing people by asking for clarification, I just think that the ‘average’ person needs some help out there before they make decisions about using or buying products or services from a business. I actually have two brilliant friends who have given me permission to interrupt them in any conversation if they enter the world of nerd-speak – and it works for everyone when I do!