Business and the Writing on the Wall

February 21, 2011

What does what you say about your business say to your customers? Can they read the writing on the wall?  If customers can’t quickly understand just what you are offering them, it’s likely you may never get the chance. No matter what your business  is or how big or how small, the way you tell your story is  key to success.


Cartoon #5115 - 'It appears to be some sort of pyramid scheme.'
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We have many ways to share our message.

As business owners, entrepreneurs, leaders and marketers, we have more tools at our disposal than ever before.  Social media, the web, email, print, TV and radio all come together to extend our message to a wider and wider audience.  The question is, when we reach our target audience, is our message clear… or cryptic?

The RIGHT message answers 5 basic questions – Who, What, When, Why, and How.

  • Who are you and what do you stand for.  This is the primary reason we have core values and brand messages.  Make sure that yours is clearly stated and repeated often.
  • What are you offering.  It is amazing how often I see an ad or message and there is no clear value statement.  If I do not know what you have to offer me then how will I know if I want it?
  • “When” comes next.  Your when is a call to action.  Is this a limited offer?  Is there an incentive for acting now?  Develop a sense of urgency so I, as your customer, can take you up on your offer.  Mediums like electronic retail (the QVC/ShopNBC/HSN networks) and Direct Response (the infomercial crowd) have this down to an art.  They clearly state the “who” and the “what”  with a compelling ACT NOW messaging strategy.  This is  the art of timing.  Just remember, when you call your customers to action, be sure you are ready to deliver.  Otherwise, you just frustrate of confuse them and they will not be listening when you reach out again.
  • The why is a two part process.  First communicate WHY you have the right product or service for your customer.  This is not about you, it is ALL about them.  Why is your product better for them?  Why is your product  different or better than their other alternatives?   Why do they want to buy from you right now?  Secondly – be sure to keep the promises you made in your Who, What and Why statements.  The first customer experience may be a result of your marketing prowess, but customer experience will be WHY they come back to buy from you again.
  • This leads us to the How.  When you put the writing up on the wall, be sure that you clearly state… How to reach you. How to buy from you. How customer’s can use your product or service to the customer’s advantage after the sale.  If there is no evidence of a how, I may not buy.  If there is no results from your “how” after the sale, I definitely won’t be buying again.

So get your message out there and make it easy for me to understand. 

I just might have a need for what YOU want to offer.  Just keep in mind that customers like me are busy and you are not my highest  priority…yet.  Creative marketing campaigns or messages may capture my attention but if you do not clearly communicate the Who, What, When, Why and How you may have succeeded in entertaining me, but you have failed in your primary goal…engaging me as a customer today and tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


Joan Koerber-Walker is a two time Stevie Award National Finalist and Chairman of the Board of CorePurpose, Inc. and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation.  She also serves as Executive in Residence for Callaman Ventures and on the boards of for profit and nonprofit organizations.  As the former CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association she has worked with hundreds of  businesses and on behalf of thousands.  She believes that when you combine leadership with innovative products and services you get results.  With the support of a great  team at CorePurpose she helps client companies of all sizes do just that.  Chat with her on Twitter as @joankw, @JKWgrowth, @JKWinnovation, @JKWleadership and@CorePurpose , at her blog at or by email by clicking here.


The greatest message will have no impact…

September 15, 2009

The greatest message in the world will have no impact if no one is listening.  This is not exactly a new concept.  But if you forget it, you can get into BIG trouble.

You may have heard the famous riddle:j0438604[1]

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

While often attributed to Irish Philosopher George Berkeley, this is more likely a paraphrase of Berkeley’s writings from his musings in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, that delved into knowledge and perception.

From Berkeley’s perspective,

“To be is to be perceived” .

In the language of the great philosophers if his day, the maxim was “Esse est percipi“.

In the language of today’s business we might say …

If you are not perceived to exist, you do not exist.

But what does this have to do with business and messaging?

Actually quite a bit.  Berkeley may have been writing in a time before any of our businesses where even a glimmer, but when you apply his words to the goal of growing a business, they are profound.

“If you have a great MESSAGE and no one is around to hear it – does your message matter?

The answer is Probably Not.  Too often I have seen companies fail.  It was not because they did not have a great product or service – they did.  They failed for the simple reason that the right audience NEVER GOT THE MESSAGE.  Since the message never reached the customer. employee, partner, or investor, the perception of value was not created – and the company did not get what they needed – more sales, more productive employees, better partnerships, or investment dollars.  Eventually, the companies failed to achieve their goals or in some cases disappeared completely.

In business, perception IS reality

Equally important is how your target audience perceives your message or business.  You may have the best service or widget in the  world, but if aren’t aware of it and perceive the value to THEM, you are just whistling into the wind.

So if Audience and Perception are that important …

Here are some tips for finding an audience and helping to shape perception.

  1. Know who your audience is. Unless you have universal product – EVERYONE is not your market.  Define them first!
  2. Understand where they hang out. This is the first rule of both messaging and networking.  If you are singing like a bird in an empty forest.  You will have very little impact.  No one will hear you. Use media – both social and traditional wisely.  Unless you have unlimited funds, look at the demographics of the audience BEFORE you invest your time and money there.
  3. Share a message that provides value to the listener. Do your homework on what your target audience is hoping to learn, to solve, to fix.  Build your message around how your product or service will do just that.
  4. Never forget – the perceptions AND words of others will always be more powerful than your own. You can spend millions and have your reputation destroyed when unhappy customers, employees, or partners raise their voice, just as your fame can be assured when enthusiastic customers, employees, or partners spread the word.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker