The Most Fundamental Marketing Mistake


I was at a large tradeshow today (Dreamforce). I’ll bet I asked at 30 booths: “What do you do?” I wasn’t trying to be a smart aleck — in each case, I really wanted to know.

Booth after booth had the company name and some clever slogan that said not much, or a complex set of bullet points that only made sense to people who knew the product category well. Some used insider terms like “Document Management” that mean little to new prospects. Even when the booth said what they did, there often were no benefits and no hint at how the products solve customer problems.

After a while, I started asking a followup question, “Do you get that question a lot?” They would laugh and agree, not realizing they were staring a huge problem in the eye. After they told me what the company did, I asked some of them why the signage didn’t say that. (OK, now I was being a smart aleck.) Mostly blank stares. A few said something about “the marketing guys.”

You know your product or service. You live with it every day. But prospects may not even know the basic terms your industry uses. They certainly won’t know why they should be interested in you, unless you tell them. Look at all your materials through a novice’s eye and ask yourself if your most attractive prospect will find it enticing enough to ask a question more useful than, “What do you do?”.

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