Words of Value, Words of Truth

 


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When was the last time you thought about the words your business uses to describe itself and what it does? In the rush of market pressures and getting things done, it's easy to forget that we establish our unique value (and values) in relationship with those who happen upon our web sites, brochures, articles, papers, and sales literature.

We aren't using words merely to make nice sounds. We're establishing dialogue with the people we are best equipped to serve. Once we've identified those people and understand how to express our unique value from their perspective, we have to consider the value words we want to use to create openings for engagement. What words will we use to convey our unique value to our ideal customers and clients? What Are Value Words?

Value words are action words, verbs or verb phrases, that reflect:

  • What we claim to do.
  • What we claim to believe.
Value words demonstrate a company's attitude. You can immediately discern an organization's opinion of itself by analyzing the value words it uses to describe what it claims to do. When a company claims to “offer innovative solutions, " what is it really saying? It is professing to be an innovator, but is that a quality in which its ideal customers are interested? And does the company in fact deliver innovative solutions to its customers?

It isn't that the words themselves are good or bad. It's that the value words we use must match what we actually do in our relationships with customers and clients.

The Value Word Exercise

My friend Richard Scott of Paragon Coaching once reminded me that what a company believes about itself and its customers can be ascertained in a five-minute study of its web site. And he's right.

Furthermore, it's an interesting exercise to ask a company's customers if the value they received was what they expected given the language used in the marketing material they received (or on what the sales person told them).

When the words a business uses reflect the beliefs and goals of the company as a whole, customers get it. But when the words used are at odds with what's delivered, customers get out.

When I assess the One Straight Line web site, I see we use words like “help, " “clarify, " “articulate, " and “connect. " We believe in creativity and in the necessity of “understanding unique value" from the customer's perspective. That's exactly what we help our clients do - connect with their customers and other stakeholders. We frequently reassess our material to be sure it's clear about exactly what we do for our clients, based on the feedback we receive from them.

We recently analyzed the web site of an imaging software and services company. In less than five minutes we knew why potential customers had a hard time figuring out what the company does: It uses words and phrases like “organizes, " “streamlines communications, " “a unique breed. " The buzz words are conveying one message of value, yet the value actually delivered to customers is quite different. The value words being used do not align with what the company actually delivers.

Customers want to know what's in it for them. When you want to engage a customer, use value words that reflect your understanding of their needs. It's a simple idea that requires a lot of work on our part. The results are always worth the effort.

Practice, Then Take the Value Word Test Yourself

Examine at the web sites for several different companies and practice finding the value words they use. Is it easy to figure out what they can do for their potential customers, or is their unique value obscured by the words they use? There is a direct correlation between a company's ability to connect with its ideal customers and its financial results.

That's right: Successful companies use value words that reflect what they do in ways their potential customers immediately understand.

Now. . . what about your own material? What do your value words tell your ideal customers about what you do?

Here's hoping you deliver on the promise carried by your value words!

Michael Knowles, co-author of The Entrepreneur's Concept Assessment Toolbook (available at http://www.booklocker.com/books/1988.html or Amazon.com) helps businesses take what they do best and focus it on success. A Principal in One Straight Line LLC, Michael has over 25 years of experience helping companies create communication strategies help them engage customers, employees, investors, outsourcing partners, and the community.

Michael can be reached at mknowles@onestraightline.com .

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