All posts by punchline

value proposition
You only get one chance to tell a story that is your own

Ever been at a function, say a BBQ, and asked someone what they do…their story business-wise?

Some people come back with, “well, we do lots of things.”

Immediately you begin to switch off.

That person has irretrievably lost their best chance to pique your interest. They’ve frittered their golden opportunity for you to ask “tell me more.”

It’s the same if you click onto someone’s website and you can’t instantly tell what they do, and more importantly, why you should give a rat’s arse.

Unless you’re some kind of digital depths train spotter you’ll click away to another site – and the products or service actually available on that website will never have the good fortune to receive your custom.

Your first story is vitally important

Which is why your first story, your initial message, is so vitally important.

It is why it is crucial to nail an expression that conveys your business “what and why”.

It is why you need to unearth a heart and soul and value proposition.

Because this Million Dollar Message is your encapsulated story, it can’t be, in fact it is impossible to be, created by brainstorming. It means it is a waste of time asking an advertising agency to come up with this statement.

Brainstorming won’t reveal the one central truth of what your story must convey.

Brainstorming can only convey a fictional account of your story – when in fact it must be memorable, poetic, enticing and above all true.

Only question-storming can both reveal and distill the essence of your story. Only question-storming can narrow down to the 2 -10 novel yet familiar words which enables a viewer or listener to literally or figuratively say “tell me more.”

Ten thousand words is easy. Ten words is extremely hard.

But those are your most important words – words that can make or break your business.

If you can’t figure them out yourself (and it is very difficult for us to see the wood from the trees), make sure you get someone who can help bring your most meaningful message to light.

New Zealand’s first PopUp Business School attendees in Porirua learned why their first most story, a value proposition and Million Dollar Message, is so important

Recently I had the privilege of presenting ‘storytelling 101’, and the importance of your first story,  to New Zealand’s first cohort through the PopUp Business School Aotearoa.

Fifty people signed up for the Porirua two-week intensive, lead by the irrepressible Tony Henderson-Newport, who brought across and Kiwified a British initiative started back in 2012.

His co-conspirator and facilitator Anna Watson created an environment which seeks to maximise impact and harness momentum for entrepreneurs with business ideas. The Porirua event was backed by the Porirua City Council, WREDA and Te Puni Kokiri (TPK).

It is great to see these corporate organisations reaching out and supporting people who might otherwise miss out on such valuable training…hats off to them.

PUBS invited me, wearing my hat, to address this culturally diverse group on business naming and the importance of the first story a company tells.

My talk was about 10 minutes long, followed by some quite challenging questions.

A Million Dollar Message needs to nail the what and why of your business

The summary of what and how businesses should think about their announcement to the world was:

  • Your business name is a superb opportunity to start your story
  • Your next 2-10 words are your Million Dollar Message which nails who, what and why you are

Having a business name that gives me a big clue of what your offer is, is to my way of thinking, commonsense.

It is unlikely that a new business will have the budget of an ‘Apple’ or ‘Nike’, who spent and spend millions telling people what they do. Their name doesn’t actually do that.

Having an esoteric company name, that may be clever in its own right, but which requires you to explain what and why you have it – before you even get into what it is your business does – is inviting someone to lose interest right from the get-go.

So, work on and work out a name that resonates with the business you’re in, whether that be establishing a workshop space for Pasifika arts or helping people with the complexities of setting up their initial computer systems for their own business.

The next 2-10 words are also crucial. This expression is sometimes known as your value proposition, strapline, slogan or tagline. It will be the first thing read on a website, and will often be the deciding factor whether someone landing on your home page reads on, or clicks away to someone else.

The ultimate truth-test for what I call a Million Dollar Message is at a BBQ, and someone asks what you do.

You want those words, which present a ‘what’ and if possible a ‘why’ to elicit an “I get it’ response…immediately.

Ideally you want someone to get onboard with you, whether that be a coffee catchup, a “I know someone who might be interested in this”, or a sale.

The attendees at this PopUp Business School received what could be described as a mini MBA and my ‘Storytelling 101’ is a small but crucial part of helping their businesses fly.

It was an honour to assist these entrepreneurs take off in the right direction.


Your value proposition should never have these terms

Far too often, as if they’ve pulled terms from a cliche-word-generator, an organisation’s first most important message is meaningless.

Their 2-10 word opening story – as a value proposition, slogan, tagline – fails.

It fizzles instead of flying, is a three cent mess, rather than being a Million Dollar Message.

And instead of inspiring more action such as further exploration of a website, being a touchstone for other storytelling and communications, or acting as an internal rallying call, it is simply insipid.

Very often, too often, the reason for message mediocrity is because bland and generic words have been used. There’s no metaphor(s). There’s only mismatched collections of verbs and nouns.

Seven words to banish from your value proposition

So, here’s Punchline’s seven sinning words – terms that should be banished in any story that kicks off explaining what your product or service is all about.

‘solutions‘ – we all provide solutions, solve a problem of some kind or other. At the very least, tell me what kind of headache you fix. (An exception might be a chemical company…some of their products might actually be as a ‘solution’!)

‘delivering’ – bland, a cop-out expression that’s neither here nor there.

‘innovation/innovative’ – very few businesses, unless they happen to be traditional is not going to be innovative. If you’re saying it, you probably aren’t.

‘collaborative’ – what service provider isn’t going to be collaborative? You can’t work independently of who you’re supplying to. A waste of a word.

‘authentic’ – as opposed to inauthentic? Surely it is a given for any business.

‘disruptive’ – a cliche pure and simple. If Forbes, The Guardian and Slate say it is time to retire this word, you can bet it has no place as a value proposition.

‘intelligent’ – yawn. A term hopefully used by your clients when talking about your product or service, but a word that feels forced when you use it yourself.

These words, and I could’ve thrown in ‘sustainable’, ‘synergy/ise’ and ’empower’, devalue rather than contribute to your Million Dollar Message.

Run away from them.

However, I’m sure I’ve missed some other obvious ones. What other terms should be nowhere near your value proposition?