As many of you know, one of my greatest passions and hobbies is cooking.
I’m not culinary graduate awesome, but I can hold my own. And while I can tackle complicated recipes, I often stick to simple dishes because they are faster. And then are the recipes so simple that if you don’t know your basics — how to brown, how to know when things are ready for the next step, how to season simply — the dish won’t turn out. This dish might be the epitome of simple is hard:
I love watching Chef John and this might be the simplest dish he’s ever posted, it is also one of my wife’s favorites. Done right, it’s awesome. As Chef John discusses, this is a dish that highlights skill and technique over complex steps or special ingredients or lots of spices. Chicken with mushrooms. Simple. Pretty easy. And really fantastic.
As I was planning on making chicken and mushrooms for dinner some time this week, I realized that Chef John’s recipe, highlighting skill and technique over ingredients, applies to an array of marketing endeavors.
The newest tools, fancy graphics, and cutting edge design can’t fix a story that sucks
The single most important part of marketing is being able to convey your message simply and effectively to your audience. All the rest is bonus. Jon Westenberg 🌈 talked about this in his daily blog this weekend:
He can’t get a daily blog post out if he doesn’t write it. If that post is awful, all the custom headers, graphics within the post, and distribution across social networks won’t fix it. (I should note that Jon’s post was far from awful, since I his premise stuck with me). When we think that cool tools, distribution strategies, and influencer outreach programs can make up for a weak message or a product that isn’t up to par…we’re setting up for failure. Rand Fishkin highlights this very problem in his post on the Moz blog that supports his new book (which is on my to buy soon list):
Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday
Rand's got 16 years of hands-on marketing experience under his belt, and in this Whiteboard Friday, he shares his best…
What’s the solution. Simple. Or rather, simplicity. Cut your marketing content to the bare bones. Strip to the essential message. That, however, isn’t easy or simple. It takes a lot of work to simplify, but there are some trick I’ve used in the past that make it a little easier.
Limit the number of words
Did you know that Dr Seuss’ classic Green Eggs & Ham uses only 50 different words? It was a bet between Dr Seuss and his editor. I think the editor was a fool to make the bet, anyone as brilliant and creative as Dr Seuss would be able to pull it off. For marketing copy try using only 100 or 250 or 500 words to describe your product or service. Or even better exactly 100 words. Not fewer, but exactly. That’s pretty hard. It is a fun a challenge though.
Forcing you to into a box really stimulates creativity and if you can get your product summarized in 100 words and still make sense. That’s pretty cool.
Limit your time
When I was learning product-market fit, creating a value proposition with the usual formulas, I tried to put too many into the statement. Which meant I had to take a few breaths to get it all out. The instructor said, now write it so you can say it all in one breath. Hard. Really hard. But it forced me to distill what we were doing into something much simpler.
About 10 years ago I did a podcast series called the WordPress One Minute Podcast. The hook was I had to find a tip that could be explained and comepleted in a minute or less. I ran out of things after a while, but wow it was fun recording takes so that the podcast was only a minute.
Get your story straight, then get fancy
Before you spend time and energy setting up content marketing tools or channels or fancy editorial calendars, spend time on getting your story right. Post on Twitter. Post on LinkedIn. Write short blog posts. Keep writing and practicing your story until you find the one that clicks with your customers.
Once you’ve got that straight, then head to the spice cupboard and get fancy. Just not too fancy. Never let the extras overpower or dilute your core. Remember if chicken and mushrooms doesn’t taste like chicken and mushrooms, you missed the whole point.
Need help figuring out your core message? I can help you with that…just ping me and let’s chat.