What Business Are You In?

blueskyAt a meeting of my Vistage CEO group, I sat through a captivating presentation by Max Carey, CEO of CRD, a marketing and sales consulting firm. He asked each of us to describe what our companies do, which we did. Then he asked us a question that shook me: What business do your clients and prospects think you are in?

Max days that it doesn’t matter what business you think you’re in, what matters is what business your prospects and clients think you’re in.  So I got to thinking.  I say that the Matrix Group’s mission is to use the latest Web technologies to help our clients “be better.” When I pitch clients and prospects, I sell them a solution and an outcome.  I want clients to tell us their goals and then we’ll work collaboratively with them to figure out what mix of products and services will let them achieve those goals in the fastest and least expensive way.

But what would my top 10 clients say if I asked them what Matrix Group does? I hope that on a good day, my best clients would say that we helped them:  reach more members, sell more products, run a better organization, educate more people about their issues, save time, save money, yada, yada.  But I bet a bunch would say that we are a Web design shop, some would say we’re a Web development firm, and still others probably see us a membership database company.  Is this is the brand identity that I want?  No, so what can I do about it?

Max says:

  • Understand that branding is about the brand name AND brand identity. Brand identity is what’s connoted when they hear your brand name. It’s the business that your prospects and clients think you’re in.
  • Communicate our brand with a common language that everyone in the organization uses. Apparently, most companies do a poor job at communicating their businesses because they have a poor message, staff don’t know what the message is, and everyone in the company describes it differently.
  • Live the brand. Through our behavior, we need to live our brand values.  If we are focused on outcomes, then we need to lead with goals and have an effective way of measuring the outcome of our efforts.

How about you?  Are you actually in the business you think you’re in?