Marketing is about the story you tell your customers, and the stories they tell about you. If there’s a big gap between who you say you are and who customers say you are, you have a problem. I can’t tell you how many times I hear businesses talk about marketing efforts as branding, logos, and collateral. Yes, all of these things are important. Yet, your brand is not about the graphics, the logo and the identity design. It’s always about your core ‘story’ and why customers should care.


Not too long ago, I visited with a wonderful and warm prospect who showed me his beautiful website with a new identity design and logo. He had spent tens of thousands of dollars on them. I asked him how his “branding” was working. It wasn’t. His firm was close to bankruptcy this past year.

You see, his material didn’t SAY anything – and that makes sales difficult. Sure his website was beautiful, and it was also jargon-laden with cryptic taglines. I asked him what his customers said about his brand, and he admitted many of his prospects don’t “get it.” I said, “Tell me your core purpose. What is your story and how does the design reflect who you are?” His response: “I don’t know.”


That is the core issue. Until you have a core story that reflects “why” you do what you do, customers can’t get their arms around why “they” should care. All this money had been spent on design, and yet very little time, energy, resources had been put into a story that then drives design.

Marketing isn’t your logo! When your customers don’t understand your messaging, when your benefits are unclear, when your jargon is out of control, and your differentiation is lost – you have a MARKETING problem. That also means you have a sales problem. There are no points for being clever; there are no inside jokes in marketing. The burden of clear communications is on you. Test your branding first with your best customers. If they don’t get it, junk it. Go back to honing your story – that’s where the inspiration for branding starts. Branding is based on the essence of who you are. Your promise to your customers of the kinds of service you offer and the benefits you deliver – that’s the heart of your message. Great design and branding springs from your core story.


Another problem is the ridiculous amount of buzzwords. Jargon hurts you because it doesn’t connect you with your customer. Instead of keeping up with your competition, you should be kicking their behinds. And the best way to do that is to do what they AREN’T doing: using clear, concise messaging that communicates how you help customers. You never stand out by following the herd.

Many businesses fall into this trap. They spend lots of money to look good visually, and forget about how they SOUND. When you get a chance to talk about your business, what do you SAY? Is your story the right one? Has your market changed? Have your customers’ needs changed? Like many readers, I have attended far too many networking events where people rattle off a list of services. They have no story that is differentiated and they never speak about customer results. If you can’t tell your story in a minute or two, you don’t know it. Taking 5 minutes to list all your services is not a story. The worst part – no one will remember it because no one cares.

Yes, logos and branding are important, but not as important as the heart of your marketing – your story.

Now that’s my story…and I’m sticking to it. Make sure you know yours.