Quick Fix or Long Haul?

When it comes to building your company or brand, are you in it for the long haul?  Or do you seek the quick fix?

Recently, I came across a website offering a $77 paperback book that claims to teach small business owners how to draft a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). I won’t dignify this book by linking to it, but I will share a few of its sales claims, because they’re among the most ridiculous I’ve ever heard. According to the author, after reading his book, you will be able to:

“…create a sure fire Unique Selling Proposition in 77 minutes or less…”  (Could you write down any old sentence and call it a USP within 77 minutes? Sure, you could do that in 77 seconds. But can you be sure that it’s correct – sorry, “sure fire” – in 77 minutes, including small details like consumer relevance and operational feasibility? Not a chance.)

“…capture the attention of more customers than (you) can possibly count…” (The author has little faith in your ability to count.)

“…sculpt a killer USP that will literally hypnotize your prospects into buying from you and enslave a generation of customers for life…”  (Enslave? Really? That seems like a bit of an over-promise. Besides, branding is about serving, not enslaving. And, please, please learn the definition of the word “literally.”)

It goes on and on like this, nearly 10,000 words of search-engine-friendly hyperbole and tortured prose. There’s too much of this nonsense out there: “Experts” whose backgrounds are curiously difficult to verify, promising unbelievable (and unbelievably fast) business results. They’re preying on small business owners and they make me sick.

Because life doles out lessons in interesting ways, I’m also currently consulting on brand strategy with Bob Rogers Travel of Naperville, IL. Bob Rogers Travel is the leader in student performance travel.  If, for instance, your daughter’s high school band is planning its biannual trip, BRT can handle the travel planning, secure the venues and accommodations, and make it all worry-free. They’ve won Disney’s prestigious Partners Award multiple times for excellence in their area of specialty.

Bob Rogers himself was a high school music director, and founded the company in 1981 to serve an unaddressed need in a niche market. (As you might imagine, there are significant logistical challenges associated with safely transporting dozens of students and their instruments, locating quality performance venues, etc. Most travel agencies won’t touch it.) Bob’s fond of saying things like, “We sell service. We just happen to be in the travel business.”

Bob’s children, Todd and Tami, run the business today. They, and every one of the company’s two dozen employees, continue to live Bob’s ideals. As a team, they’ve created a rare thing, in that what they strive to be good at is actually what their clients say they’re good at. Bob Rogers Travel clients rave about their service, responsiveness, collaborative leadership and genuineness. (They don’t reserve these traits just for their clients – they’ve been a treat to work with.) As a result, a large chunk of BRT’s business comes from repeat and referral, and that’s reflected in a growth curve most companies would love to have.

The juxtaposition of the two businesses I’ve described is jarring. The first promises the impossible in hopes of making a quick buck. Longevity is not the goal. Bob Rogers Travel, on the other hand, makes a credible promise and then over-delivers. They focus on experience delivery, not over-baked sales claims. That’s why their sales have grown steadily for 3 decades.

Which kind of business would you rather have?

Two lessons:

Lesson #1: Branding is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not a quick fix. It’s about serving your customers and earning their trust over time.

Lesson #2: If it smells like BS, it probably is. As a consumer or businessperson, don’t buy from those that BS. (And the corollary: As marketers, don’t BS.) If you’re confronted by a salesman that makes an offer that trips your credibility alarm, trust your gut and walk away. You are almost never missing out on a legitimate opportunity.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2012 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

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4 Replies to “Quick Fix or Long Haul?”

  1. Matthew,Well said. There are no quick fixes, or turbo charged shortcuts. Everyday, I see these marketing experts stating they can help you create an unlimited number of leads for your business immediately, “just by using these simple techniques.”I also recently saw a guy who claimed he could teach others how to come out of a networking event, “with more business than you can possibly handle.’ I’m a networking coach, and have never come out of an event with anything more than a promise to explore next steps.Bottom line, these people are preying on others’ need for more clients. Truth be told, I’ll bet these so called experts are struggling themselves. If not, they have sold their souls for the pursuit of money, because they couldn’t cut it doing things the old fashioned way.Obviously i have very strong opinions on this.Thanks for bringing these snake oil salesmen to our attention.

  2. Great post Matthew. I have a very strong opinion of these hucksters who promise the impossible, yesterday.They truly are preying on those who are seeking help. Sadly, most of these experts are struggling themselves, and have sold their souls for a few bucks.

  3. The following is excerpted from Seth Godin’s recent post, “Monetizing Digital Attention,” over at his blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/). In the third paragraph in particular, he appears to be referencing precisely the kind of hucksters that prompted me to write this post:”The most effective way to make a living from attention paid online is to earn trust, connect a tribe and then sell something that isn’t online. The Ironman triathalon, say, or Louis CK’s concert tickets. Attention is precious and trust even more so.Many folks, though, would like to be able to deliver a digital ‘product’, an ebook or video or some other online good that they can produce at low cost and sell in volume. There’s a long history of brilliant writers and directors finding markets for their work using movies, books and other media that used to be new, and it would be gratifying if it could work here.Unfortunately, most people do it wrong. They use a long sales pitch letter with highlighted boxes and fake testimonials. They make grandiose promises of secret riches or long-hidden techniques. And most disappointing to those that would build trust, they enlist a legion of affiliate salespeople, linking to one another and gaming search results or buying fake search ads.”

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