What do you want to say?


For many of our clients, the foundation of our positioning exercise – one in which we conduct competitive audits, internal stakeholder interviews, and external customer, prospect, and lost prospect interviews – becomes much more than simply information gathering and reportage. It becomes a strategic Etch-A-Sketch moment for senior management as they consider what their company appears to stand for, what it actually stands for, and what they wish it to stand for.

Whether a company is a well-established large enterprise or a first-round startup, creating new positioning can be an exciting opportunity to define or redefine what a company hopes to be as it grows (up). But a word of caution: There can be a thin line between aspirational statements and misleading statements, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. And your clients and prospects will be able to detect which is which.

If you’re standing in one place, and talking from another, it’s the marketing equivalent of ventriloquism. Which rings false, every time. So what should you do when your vision for your company doesn’t match the current reality? Act.

Once you determine what you’d like to say about yourselves, make sure you can make it true. Create an action plan to do so, execute on that plan, and document your progress. Get buy-in and support from across the company, so that every employee can articulate your new aspirations as well as explain how you’ll make them a reality. When possible, assign concrete tasks to every individual so that they’ll feel ownership. Communicate your progress at regular intervals. And then check your work. Ask yourself:

  • Do we have a brand message based on assertions? (If not, you’re failing the differentiation test.)
  • Are the assertions we make true? (If not, you’re failing the authenticity test.)
  • If so, can we prove it? (If not, you’re failing the credibility test.)

When you take a good look at some hard questions, and then do what it takes to answer them to your own satisfaction, you’ll live up to the position that you so thoughtfully created. Your customers, prospects, and employees will believe you. And what’s more – and more important – they’ll believe in you.


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