Show Me The Money: Don't Talk About Yourself!

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The other day, I saw some marketing collateral from a small startup trying to sell to very large companies. They had just about every buzzword under the sun, repeated multiple times: "advanced visual tools," "gain insights", "advanced algorithms." Best of all, they had highlighted, "we were recently benchmarked against Big Competition, and we outperformed Big Competition in almost every measure."

This is a classic mistake in all sales, and especially in startups founded and run by technologists. I love engineers (and proudly remain one), but engineers have a tendency to focus on product, on how smart they are, on the technological advances and measurements.

This is a recipe for failure

You walk into Home Depot, where they have prominently displayed the latest lawnmower. Why is it displayed? Because they want you to buy it. They may have the specs available, but the pictures will not be of the engine, or the manufacturing process, or the high-tech materials used in construction. They won't mention the brilliance of the engineers and where they got their degrees. The sales display will focus on one thing: how quickly and easily it will cut your grass. After all, you don't buy the lawnmower to learn about doctorates or the construction of the steel cutting blades. You buy it to do one job for you: cut your grass.

Our friend the startup CEO wants customers. These customers do not give a hoot about visual tools or algorithms or competitive benchmarks... unless these things can help him or her drive revenue or reduce costs. What should the collateral wording have looked like? Something on the order of:

"Product X can save you up to 15% of operating costs in sector Y, while our easy, intuitive Web interface gets you up and running in days, not months, and, unlike competitors, without spending millions on consultants!"

GEICO says it simply, "15 minutes could save you 15%!"

If you want to sell a product - to customers, investors or analysts - use the Jerry Maguire method: show them the money!