Why Your Content Marketing will Stink without a Clear Business Identity

by Marcus Sheridan

A few weeks back I wrote about the design changes I made here at TSL, one of which was the new headline you find at the top of the homepage, a phrase I call the “YOU Statement” and one that I feel is essential to effective web messaging as well as business direction in general.

You see, the fact is most companies don’t truly know what the heck it is that they do. Yeah, sure, they may know the industry they’re in, but if you dig beyond the “What” and delve into the “How” and “Why,” then companies get lost quickly.

The problem is, if it’s not very clear to a business what, how, and why they do what they do, then chances are their content marketing and blogging approach will stink as well.

For example, here at The Sales Lion I teach companies how to establish a culture of content marketing. And with culture being the key word, much of the content I produce centers around that goal. In other words, it’s my guiding light in all that I do.

The YOU Challenge

The same week I wrote the article about the “YOU statement,” I also sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers with a challenge, which stated:

In 3 sentences or less, tell me your “YOU statement.”

Curious to see how many readers would take me up on the challenge, I was thrilled to see about 140 of you responded. Even better, many of the emails included stories about how you had never come up with such a statement previously and the fact that the process was much harder than you had anticipated.

After reading all 140 YOU statements, I saw some were great, some were OK, and others seemed to really be unclear as to who they were. Regardless of how good they were though, the fact that so many people finally focused on this core aspect to great content marketing is thrilling.

10 YOU Statements that Rock

The following list contains 10 of the top YOU statements I received back from readers. Keep in mind that these weren’t the only good ones, as many I felt were quite deserving of being mentioned.

“I help companies become outrageously successful targeting and winning business. CEOs and executives call me when they are not hitting their revenue targets, they are wasting time on opportunities that do not generate results, and they need to increase their revenue using their existing resources – even if they don’t see themselves in sales. It’s all about Upside-Down Selling.”

Ian Altman, Grow My Revenue

 “Extend a second chance at life for more people worldwide with refurbished diagnostic imaging equipment, spare parts and service. Life is a gift. People matter.”

Krista Kotrla, Block Imaging

 “My copy helps you explain what you do, sell what you do and love what you do.”

Sarah Russell, Copywriter/Editor

“Mum & Career? – Yes, it can be done! Where to go and what to know for professional working mums. Quick and easy to find, in one place.”

Inge Woudstra, Mum and Career Coach

“I create provocative, inspiring messages via digital and print copy. My messages resonate and stimulate, creating organic, innate responses to one’s product or brand.”

Terri Scott, Twist Of Lemonade Writing Services

“Create memories and a sense of place with authentic, atmospheric pictures of North Wales and Northern England.”

Jane Steen, North Shore

“At 404 we will help you make sense of the cloud. Enable you to work from ANYwhere on ANY device at ANYtime. Change where and how you do business FOREVER!”

David Shaw, 404

I help solopreneurs find and share their Secret Sauce with the world. We work together to find their Unique Story, build a strategy for telling that story, and then implement the strategy using the most effective tools and methods for them.

Tea Silvestre, aka The Word Chef

 “We help clients create lasting love affairs with their customers which results in increased profits, word of mouth referrals and a legion of raving fans.”

Drew McLellan, McLellan Marketing Group

“We believe that Florida’s traffic ticket system has lost its way and become unfair, as the government’s objective has changed from public safety to raising revenue.   We believe in helping people fight back when it’s in their best interest.  Our goal is to get every ticket dismissed.  Since 1995, we have helped over a million people fight back, and we’d love to try and help you as well.”

Barry Kowitt, Unger and Kowitt (Traffic Law)

Your Turn

A couple of questions my friends: Why is it so difficult for businesses to define, in simple terms, who and what they are? Also, how has clearly understanding your YOU statement (or whatever you want to call it) benefited your content marketing and blogging efforts.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca Livermore July 27, 2012 at

I think it’s difficult because people are still trying to figure out who the heck they are, and haven’t yet defined that clearly enough to put it into a couple of sentences.

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Craig McBreen July 27, 2012 at

I love the new YOU statement. In fact that’s what stood out to me at first, and it really does sum up what you do.

When I meet with a client, they often want to discuss a new logo design or a new site design. When I tell them we need to step back and work on something as simple as a positioning statement, I usually get that look. They are focused on the bright and shiny and just want to get something up. Maybe I should ditch my marketing jargon and just call this a YOU statement, ’cause I love your no-nonsense approach, Marcus.

It’s often difficult for clients because many honestly haven’t taken the time to sit down and do this. Many have of course, but they don’t need me ;)

I love all the statements above, esp. David Shaw’s, as it’s so similar to mine. I would just insert “small business owner” alongside “solopreneur!”

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Appreciate the kind words Craig.

You know, you bring up a good point about jargon. In fact, I think I might even write a post about that because what many marketers would say is my biggest weakness, I feel is often my greatest strength.

Thanks again bud,

Marcus

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Jon Loomer July 27, 2012 at

Awesome challenge! Marcus, thank you so much. Your tips are amazing, and they’ve helped me immensely.

My statement is on top of my new home page:

Use Facebook Marketing to Make a Difference.
Build Trust. Build a Business. Build Your Brand.

You’ll notice that this statement is above a new funnel. This is all influenced by your content.

Now I just need to figure out what needs to go below that funnel! Suddenly I’m a little cluttered.

Thanks, Marcus. You rock!

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Jon, I LOVE your new YOU statement bud!!!

Speaking of that man, that’s one thing about you that really impresses me– you seem to act, implement, and apply. That’s what it’s all about bud.

Thanks for all you do man,

Marcus

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Rob Skidmore July 27, 2012 at

Marcus I love the questions you ask at the end of your posts. Ever time I start to write a comment it turns out a out longer then I intended. Today I decided I should just delete my post-length comment and write a post on it.

Anyway, this is the essence of my thoughts.

First, business try to write about what they do and not why they do it.

Second, they try to be all inclusive. I learned as a creative writer that sometimes you have to cut your favorite lines from a poem in order for it to work. Sometimes you need to cut ideas out of your statement for it to be effective.

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Nice analogy with the poem Rob. You’re right bud, we’ve got to learn to trim the excess in all areas, and that’s certainly the case with business.

And awesome that you wrote a post on the buddy :-)

Best,

Marcus

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Ishan July 27, 2012 at

Funny how I read about branding a few days back and now you are writing about YOU statement.

Unfortunately, I do not have a YOU statement as of now. However I am working on a statement these days and have lots of thoughts. Will share when it is ready.

Great post as usual. And retweeted(as usual ;) )

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Ishan, thanks for sharing bud and good luck with your YOU statement—it will make a huge difference when you run with it bud.

best,

Marcus

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Mauro D'Andrea July 27, 2012 at

Thanks for sharing these YOU statements, Marcus.
Not only they are nice examples, but also some of the bloggers who said them have interesting blogs.

I haven’t yet reached my ultimate YOU Statement, but, with the course of the time I come closer to it.
I think that this is pretty common in the early stage: at this moment the YOU Statement is a very dynamic concept.
It requires time know the “why” of your business.

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

That’s the thing Mauro–with the course of time you will absolutely come closer and find it. In fact, I’d venture to say this is a quest that never ends.

Continued success Mauro,

Marcus

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Philos Mudis July 28, 2012 at

Why is it so difficult? Human nature sometimes has a way of luring people into making simple things complex even without them realizing what they are doing.

It is just like going to the Wordpress plugin repository to search for every popular plugin and adding it to your blog even if it really doesn’t help your blog in any way. You know, sometimes we just listen to what other people say and do without taking a minute to think about what great things we want others to hear from us.

May be it is because of fear of narrowing what we do in the belief that we may loose money, prospects, great opportunities or look like the baby sheep (lamb) amongst popular baby goats (kids).

That’s why we sometimes like doing things the way everybody else does. It feels great, but businesses that realize that strength of a business doesn’t rely only on feelings take the bold step of coming up with what you already call your ‘You Statement’.

A few months ago, I changed my bloging tag line and edited all my posts to match my You statememnt (though I call it a blog mission over at my site).

Why did I do it? Even though, I have a few blogs over the years, some which flopped, I continued doing what I did with my other blogs: dishing out tips on anything that came to my mind.

My tag line helping bloggers achieve their mission, has helped me narrow into the challenges that keep bloggers from achieving their missions. That’s where my focus is now. I believe this will help me create content that will help other people over the years.

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

That’s cool that you’ve had a development over time Philos. After all, I really think that’s one of blogging great benefits and also a sign of true growth.

Congrats on the new direction bud, keep it up. :-)

Marcus

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Fin Wycherley July 28, 2012 at

Hi Marcus, I have to agree with Mr Skidmore. Your questions are so beautifully challenging, it’s difficult to resist diving in.

Why can’t businesses define themselves? Simple, they’re trying to be all things to all folks in order to cast the sales net as wide as possible. Problem is the lack of focus means they can often come back with nothing, as illustrated by the lack of a powerful You Statement.

Cheers for a great blog

Fin :)

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Fin, how are ya bud? Yes, trying to be all things to all people is the perfect recipe for disaster in this world, no doubt.

And thanks for the kind words sir,

Marcus

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Jeremy Abel July 28, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Great question to pose here- Why is it so challenging for businesses to define the “YOU statement” in simple terms?

Given the ongoing need for personalization, I think many businesses feel they must adapt their “YOU statement” to please their target market.

The one issue they face is not having a clear view of their ‘buyer persona.’ As a result, crafting a compelling statement means tweaking each and every word to fully satisfy each and every target customer. Thing is, successful companies don’t focus on ‘target customer’- they aim for target ‘audience’ (group), identifying a commonality amongst these people. That commonality is often what makes a company’s unique value proposition so compelling, and thus differentiates them from their competitors.

It’s important for companies to understand what makes their offering relevant to their target audience, and- so long as that offering allows the company to remain viable- strive to be the best in their industry at delivering that product/service experience.

‘How has the YOU statement benefited your content marketing efforts’ My response, simply put- greatly.

Having a responsibility to contribute to two entities (personal blog, and company website), I like to use my personal blog as the ‘practice field’ for content creation, and treat the company content creation experience as ‘game day’ material. Since both are oriented towards digital marketing, it’s a nice balance that allows the flow of creativity to never slow down!

Love the weekend email updates, by the way! Thank you!

Jeremy

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Practice field vs Game day….Jeremy, dude, I LOVE that. Really man. You hit the nail on the head with this and your point about buying personas.

Thanks so much,

Marcus

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Ryan Aspy July 29, 2012 at

This is a great topic for discussion and a key element I believe all marketers need to learn to be successful.

The importance of this statement is not just critical to a content marketing campaign, but to ANY marketing campaign. The term I’ve heard used more often is the one Mr. McBreen used above – positioning statement, which is more common in traditional marketing vernacular. In my previous job as a marketing manager I had a great boss who had me develop a very clear positioning statement for the product I managed. It ended up guiding many of my critical decisions and it helped keep us focused on the right things. As a junior manager it was a great lesson to learn and a very good way of taking something I had learned in theory in the classroom and apply it to a real-life project.

It really doesn’t matter what terminology you use. I actually prefer what Marcus has developed – YOU statement – because I believe it’s more apropos and I love being able to break away from traditional marketing jargon. Call it what you will the important thing is that, as a marketer, you can clearly define what this is. If not you might fall into the trap of doing what Michael Gerber says many companies do – become amazingly effective at doing the wrong things.

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Dude, this was awesome—”it guided and helped focus….”

That’s exactly why this is so very important my friend, and your story/example is a great one.

Hope you’re feeling well brother,

Marcus

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Dave Hilton, Financial Conflict Coach July 29, 2012 at

I’m still tweaking my YOU statement (perhaps it’s a never ending process). But this is it at the moment-

“Effective Strategies To Resolve Money Disputes, Manage Financial Conflict, Negotiate Better And Improve Communication About Money And Finances.”

Now I’m working on a THEM statement- something that describes how my clients feel NOW about the financial conflicts in their professional and personal life and how they’ll feel AFTER using my services.

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Marcus Sheridan July 29, 2012 at

Awesome Dave, sounds like you’re on your way bud. :)

Keep tweaking, keep pushing.

And thanks for stopping by my friend.

Marcus

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Stanley Rao July 29, 2012 at

great and a helpful post thank you for sharing it

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Anton Koekemoer July 30, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

Once again – I do agree with you. There is really a lot of businesses that cannot decide or don’t know what it is exactly what they do. Having a clear image and brand for your business when it comes to what you do and what your business goals and or vision – is important to consumers and potential other business opportunists alike.

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Marcus Sheridan July 31, 2012 at

Yep, that’s exactly it Anton, and it’s a huge deal.

Appreciate you stopping by man,

Marcus

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Geoff Livingston July 30, 2012 at

I really love this post, Marcus. Without a clear understanding of a value proposition/brand commitment, everything else is like a big spaghetti mess. Seriously, how will anything make a long term value to your business and to your customers vision of what you do when you’re lost. Such efforts are literally hit or miss.

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Marcus Sheridan July 31, 2012 at

“Big Spaghetti Mess”….hahaha, love that Geoff, and considering you have a daughter like mine, and I imagine you’ve watched her try and eat spaghetti, that’s a pretty dang big mess. :-)

Appreciate the support,

Marcus

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Alan | Life's Too Good July 30, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,

I love the way you manage to create a conversation with your posts.

Awesomeness in a bottle.

Anyways, to answer your question in a rather cryptic way:

Business struggle to define who and what they are (30 second elevator pitch) because though it’s an easy concept to grasp, it’s harder than it looks.

Why?

Because to really lock this down you need to really know exactly who you’re trying to help, why you are trying to help them and why they should choose you over the next guy.

The next tricky bit is that you then need to go out and find those people so you can tell them, and build trust so that they believe you.

great post my friend,
Alan

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Alan | Life's Too Good July 30, 2012 at

er … when I said #Business’ I meant ‘Businesses’

hate typos

grrrr

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Marcus Sheridan July 31, 2012 at

Alan, thanks for the kind words bud and your analysis here is spot-on…one must truly dig deep and answer a lot of questions so as to define their YOU statement.

Cheers bud,

Marcus

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Chris July 31, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,
answer on such question is really difficult. People don’t have clear and written goals – so it’s very hard to prepare proper statement. What’s more, I think that we also should perform A/B tests not only for newsletters and sales, but also for You statement ;)
BR, Chris

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Marcus Sheridan July 31, 2012 at

That’s an interesting thought about A/B testing your YOU statement Chris…but tell me, how could it be tested? Thoughts?

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Chris August 1, 2012 at

Hi Marcus, at this moment I have no idea how to measure it. But I’m thinking on it.
Chris

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Adrian Swinscoe July 31, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,
What a great post and some of the responses were fantastic. I think that many businesses find articulating a YOU statement hard because it requires them to choose. To choose not to do or be something and that can be particularly hard for many small businesses.

As for me, my YOU statement is similar to Drew McLellan’s but also quite different too as it should be ;) Anyway, here it is:
“We’re all about relationships. The relationships that you have with your customers and your people. We help our clients create relationships with their customers and their people which result in increased profits, sales, better productivity, word of mouth and service.”

How’s that?

Adrian

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Marcus Sheridan July 31, 2012 at

Adrian, that’s a really, really thoughtful YOU statement my man. Seriously. Love it and also appreciate your point about “choosing”, and how that action is what keeps so many from taking this incredibly important step.

Keep it up!

Marcus

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David Shaw July 31, 2012 at

Hey Marcus, I have found the last few blogs inspiring. We are changing our website completly and will have the You Statement included in the next week.

Why do business struggle to define who and what they are? I think it may be as we are so engrossed in our own business and we believe in what we sell/provide that we dont think like the consumer.

We have to imagine that everyone who engages with our companies across any method potentaly knows nothing or very little about what we do.

Our Job is to make it blatently obvious to ANYONE at all what we do and why they should continue to engage with us. With so much information out there now its getting harder to stand out but we can start by not making it difficult to understand who we are an what we do.

Kind regards David Shaw

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Marcus Sheridan July 31, 2012 at

David, this was so great my friend—”make it blatently obvious to ANYONE”—-that’s just it brother.

Thrilled for you and your company,

Marcus

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Sharon Glover August 14, 2012 at

In order to succeed with content marketing, you have to determine the target audiences you want to influence, develop “buyer personas” for each target group. Social media isn’t a medium for simply promoting your company and content, without interacting with others and sharing helpful information that you didn’t create but may help someone you’re connected to. If you use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media avenues simply to toot your own horn, you are missing an invaluable opportunity to get closer to your key audiences and begin to better understand their needs.

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Jens P. Berget August 19, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,

I received the email, and I have read the post, and your new design and message is awesome. It’s so clear to me what you do, and I believe that’s exactly what businesses see as well. When they visit your site they’ll understand right away who you are and that they need you.

Now, when it comes to my message, well, I’m still working on that one. My business is fairly new, and I got some big clients fast, and that meant that I had to start working for them before I actually started my company… so now I’m going through my mission statement and my business strategy.

I’ll let you know once I have one ready for the world to see :)

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Marcus Sheridan August 19, 2012 at

You bring up a great point Jens. You really can’t do this stuff until you’re “in it”…and able to analyze the different components and facets of the business. I can tell you this much bud, you’re well on your way…that’s for sure.

Keep being GREAT my friend,

Marcus

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North Carolina Traffic law August 29, 2013 at

I have been browsing on-line more than 3 hours nowadays, yet I never discovered any interesting article like yours.
It is pretty value sufficient for me. Personally,
if all website owners and bloggers made just right
content as you probably did, the net will likely be a lot more useful than ever before.

Reply

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