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April 11, 2011

Put Yourself On Parade: Get in a Corporate Boardroom

by Anthony Verre

Necessary Dog and Pony ShowsSometimes we must all participate in “Dog and Pony” shows. If you’ve been in business more than year or two, then you’re intimately familiar with the term because you’ve participated in them too. For those looking for a definition, Urban Dictionary has done a great job defining the term:

[dog and pony show]…an elaborately staged activity, performance, presentation, or event designed to sway or convince people (from a derisive term for a small circus)

To be frank, these passé traditions of business showmanship are more of resource-drain than they are valuable. Especially to established companies. At that point, it’s more of a formality than it is a get-to-know-you and make certain you’d be the “right fit” for them. But, if you’re a new(ish) company, these can be invaluable to you. It was invaluable to me refining and redefining my circle.

Are Your Left and Right Hand Communicating?

We think that what we put down in proposals, what we put down on our company sites, is exactly what our business is. And, that if we were to ever explain what our business is, those are the words we would use to describe what we do and how we do it.

The reality is, at least for me, my site and proposals were only telling half the story. And, that exposes a huge flaw with the web; you can ramble on and on without really saying anything at all. You can compose pages and pages of exposé on your site, detailing out the most minute things and never get to the heart of the matter. We never deliver the punchline.

At some point someone is going to ask you a very simple question: what does your company do and what does it do best? It’s a precarious situation because you can’t deliver a long-winded answer and you can’t give a one word answer. It’s that question that Dog and Pony shows ask best: what does your company do and what does it do best?

Gaps in Your Business StoryThe Great Gap in Stories

When I was asked that question, it gave me pause. Besides being a experienced and professional search marketing company, what did my company do? Furthermore, what did we do best? What was our big advantage in the market place; what separated us from Company X, Company Y, and Company Z whom all offer the same services?

It’s a tremendous void, like the moment before thunder fills the collapse of burnt air left by lightening. I realized what I had on paper didn’t emulate what I told people in boardrooms. That the real advantages I had were not on the company website. That the best story I had wasn’t being told to the public, that I was being selfish and keeping it to myself. All the advantages, all the separation factors between me and the field, weren’t on display.

Do As I Say. Not As I Do.

Maybe it has do with it being my baby, and that I’m protective of it. I didn’t want to think of my own baby as ugly as hell. The facts are that I call other’s people websites (babies) ugly and show them how to remove those blemishes for a living. It has a lot do with not pointing the finger at myself; my kid IS NOT ugly. But it was. It was a disjointed, unrefined ugly. Oodles of content that never made the point, never delivered a punchline. The boardroom meetings helped me see just how ugly it was.

As search marketers, how many of us take and apply our own advice to our sites? When we tell our clients how to build great, meaningful, and rich content, are we doing that ourselves? When tell our clients to write benefit-driven copy, distilling it down to in-your-face advantages, are we doing the same? In my case, I wasn’t. I thought it was inherent, that it peaked through tangle of words.

It didn’t. And it took a Dog and Pony show to help me point the finger at my own site. It helped me drop the rose-colored glasses and see what was really happening on my website.

Put Yourself on Parade

I still don’t like being on display in boardrooms, but I would recommend that every company do it. Why? Because it forces you define and distill what you do in a few short slides. You don’t have an entire site to explain yourself, your company’s mission, and your company’s market place advantages; you have 30 minutes to reveal your company’s advantages.

You’ll find out quickly if what you put on the slides is what shines through on your website. In my case, it wasn’t even close. They were two different stories. It also helped me realize I was a hypocrite, and that if I were my own client, what would I do to fix it? Moreover, it helps me empathize with clients.

It’s not easy being told your baby is ugly. It’s not easy finding out your copy is lumpy, direction-less, and statement-less. I venture to guess it’s how all our clients feel when we, hopefully gently, break the news. Put yourself on parade, even if you know you don’t want a particular piece of business, because there’s no better way to turn the magnifying glass on yourself.

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