The Soggy Test

Sent by Jonathan Stark on June 9th, 2019

The lovely and talented Erik Dietrich (https://daedtech.com/) forwarded this “positioning anti-pattern” gem to me the other day (shared with permission):

Hey Jonathan, 

Apologies in advance for the random Slack-inbox dump, but I thought you’d get a kick out of this. I stumbled across this company description on LinkedIn, and it has to be the “soggiest” positioning statement I’ve ever seen.

“The firm serves a variety of industries, from Fortune 500 to early stage and entrepreneurial companies, as well as not-for-profit and mission-driven organizations. Its focus is on defining and understanding customer needs and identifying tailored, differentiating opportunities that help clients drive growth and real change.

The firm has a particular interest, as well as deep expertise, in industries that play a role in tomorrow’s economy, especially those whose products and services contribute to health, wellness, and sustainability. Though its work is international in scope, it brings a special emphasis to projects that drive economic revitalization and improve quality of life within the Great Lakes region.”

Translation ==> “We help anyone, anywhere, do anything. We also like the Midwest”

Ouch. 

Imagine how many hours were spent agonizing over that copy. 

And for what? 

As you read it, did you think...

“Eureka! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!” 

...or...

“Wow! I’ve got to tell Alice about these guys!”

No. No you didn’t. 

Why? 

Because it’s meaningless word salad. 

Can you even remember a single sentence of it? I can’t, and I’ve read it three times. 

I’ll bet the people who wrote it couldn’t repeat a bit of it from memory, so why would anyone else be expected to?

Here’s the thing...

I’m not trying to beat up on the folks who wrote this. It sounds very nice and safe and well intentioned. 

And, loads of professionals write this same sort of soggy “everything to everyone” positioning copy when they sit down to describe what the heck it is that they actually do. 

Here’s a quick “soggy test” you can do to see if you are guilty of tossing a big ole word salad: 

Tell a friend what you do, and then ask them to say it back to you. 

If they can repeat it verbatim, you get an A+. If not, well... you’ve probably got some work to do.

Lemme know how it goes 🙂👍

Yours,

—J