“We continue to expand our portfolio of services here at The Amalgamated, Intergalactic Consulting, and Design Agency. You need creative? We can make an old shoe go viral. Do you need to be data-driven? Our army of data scientists can tell you things you didn’t even know about yourself. Do we have technology chops? Platforms, clouds, AI, APIs, boom!  Need your trees trimmed? Our landscape and botany strategies team is just what you need. Do your dogs need training? Our Canine Experience (CX) team will have Fido fetching slippers in no time. What do you need? We’ve got you covered.”

I’ve written before about how agencies seem to be struggling to manage an ever-increasing breadth of offerings while maintaining clear differentiation (see The Everything Business). Martech vendors struggle with this challenge as well, extending features and functionality while potentially blurring their own value story. A crazy proportion of many agency and vendor pitches I see is consumed just enumerating the laundry list of available features and services. A convoluted, hazy story can hide the value a vendor is capable of providing which means deals don’t get done. So what’s the solution? Tell people what you don’t do.

This happened recently in a pitch from a marketing services firm that started out like so many others; beautiful graphics, clever tagline, images of cool office space and staff, logo slide of past/existing clients and then there it was…A slide featuring a list of things the firm does NOT do. This slide had an amazing crystallizing effect, quickly narrowing the focus and helping me clearly understand their space.

Even a basic knowledge of positioning 101 makes clear you can’t be the luxury brand and the low-cost leader at the same time and any attempt at such a thing would seem doomed to failure. And yet, agencies and tech vendors alike seemed compelled to distend their list of offerings and then wonder why buyers struggle to understand what they are genuinely good at and how they compare to others.

There are plenty of legitimate situations where offering a broad set of functionality or services is required and aligns well with what customers need. Even in these situations, it’s easy for agencies and vendors to get in their own way with muddled stories about their core value proposition and how they are better than competitors.

Buyers don’t want to struggle to understand your story. Customers want to quickly grok what you do, evaluate how you’re better or different than alternatives and then make a decision. Anything you can do to help them better navigate that process will improve your success rate.  Sometimes that may mean proactively tackling the murkiness by saying what you don’t do, so they can focus on what you can do.

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