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Develop the Full Story–Then Shorten It

by Hank Barnes  |  September 5, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

Frequently during discussions with clients, I hear a desire for “a catchy, short one-liner to describe us.”   Whether you call this a tag line or a USP or something else, the quest for brevity is a regular occurrence.   And there is nothing wrong with that.   Customers are overwhelmed with information and have many conflicting priorities.   Getting attention is important.


However, while the quest is important, the approaches I see people take to get there is often the cause of failures.   They start by brainstorming short phrases and put them out there without any context.   They do this because others ask them for that catchy phrase.   But this approach seldom works.

I believe there is an alternative.

First, develop your “full length” story, using our recommended  format:

  • Situation (without  you)
  • Impact (The case for change)
  • Resolution (How you help them change) format

Once you have that full story, you’ll often discover key points that really stand out.   Make a list of all of these.   Then start your brainstorming for the catchy elements from there.  The list probably will include elements throughout the story.  You may discover that you win by focusing on the customer need, not your product or service.  In other cases, the way you do something may be the most prominent.

You’ll likely come up with some better candidates to satisfy the brevity quest.   But remember, that your real goal is to build interest in deeper exploration, something we call progressive engagement.    It’s really about spurring enough interest in the customer, that they say “Tell Me More.”   Then reveal more of the story.

Brevity is important, but it is really about setting the stage to tell the whole story.


Category: go-to-market  

Tags: messaging  one-liner  progressive-engagement  storytelling  tagline  usp  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. His research efforts focus on understanding the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. He then applies that research to explore the implications on vendor strategies, supporting the efforts of product marketing, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and CEOs. Read Full Bio

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