Beyond meaningless platitudes

Experts build their business on an idea. If the idea is a platitude, they don’t deserve respect — and they won’t get clients.

I am so sick of the aspiring thought leaders on social media sharing platitudes and imagining they are insights.

“You must put the customer first.”

Oh, now I see. I was putting the customer last. Thanks for setting me straight.

“Businesses have to be authentic.”

Damn. We were being fake all this time. Now that you point it out, it’s obvious — let’s tell the truth!

“Marketers need to behave like humans.”

Oh. I see I’m going to have to fire all those robots in our marketing department.

These messages are true, but obvious. No one has any interest in paying for true, but obvious. These are tidbits so stale even the birds won’t eat ’em.

If you imagine that anyone will hire you for your expertise, you need a differentiated message. It’s not enough to be right. You have to be unique and helpful. Platitudes won’t get you there.

There are two ways create the credibility you need to be successful based on your expertise: be different, or be detailed.

How to be different

“But I really do believe businesses should be authentic. That’s what I help people with.” Sure. But you can’t be “The authenticity guy” if everyone learned about authenticity ten years ago.

Maybe you are about this: “Authentic businesses start with truth-telling CEOs.”

Or “Authenticity springs from three elements: culture, integrity, and creativity.”

Or “You can’t be authentic without an authentic origin story.”

I just made those up. They may be useless. But at least someone would notice them.

What is your differentiated message? What’s your twist on the platitude? Can you say something we haven’t heard before?

The master of this is Jay Acunzo. Read his Twitter feed and the feed for his podcast Marketing Showrunners. There’s a reason I retweet his insights more often than anybody else’s. It’s because he makes me say “Hmm, that’s true but I never thought of it that way.” (And he thought I was stalking him.)

How to be detailed

Maybe you’re not super creative. Maybe your vision isn’t really differentiated. So what sets you apart?

You really know how to do something. You know how to change marketers to be more customer-focused. You know how to make a business more authentic. You know how to get marketers to shift to embrace their humanity.

Then your platitude isn’t your differentiation. It’s your implementation that is.

You need a second level of insight.

These are the five pillars of creating a customer-focused business.

Follow these six steps to build an authentic brand.

Here’s a set of eleven exercises that can make you feel and act more human as a marketer.

A good business can be based on a platitude, provided there’s a framework that supports it — and the framework is original.

Will people buy that? Yes, they will, because you’re proving you know how to get them to the promised land (that is, the land where platitudes come true).

If this is you, then you should be sharing explorations of elements of your framework. Those are gritty and real. They’re a lot more real than platitudes.

What if you’re just really good?

Maybe you’re not differentiated. You believe the same thing as everyone else.

And maybe you don’t have an original framework.

What if you’re just good?

What if you’re just the best copy editor ever?

What if you code apps faster than anybody else?

You can still have a business. You just aren’t a leader.

You can even grow that business by word of mouth. You could be very successful with it.

But don’t go shouting about the incredible insight you have that everybody already heard five years ago. Just put your head down and work.

I sure hate platitudes on social media. Maybe I should just call them out by responding to them with “MP” (meaningless platitude) and a link to this post. What do you think. Too mean?

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One Comment

  1. MP could be a warning message like Facebook’s “About this site”. I have to believe that the commoditization of content is to name. Marketers go with the lowest bid to churn out posts to check a box on the marketing plan rather than pay for quality. It’s the social equivalent of spam email.