Putting your shoes on before your pants

Do you put your shoes on before your pants? No, of course not. Things get a lot more difficult if you did, right? So why do you, mister and missus business professional, always insist on creating logos, graphics, signs, web sites, emails, and other business / product identifiers before you know who your target market is, what your best offer to them is and how best to reach them?

Committing to visual and messaging elements of your company’s marketing before understanding your market is much like putting your shoes on before your pants (or “handing a blind man a gun” or “the tail wagging the dog” if you love metaphors). You may be able to ultimately get your pants on but you’ll struggle, work really, really hard and look silly doing it.

I get it, you’re anxious to see how kewl things will look and to give identity around this business, new product, seasonal offer, etc. you’re giving birth to. But if you don’t do your due diligence, you can easily and most likely will, have a freakishly ill-fitting head on your new baby.

So let’s take a step back and look at the proper steps and their order.

What are you offering the marketplace? Hopefully you’ve identified a pain the market is feeling and are prepared to offer a means of relief. What is it you’re offering? Until you can articulate your offer in an easy-to-understand way, do not procede.

Who will benefit most from your offer and are qualified to take advantage of it? Describe them by demographics (e.g. age, gender, income, education), by their behavior / lifestyle (e.g. interested in recreational opportunities, spend more than 4 hours a day on phone), their buying habits, and where / how  to reach them.

What messaging about your offering resonates with your best prospects? Is it a formal or informal statement? Should it inform or soothe? What is your market’s vocabulary? What have they heard already? From the several possibilities, which ones did best with your quick tests (you tested these, right?)?

What is the most effective way to place your messaging in front of your best prospects? Where or with what do they spend their time? Are they online? Who do they seek advice from (referral sources)? Are there direct mail or email address lists available? Would a direct sales effort be effective?

All of the above can be considered “putting on your pants.” They should be done early in the process of launching a business, product, promotion, and anything else that requires placing an offer in front of prospects.

Your shoes are the graphical and textual elements that deliver the offer. If you’re launching a business, these range from the company logo, color scheme, building layout and signage, web site design to staff training, sales and advertising materials. If you’re launching a new product or new promotion, these are likely limited to staff training, sales and advertising materials.

If you race ahead and start building graphics and sales copy before you’ve done the above due diligence, the odds are very much against an effective and on-target launch. The market will be confused and come to the wrong conclusion about your launch because your messaging is misdelivered to the wrong market segment and is misunderstood and/or ignored.

The time and effort to fix a confused market is so much longer and expensive than is involved in an initial launch. It’s much easier to inform and lead people to a conclusion than to change their minds.

So quit putting your shoes on before your pants. It just makes you look silly and wastes a lot of your time.