Why is it so hard for people to understand your business?

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Making Your Business Comprehensible

Surf the "About Us" or "Company" pages of most technology sites, and you’ll be treated to an impressive display of what’s known as writing by committee. It always seems show up on these pages, because so many top level executives get involved with crafting these ambitious descriptions that intend to sum up a company’s business in one sentence. The result is copy that often sounds strange and decidedly uninformative.

Here are some examples: (I masked the true identities of these companies to protect the committees of innocents)

"Founded in 1975, XYZ Inc. helps Global 1000 companies improve business by creating new value from existing information systems and, ultimately, aligning everyone in the enterprise with key corporate goals."

Ok – As a customer, I would be a little perplexed as to what I might buy from this company. Would it be software? Hardware? A systems engineer on rental? A coach? A guru? Examples of companies that clearly define what they sell include, Oracle – database software, SAP – ERP software, Red Hat – Linux OS, Siebel – CRM software. All "About Us" sections should allow the reader to walk away with a similar definition.

Here’s another..

"Acme helps organizations harness the power of collective intelligence by creating secure virtual knowledge networks for company-wide information discovery, expert identification and knowledge sharing."

This one’s not horrendous, but a couple of things bug me. One, they could have used the word "portal" or "platform." I think most people who are looking for solutions like this have come across those words by now. Two, "secure virtual knowledge networks" sounds pretty "out there," and the fact that they’re secure seems like information that should be discussed lower down in their description. As is commonly the case, they tried to cram every possible idea into this one-liner.

And finally..

"ZZZ Company, with its Universal Business Platform and more than 500 global application partners, enables customers to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage by delivering business solutions that simplify their operations, are fast to implement, provide lowest total cost of ownership, and have unparalleled reliability."

I guess they decided that it was important to add standard benefits -- speed, low TCO, and reliability – to their amorphous company description. If they really wanted to blend in with every other mediocre, non-distinct company, they could add "excellent scalability," "rapid ROI," and "easy to use."

My advice is to:

  1. Tell readers what you sell in direct language.

  2. Don’t be afraid of using more than one sentence.

  3. Try to offer a phrase or sentence that demonstrates your company’s uniqueness.

  4. Avoid incorporating catch-every-customer credos and conquer-the-world mission statements.