The eight foundation board members sat around an expansive U-shaped table at the far end of the room behind slim, black, goose-neck microphones and plastic wood-grain name plates that you could probably read if you were in the first five audience rows. I arrived too late to sit so far forward; I perched on a scuffed folding chair toward the back.
The board meeting was a “review – preview” for three groups to which the foundation had given money: What are you doing with the funding you are receiving this year (some small amount of which I’d contributed, and I was considering contributing more)? And, what are you planning to do with the funding you’ve requested for next year?
Ah, and what wonderful things the three groups have done – “A leadership team retreat to focus on core values and mission…a training program in San Antonio about program design which we shared with other team members….a series of coffees with community members…we reviewed the consultant’s report about organizational climate….evaluated outcomes… prepared and prioritized objectives … addressed concerns about communications with our constituent groups…established a social media strategy to reach program participants and potential participants…started a monthly newsletter …we provided job-embedded staff development …we modified delivery methods based on assessment data to improve efficacy of (something I couldn’t hear, sorry, bad ears, back of the room)…. We wrote a grant for a year-long series of staff workshops and two community workshops with a highly regarded consultant…wesurveyed staff to gather information and to create a vision for making program-wide wide improvements…”
I left after two hours. The third presentation was still joyfully rolling but my internal voice was shouting what I could not say, even quietly, in the board room: WHAT DID YOU DO WITH OUR MONEY? THIS ALL SOUNDS GREAT, AND ….. S O W H A T ? ? ? ? WHAT DIFFERENCE DID THIS MAKE TO ANYBODY?
We face this “so what?” challenge when we meet prospective clients. “What do you do?” they ask.
And we tell them, for example (and I’m not making this up): “We use proven industry methodologies and expert knowledge to help our customers plan and develop strategies across key business areas and manage program delivery including applications for marketing, sales, and customer service …”
Our prospects’ internal voices are shouting, “THAT SOUNDS GREAT AND ….. S O W H A T ? ? [Never mind that, if they type that language into search engines, they get more than 3 million hits. It’s not exactly differentiating or powerful!]
Best if we first tell our prospects something about the results we produce, e.g. “reduce our client’s costs anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month,” before we tell them about our proven methodologies, industry leading products, and expert knowledge.
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