Every successful business, whether they ever spell them out or not, can boil their entire business idea into three words. Not a mission statement or a marketing tag line, but the fundamental idea of what you as the owner are doing all day for your customers.
Let's look at other companies to illustrate my point.
Starbucks: Clean third place. The place that is neither home nor work, where people can just be while they drink coffee and milkshakes.
Target: Inexpensive, well-designed stuff. Not cheap, inexpensive. Its focus is on decent stuff that you might think costs more than it does for the home, person, office, car, etc.
Apple: Smarter, prettier electronics. Notice the lack of price qualifications. It isn't cheap, but you buy it because it's better, presumably.
So what? Well, let's see what would happen if a company tried to sell or marketing something that didn't fit within those three words.
If Starbucks started to get rid of comfortable chairs and tables in the hopes of increasing customer turnover, then no one really has a reason to pay $5 for a coffee.
If Target started a partnership with Marc Jacobs or Tori Burch to sell $400 sunglasses, people would question the direction of the company as a whole and might shop less there.
If Apple started selling its new iPad for $199, we wouldn't trust the build quality, or the warranty or the company behind it. It would be like buying a $5,000 Aston Martin or a $10 steak from Alinea. Who would trust it, let alone buy it?
My local coffee shop should have three words like "friendly local coffee." But they don't have three words. They have no foundation to anchor themselves on when making business decisions. So when they look to increase their customer base, they decide to sell gelato or smoothies or packaged goods like tubes of anchovy paste.
Not surprisingly, it doesn't work because it doesn't fit. Beyond the cost of investment, it hurts the business because customers no longer understand the business. And if they don't understand, they don't buy.
So boil it down to three words. And in return, customers may say "I love you" in return.
James Ellis is a Google Analytics-certified digital strategist who has helped non-profits, state governments, small businesses and multi-national firms get smarter about doing business online. He used to be the first @BuckyBadger, which means he can type with big fuzzy paws. You can get in touch with James at saltlab.com to tell him how many ways he's wrong.