You in your world and I in mine have at least one thing in common: we both have access to a very large number of tools. 

    Disappointingly, neither your tools nor mine are heavy lumps of metal with blades and jaws and bits and teeth. In the white collar world, a tool isn’t usually much more than some kind of graphic that provides a framework for a thought process. 

    But still, some are genuinely helpful, and in this piece and perhaps a few subsequent ones, I’ll be writing about a few that I use to help me think through branding, marketing and communications challenges, in the hope that you might find them helpful too. 

    I make no apology for the fact that some of the tools in my toolbox are simplistic in the extreme. After all, a hammer is hardly complicated. Today’s is just about the simplest of all. When you’re trying to get a marketing proposition as focused, as relevant and as compelling as it can possibly be, my proposition focusing tool involves asking these three extremely simple questions: 

    • Who’s it for? 
    • What does it do? 
    • Why should they bother? 

    Now of course it’s perfectly possible to use a tool like this badly. You can provide vague, lazy, insight-free answers that don’t take you any further forward. Like this for a deeply uninspiring financial planning service: 

    • Who’s it for?  People who have investible assets of more than £XXXXXX. 
    • What does it do?  Manages their investible assets well. 
    • Why should they bother?  Because it’s good to have your assets well-managed. 

    That’s no good at all. But try this more-or-less real-life example, from the early days of what is now a hugely successful advice firm: 

    • Who’s it for?  People concerned about their place in society
    • What does it do?  Reassures them that they belong in the upper echelons 
    • Why should they bother?  Becoming a client says they’ve arrived 

    I’m not even going to tell you which firm I’m thinking about, because I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. 

    But what I do want to emphasise is how much this short, simple formulation says about how the business should present and market itself:  the name, the logo, the brand image, the marketing brochures, the investment seminars, the sponsorships and hospitality opportunities and much more besides. 

    Over the years since it was launched, many people have complimented the firm on its marketing. But from that clear and distinctive starting-point, on the whole it hasn’t really been very difficult. 

    Coco Chanel famously said that she wasn’t selling cosmetics, she was selling hope. In much the same way, this firm started with an instinctive sense that it wasn’t selling financial services, it was selling social status. 

    And that little three-bullet-point tool set the direction for most of what was to follow. 

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