“The tower began to sink.”

I was recently reading about the Leaning Tower of Pisa during some research on the architectural importance of foundations and that was the phrase that stuck out to me.

Due to an underground foundation that was too shallow, set in weak, unstable subsoil, the construction of the tower was flawed from the beginning. As a result, one side began to sink.

But that’s not even the most important thing to know about the construction of the Tower. Instead of being completed in a timely manner, construction was halted for nearly 100 years. It’s only due to that pause that the construction was able to be completed at all. Not only that, but as subsequent floors were completed, an additional foot of height was added to one side of the tower—so not only does it lean, it’s also curved.

Perhaps most significant about all of my research is that the tower is no longer used for its original purpose, a bell tower. It’s now used as a tourist attraction, a mockery to its original mission.

When we work with our clients, the first thing we do is make sure the foundation is strong and secure, so the misalignment doesn’t cost you your mission.

It’s not unusual for a client to approach us to help with marketing and advertising, but when we check we find that their foundation, like the Tower of Pisa, is going to sink once we start building on it.

If we were to set up a social media content marketing plan or purchase ads for them, they would be wasting money, time, and energy.

So, what are the foundation areas that we look at prior to going to the next steps? There are four primary areas that we consider: Audience, Messaging & Positioning, Offer, and Website.

Most individuals or organizations can tell you who they work with (i.e. homeowners with older houses who need new windows), but they haven’t done the hard work of thinking deeply about those audience members. What are their felt needs? What do they struggle with? Where do they congregate? What books do they read? What personalities do they follow?

If you can’t verbalize a plan to solve the deepest internal, external, and philosophical problems of your audience, you should hold off on doing any kind of paid marketing.

Like knowing their audience, most individuals and organizations know what they do. They typically are great at explaining it in an in-person, one-on-one conversation. However, they haven’t thought about how to enunciate it in a pithy marketing one-liner and tagline. They haven’t put much effort into their elevator pitch. As a result, their website is often muddy instead of clear.

Additionally, most people haven’t given significant enough consideration to how they are positioned in regards to serving the needs of their customers and in differentiation to their competition.

If you spend advertising dollars to tell people a message that lacks clarity, you’re going to have trouble seeing a positive return on investment.

Many clients we begin working with do not have a clear offer. Instead of one clear, value-adding proposition, they have three or five or more offerings and end up causing confusion for the buyer. Most businesses have their offer(s) clear in their own minds, but an outside view shows that it is unclear to the potential viewer.

The ultimate culmination of an undefined audience, poor messaging, and a confusing offer usually appears on a poorly designed website. Every website—even those of service providers—should be action-oriented. The goal should be to get the viewer to take action toward purchasing the service or product. Most clients we begin working with have a nice-looking digital brochure instead of a website that causes users to do the desired action.

When there is alignment to all four of these areas, our clients are confident that they have a firm foundation to build their marketing plan.

If you’d like to know more about our approach to building a solid foundation and the rest of our FoCAS Blueprint, contact us!