When I stick my head into a cardboard cutout (for fun photos!), I'm about 10% there. My body becomes pulped wood, glue, and paint. A fabrication. 10% life. 90% inert. 90% the same as the last person that stuck their head into the cardboard cutout.
I recently thought about this while stuffing a proposal with the usual cliches. Innovative system architecture. Seamless integration. Ready to hit the ground running. Leading provider of...
Proposals go this way. Why? Because sales people think clients want to hear this jargon. Phrases that start out novel and fresh end up used and cheapened. Lifeless. Useless. They don't mean anything. And yet they mean everything.
I didn't realize the addiction to this type of language until I started my own business. You get competing sets of advice. In the self-help, small business startup world, you hear, "Find your passion!", "Be yourself!", "Do what you love!", "Speak with a voice that is yours!".
In the marketing world, you hear the opposite. It goes something like "Listen to the customer, and speak their language!", "Give them what they want!", "Speak to your audience!", "Tailor your message!", "It's not about you, it's about the customer!".
This gets confusing. The voices pile up. Authentic. Tailored. You. Them. What you want. What they need. The intention economy. The attention economy. Grab. Give. Push. Pull. Inbound. Outbound.
Here's the point. At the end of the day, you try to fit in. You find a cardboard cut out and shove your face through it. Cliches become a part of life. Because you want people to notice. If you're not best-in-class, who will care? If you're not innovative, who will talk to you? If you don't use catchy phrases, who will pay attention?
Language becomes a game. A risk. You want people to see and notice you. You start saying things that aren't true. The more you say them, the less they mean. The more everyone says them, the less - and less - they mean. Clash of cliche. Pulp. And paint.
If something is different, no one can tell. It makes me tired. What about real conversations?
Like in an actual, brick and mortar market? Where people talk to each other as humans, about real things?
If something tastes delicious, you know it. Because you can sample it. No one has to tell you. If someone spent time building something, you can tell. They care about it. They can describe the process for making it.
Rather than using cliches for proposals and marketing, I want a way out. Like the Cluetrain Manifesto. This wonderful book on markets merits attention. It reminded me that markets are conversations. (The entire book is free online, but if you have only a few minutes, read the 95 Theses.)
The crux of the matter? We live. When we interact, we don't talk through cutout holes. People don't see cardboard and paint. They see and hear living people. We need to use real words that have meaning. And back those up with real information. Not half-baked data that shirks reality.
Qocreate is on the cluetrain. We are working to start and have real conversations, in our writing and in our proposals. When we say we have helped clients win $300 million, I can show you every contract number and award to prove it. When I tell you my win rate is over 50%, I can show you the win/loss record. And while this might not seem impressive, the odds beat luck, which proves out at 50/50. (I would bet $100 that our real proposal record beats most claims on the internet or in marketing material, if you hold them to scrutiny.)
But I digress. Let's step away from our cutouts and cliches and have a dialogue. About real things.
This means talking about winning and losing. It means being honest about probabilities. Sometimes your best efforts will be losses. Sometimes your worst efforts end in reward. Sometimes fortune smiles on you, and other times it doesn't.
If you're looking for a real chance at winning - if you want to have a down-to-earth conversation about writing proposals: give us a call. Let's have a dialogue. No cliches. No cutouts. No bullshit.