Avoid {capability statement} vanilla with these 5 simple tips


For some, a capability statement might seem totally last century.  Not in a vintage kind of way, just plain old fashioned.  And in the whirlwind of social media marketing {SMM}, it probably is, at least, in the format that it was once known.  

For the Social Media Eliteocracy, it can be difficult to conceive that there are peeps out there who still market their businesses using this ancient form of marketing.  But the truth is, it is happening.

While the SMM juggernaut moves forward at ever increasing rates of speed and change, there are some businesses that are just coming to terms with the whole “marketing thing”.  These business are still a long way from breaking the ice of connectivity, engagement, data analytics, and well everything else social.

Maybe they haven’t had to market {business has just been too good}; maybe they don’t see the point of marketing {this also happens}; maybe they’re not confident marketing {perhaps not enough conviction about their product/service or they don’t know what to say}; or maybe they just don’t get it.


It doesn’t matter.

For some reason, they are turning their attention to the assembly of some marketing collateral and stumbling over the basics. For these businesses, their marketing Mount Everest involves putting together an elevator pitch, a capability statement, some case studies, and a website.

The SMM Elite may scoff at this.  They may consider a capability statement in the ‘traditional sense’ – the focus of this blog – to be like using hand-to-hand combat in a time of sophisticated state-of-the-art, remotely activated, laser-focused marketing warfare, as is available right now. However, before you judge the Marketing Dinosaurs, consider this story.

Our recent trip to beautiful New Zealand opened my eyes about the Maori culture.

Among the many interesting aspects of the Maori history was their involvement in, and substantial contribution to, New Zealand’s efforts in World War I and II. Robust and courageous, the Maoris were placed into their own battalion and over time through their courage and prowess, forged a name for themselves as courageous fighters.

For me, this was nowhere more evident that in the trench warfare on the Gallipoli stage.  As the original ‘diggers’, the Maoris were unerringly resilient, digging trenches from which the Allied troops were forced to launch their attacks.

In one battle, isolated as they were from support and down on artillery, the Maoris rose out of their trenches, performing the traditional haka, literally taking the Turks by surprise, and forcing them into hand-to-hand combat as the Maoris penetrated their lines of defence and ultimately overcame them.

At the time, there were other means of combat available to them, but for the purposes of that circumstance {let’s call it survival}, hand-to-hand was the weapon of choice.

And so it is for these businesses I’m describing. I know this because I’m working with them.

These businesses don’t operate in a vacuum; they just aren’t as far along the marketing evolution as some others.  It’s not possible for everyone to be a marketing super hero, so my encouragement to them is to, yes, prepare the capability statement, but do so with a view to using it as a platform from which they progressively up-level their marketing efforts.

Now if you choose to head down this road, there are a few things to avoid to ensure your cap stat does not become a crap stash.

Let me explain.

#1  Be brutally brief

Those familiar with my background will know I did some time working in engineering consulting firms. Alot of time. I learned that engineers {and the mining companies that made up the majority of their clients} love big, glossy capability statements filled with pictures of equipment and projects.

I likened it to a security blanket. They seemed to gain some kind of soothing strength or courage from having that document to hand over, either in hard copy or via email.

Now it wasn’t my engineering company to say so, but more often than not, I found these capability statements to be waaaay too long. This brings me to my first tip: be brutally brief.

Less is more. A cap stat can very quickly become a stash for all the crap you think is important, but that isn’t necessarily so. A potential client or customer isn’t likely to read every word and study every picture. This means it’s necessary to be economical {prudent, even} with your words.

The best way to achieve this is to take time to reflect on the key messages you want to communicate about your business. Getting to that point means delving deeper than the superficial to articulate what your excels at. Are you able to describe the tangible value your client or customer will experience by working with your business? Can you refer to some meaningful examples as evidence?

Being as clear as possible creates the platform by which you can make every word count. Acting as an icebreaker, your capability statement should provide just enough information to warrant and invite further enquiry.

#2  Be brutally honest

We’ve all seen those television commercials {and online businesses} advertising products that promise the world. We’ve all been tempted to buy them on occasion, only to find they leave us wanting. Causing nothing more than irreparable damage to a business or product’s name, tall tales are best left well alone.

If you’re marketing moral compass doesn’t sit directly on north, then it’s not worth including.

I know that marketing can be it’s own worst enemy. After all, it’s a marketer’s job to present things in the best possible light, which is why it’s on this point that many marketers find themselves coming unstuck with their technical peers.

Not satisfied just bringing a dressed up Cinderella to the ball, they want to bring Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters along as well.

Because you’ve taken the time to get clear about your business strengths and your key messages, you are well equipped to present everything you want to share about your business, transparently and confidently.

And that’s the only way to go.

#3 Tell a story

We all have a soap box and {one of!} mine is that stories make marketing wonderful.

Stories, regardless of how they’re shared, are the way that humans connect with each other.  It’s necessary then to integrate stories into your capability statement.  This lends depth and meaning to what can (and most often is) a staid and one dimensional document.

You can include stories about the key people in the business, the back story of the business, i.e. how the business came into being, pivot points about the business, case studies or projects your business has delivered, customers with whom your business has worked.

You might tell these stories in different ways. Telling a back story could form part of the section on your approach to business. An individual’s bio might include particular career highlights that have brought them to this point in time.  Exemplar projects could (really should) be described in terms of outcomes, i.e. what it meant for the client or customer.

Think about these stories in ways that are going to connect to the person who is reading. And remember, it is not you.

#4 Invent your own flavour

Corporate-isms have a really bad habit of infecting every known form of marketing. Like an insidious virus, words found only in the realm of corporate life, are repeated and bandied around like a jumping grasshopper plague during the Big Wet. The end result is boring, vanilla flavoured marketing material that sounds horribly like every other company’s marketing spiel. Yawn.

Now I love a good vanilla ice-cream, but there’s vanilla, and then there’s Vanilla. You know, premium ice cream confection made with real cream, milk and peppered with vanilla beans.

So, if you decide to go vanilla because you think that’s what your market wants to hear, think again.

Your unique flavour can be expressed in the layout of your document {could you try landscape over portrait, or as slides rather than a Word document?}; in the language that you use {a conservative company might include more conversational comments from the CEO}; in the way you present your information {if your cap stat is digital, maybe you integrate some interactive functionality}.

#5 Tinker, tailor your capability statement

If you are relying on your capability statement to be a one size fits all, then think again.

Once you have a foundation document, it’s time to tinker, tailor and tweak that baby to meet the needs of the opportunities that arise.

What this means is, if your business provides services across a range of project sizes, then you cannot tell the same story to the clients operating in different segments. In straight up terms, you gotta spend time massaging the core elements to suit the market.

If you are not proficient doing this, it’s necessary to find someone who can, especially if you plan putting yourself out there.

#Bonus tip

Adopting some of these suggestions for your capability statement might mean a little more effort.  This frequently equates with a little more time. Running your business can feel like a 24/7 exercise, so finding ways to accelerate and streamline any process makes sense.  Ultimately though, the idea is that these processes save time.

Is your business capability statement working for you? Does it do the job? Let me know. I’d love to know if it is.