Being found at the top of anyone’s short list is the dream of most marketing directors today. However, if a B2B marketer finds that he/she is constantly being passed over by another competitive firm, they should take the time to evaluate their current strategy, as opposed to running and hiding!

The problem is, people often misunderstand what is “required pro forma” versus relying on just their ideas and concepts that they think everyone will love. That approach does work for genius type people such as Steve Jobs of Apple’s fame, but it rarely works for the rest of us in the trenches. Think of it this way: you go to school and take a business management class and you find out there is an exam in one week. Should you 1) re-read all of your notes from class, 2) talk to fellow students about the exam’s possible content, or 3) take the principles that you just learned and build a business model and value proposition and test them out on a group of outside people? Which do you think will engrain what you learned the most effectively?

As amazing as it sounds, most of us elect for solution numbers 1 or 2 and ignore 3. Why? Mostly because number 3 isn’t the quick fix that most marketers like to use. This oversight can be fatal. Substituting a sense of experience to justify confidence in a strategy is often like hoping that your balloon will rise with air, not the helium it used when you first got it.

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way with the first website we built for our firm. I thought it had “everything.” But that was the problem. Too much information clogged the pipeline. We found this out, after the fact, by talking to many different people about their experience with our website. Armed with this information we changed it to a much simpler and sleeker user experience.

The 3 essential rules for effective strategic marketing requires the following:

1. Check with your potential customers before you start marketing to them and ask them what they would consider purchasing from you, how often they might purchase, and what would be the top three reasons they would select your company instead of your competition. This is the hard part few marketers enjoy pursuing or paying for. It’s called market research. Instead, many bring out products, often that cost tens of thousands of dollars, without one dollar spent on market research. Why? Because they think they ‘know’ the market. Obviously, this is not always the case.

2. Use clear, common words that everyone will easily understand and relate to. The news today is filled with political candidates and pundits who are pushing to get their messaging to the top of the news cycle. Regardless of your political persuasion, candidates like Donald Trump, use simple words and phrases such as Back to work, We need more jobs, Our debt is out of control, etc. On the other hand, candidates like Mitt Romney are talking about the rising inflation index that is impacting the country’s debt to ratio context. Strategic marketing works the same way. The simpler quicker statements build brand equity faster and better. Be simple and be true and you won’t go wrong.

3. Use a style of communications that includes the tone of an informative representative. If your target audience is not familiar with industry jargon such as TQM for Total Quality Management then say total quality management. It is not impressive to use a language set that your prospect is not familiar. In fact, there’s a good chance that prospect won’t want to use your company. Good communication demands that you talk in the language of your prospects, from their eyes and context, not yours, and that you build a benefit into each word you offer to get your meaning across. Big words, lingo, or complex phrasing can misrepresent your company’s true meaning. B2B marketing should be simple and easy to understand.

A simple test of whether your communications is on target is this: if you were sitting in front of a prospect would reading your marketing copy to him/her be the same as if you were actually there using your own words? If not, then it may be time to change your strategic marketing.