You’ve got eight words and only one chance. That simple tagline beneath your company name distills the firm’s essence, presenting it foremost and always to the people with the money. It’s how folks depict you, and it becomes prophetic.

Witness: “You Can do it. We Can Help.” versus “Let’s Build Something Together.” Chosen by Home Depot, the former motto places the primary burden on the buyer — separating him from a store increasingly gaining the reputation of a less-than-informative, warehouse-style supplier. Conversely, Lowe’s, which opted for the second tagline, sets before buyers a more connective, local-hardware-store style image, which many say it has achieved. At last look, Lowe’s stock is still on the rise. Home Depot has seen a steady plunge for the last five years.

Mark Twain said, “The difference between a good word and the exact right word is the difference between lighting and the lightning bug.” To help owners and executives gather lightning with their own exact and effective mottos, the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners will presents “Six Steps for Developing a Power-Packed Tagline for Your Business,” a free workshop on Tuesday, November 10, at 10 a.m. at the NJAWBO center in Chatham. Visit www.njawbo.org.

Speaker Lisa Fahoury, chief creative officer for Fahoury Ink in West Orange, will help listeners establish a framework through which they may sensibly blend market data, inspiration, and feedback for tagline creation.

Fahoury admits that after more than 20 years as a copywriter, taglines are still a prime source of perspiration and struggle. Calling herself “a pure Jersey girl,” Fahoury is a native of Union City who earned her bachelor’s in business marketing from Seton Hall in 1986.

After brief stints with a few private agencies, Fahoury accepted the daunting challenge of marketing the New York Daily News as its creative service manager. She wracked her brain, boosting everything from newsstand to subscriber sales, but the writing, for newsprint, was already on the wall.

“I loved and believed in the Daily News, but all papers were just starting on their long slide down,” she says. “So finally I thought it best to step out on my own.” Launching Fahoury Ink in 1998, Fahoury and her staff found rising success. Today her firm aids mid-size companies with a host of promotional projects, from straightforward writing, to more elaborate marketing ventures.

“I always wince when I see such empty taglines as ‘Number 1 in Service.’” says Fahoury. “Ideally a tagline distills the essence of your brand. It speaks of your quality, experience. It sets your market position, and even defines the target audience.”

To pack all this in 6 to 10 words is less a matter of fortuitous inspiration, than carefully setting a stage for examination.

Looking without. See what your competitors are selling and saying. Your initial marketing research should have determined their niche and that of your product. If they are seeking younger customers, you might consider working to capture the more mature buyer.

But for a tagline, check a little deeper. What do the competitors’ tags say, and more importantly, what is the actual experience their stores and sales people are giving their customers. If your shop is noticeably filled with more greyhairs and your parking lot with more expensive autos, you might want to capitalize on the concept like “For the more discerning widget fancier.”

Looking within. List your company’s strengths. Then try to figure out what common statement lassos your store’s — lowest prices, fastest delivery, largest stock, most effervescent sales people for a sporting goods store. Does “Where Your Energy Finds its Outlet” cover all the bases? If not, what’s missing?

Audience appeal. Rather than dwell on your company’s many marvelous qualities, a tag might perform better by spreading a little contagious envy among potential customers. “Where the Best Dressed Shop” or “The Motor Oil Preferred by Indy 500 Racers” invites the reader to place himself in that first rank along with your product’s users.

“Always appeal to your audience’s ego, fears, or finances,” notes Fahoury. Ego, of course, is easy, as the above examples show. More than one security company has successfully played the fear card with lines like “We care for your family, like our own.” And “We will not be undersold” effectively pushes the financial button for the over 10 pages of companies currently proclaiming it on Google, for everything from ladies’ hats to scuba gear. The only caveat here is not to limit your audience. Don’t appeal only to the thrifty, at the expense of quality seekers.

Tagline as mantra. Taglines necessarily have permanency. They build over time. Although Fahoury recommends revisiting them ever three years to make sure they still fit your bill, lines with pop-culture references tend to be too fleeting. The East Windsor “Tut’s Hut” Restaurant capitalized cleverly on the Egyptian Exhibit in several Manhattan Museums for about one year. Yet when the exhibit left, the name quickly faded into a curiosity.

With the product’s expansion, a proper tagline will be spoken, printed, and advertised repeatedly to the point where the company and all its personnel will feel invested. “This can provide a great rallying point for the staff,” says Fahoury. She cites Optimum Online’s “It’s Either Optimum — Or it’s Not.” Employees feel they are working on the top team and it filters down to their individual approach and view of their job.

Grabbing the lightning. Several tools are available to help spark the exact phrase that says it all. Bartlett’s and other quotations books, along with www.onlinequotations.com, and www.quotationspage.com are all topically indexed and arranged. The Internet Movie Database might have helped Tropicana come up with its “Squeeze the Day,” an apt play on ancient poet Horace’s admonishment to “Seize the Day,” made again popular by the film “The Dead Poets’ Society.” Fahoury also recommends the tools available in mind-mapping software.

For actual brainstorming, Fahoury suggests a group of five or so individuals with varied experiences throughout the company. The CEO might have invented the product, but seldom sees customers. The intern is new to the product. Tech people receive a different feedback than sales and personal reps. Go for diversity, but keep the group manageable.

Once a few top selections have been chosen, focus studies can be easily compiled on social media. Presenting three possible taglines on your Facebook fan page holds a dual benefit. “This not only provides honest feedback,” says Fahoury, “but makes readers feel as though they are contributing — invested in the company and its products.” Always offer a discount, or tie in some value to those who respond, and be sure to thank them.

Catching that dead-on tagline remains as difficult as it is important. Yet knowing when you’ve got it right is relatively easy. Everyone in the firm and all your customers will let you know. And it will help your product be, well, all that it can be.

Facebook Comments