A Teardown of Teardowns

Teardowns aren’t for consultants, they’re for services providers

I once analyzed Nuclino’s messaging while making a point about using customer voice.

Based on the general copywriting theory of melding emotion, logic, proof, and calls-to-action, in the customer’s own voice, I offered some ideas about what was wrong with what I had been shown.

You could call this a teardown (What is a teardown? is a common question – I have my own definition).

1 out of 2 times I get on a call with a prospective (or even an existing) client they ask for something similar.

They say, “look at our site – tear it down, what’s wrong with it, what do you see”. Sometimes they want validation, sometimes they want new ideas, sometimes they want to evaluate how you the expert think and express yourself.

Long ago, I might have objected to this request on the premise that it constituted free work. But now it seems so trivial, I oblige them. I can usually spot a few “mistakes”.

But that’s mistakes in quotes, with major caveats.

Brands have valid but invisible reasons for how they express themselves. Teardowns are useful exercises (and good practice for burnishing your expertise at anything). But ultimately, they are a flimsy business practice because they overlook invisible reasons.

From the outside, I don’t know:

  • the internal team dynamics
  • customer relationships
  • the future product/company vision
  • insight-rich metrics
  • the founder/owner goals or other idiosyncracies
  • what I don’t know
  • etc

Maybe acquiring new customers is less important this year than retaining 2 or 3 existing ones. Maybe acquiring investors is more important. Maybe there’s one single partner the company is courting and that’s the audience. Maybe there’s an email campaign underway that I’m unaware of. Maybe the founder wants to wind down the firm and retire, after her own fashion. All of this affects the “right” brand messaging.

So take teardowns with a big grain of salt.. or look at them as a way to open a deeper engagement, not as a way to provide answers.

– Rowan