Marcom Meticulosity

I feel a lecture coming on!

I’m a bit anal retentive when it comes to marketing communications. This trait is constantly reinforced when I work with technology companies. As a species, they are the worst marcom machines on the face of Gawd’s gray world.

So today I deviate from discussions of markets and strategy to communicate about communications. Specifically I’m going to give away some expertise about how to compose marketing prose.

Rule #1 – don’t alliterate: It is really annoying.

Rule #2 – know your audience: It is one thing to understand your audience, but another thing entirely to know them. “Knowing” means you are in their shoes, doing their job, and feeling their pain. It involves a deep connection that reveals their true motivations.

For example, an IT executive might say he wants to reduce application development costs, but his true motivation is to spend that money on other things. This difference between what they say they want, and what they really want can make the difference between a win and a loss.

Rule #3 – use their language, not yours: Technologists are introspective out of necessity. They often must look at problems from positions that allow them to conceive of solutions. This leads to them talking about the solution from the same angle, which is typically not the angle from which customers view the problem.

One example is Aspera and their fasp file transfer solution. It is a cool technology, and an approach to speeding file transfers that I dreamed up years ago but for which I never created a product. Their engineers are top notch, but their product information is told from the network guru’s perspective. FTP and other technologies cannot take advantage of all the bandwidth they have to move a file, and thus the time to transfer the file goes long. This is the way Aspera tells their story, which is backwards from the way an average buyer thinks which is “my file transfers need to go faster.” Aspera’s mistakes go right to their graphics which at first glance make their product look bad.

Rules 2&3 together are violated by Aspera. But they are not alone … most young tech firms make these communication mistakes. Always inventory your early adopters and discover what language they use to describe their problems and their expected outcomes. These are the terms and perspectives that drive your messaging.

Rule #4 – write like a reporter: We live in a 30 … err … 15 … err … 5 second sound bite world. Communicate quickly. Write in short blocks that make direct statements. If any buyer has to wade through useless words, spin, and buzz, they may drift and never discover your value propositions. Good reporters (which excludes anyone working at the New York Times) write this way, and can communicate complex stories by breaking them down into a series of bite-sized bits.

Rule #5 – High to low you go: Start with high-level abstractions of value and benefits before slowly drilling deeper into details. Take our new client, Mobile Complete. On the Mobile Complete home page are headlines that read “transform Your Mobile Product into the Ultimate User Experience” and “end-to-end solutions for the entire mobile product lifecycle.”

What do those headlines tell you about the product and the value it delivers? Nothing. In fact nothing on the homepage communicates what their products do (provide a remote workbench to test and monitor applications on real mobile handsets) and the value it delivers (making sure your mobile applications work right on all kinds of handsets in regions all around the world).

Marcom should start with high-level statements and abstractions that give the reader a reason to investigate further by appealing to their needs, wants, desires, and your solution. Once you have their attention and have created a belief that you may be able to achieve their desired outcomes, then pull them into a deeper conversation.

Rule #6 – illustrate and illuminate: Pictures communicate a ton of information in a small space, and thus are very valuable in marcom. But this requires creating illustrations that actually communicate and opposed to merely decorate.

Take the home page for Axure, who makes application prototyping solutions. The illustrations on the home page communicate nothing about the customer problem, expected outcomes, or how Axure might solve these worries. The graphics are there to add color but not content. Even decorative graphics at very least need to shape a brand (like the top images at Rubric, which communicate their market and an emotional feeling about the company). It is not surprising then that Axure breaks rules 2-5 as well as six (at least I did not see any alliteration on their web site, so they avoided violating rule #1).

Rule infinity – focus! Too many marketing people get lax and don’t checklist their work against goals. Keep focused on the customer and how to own their hearts as well as their minds, and your marcom work will multiply your revenues.


Comments

Marcom Meticulosity — 1 Comment

  1. This is great for those of us who find the steadily degraded state of English prose and copywriting to be increasingly annoying. I’ve also found some great advice and practical marketing tips from Ron Brauner’s marketing blog…at ronbrauner.com/blog.

Speak up! What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.