Monday, November 30, 2009

On-track messaging

We get a lot of requests for the message critique. The old “take a look at our website/campaign/tagline/etc. and let us know how we can make it better” request.

After more than two decades in the advertising and marketing game, we keep seeing businesspeople making the same blunders in their messaging. It’s a study of human nature – evident in the fact that we see them in every industry we deal with. From trucking and logistics to microchips and software development – wherever there’s somebody out there trying to sell something, there is a good chance they are going about it the wrong way.

Some examples:

The “Ain’t We Great” Selling Proposition

The first borders on a pet peeve, because it’s probably the most common example of the advertising gaffe: the Ain't We Great syndrome. Time and time again, we see the brand of bloated, self-inflated content that gets approved by harried business executives too busy to see the whole selling landscape.

It’s understandable, yet largely ineffective. The average business manager is so focused on the task at hand, it’s often very difficult to take an elevated view. So they approve marketing content like this:

Everything about ABC Widgets is great. Everything we make is great. In fact we’re so great that we received a great award from the Council on Widget Greatness. Omigod, are we great, or what?

An exaggeration, but you get the idea. The problem: navel-gazing. The content is focused on the company doing the selling instead of the people that matter – the ones doing the buying.

There is a simple test for this but it’s often not so simple to administer honestly. Evaluate your marketing message, then ask “who cares?” If the only people you can honestly put in that category are you, the boss, the boss's boss and the board of directors, your message is targeting the wrong crowd.

The only people that matter are potential customers.

The boss, the boss’s boss and the board of directors do not need to be convinced. Chances are pretty good that they are already on your side. (Ya think?) So step one requires you to take a hard look at your message and rework it to target the buyer. This is the kind of message that sells:

Simply put, the ABC Widget will make your life easier. Because it will solve your biggest problem – the one that has been plaguing people like you for generations and continues to stand in your way, day after day*.

*You know. That problem. The one the best brains in your company have carefully and exhaustively researched … the one that is your very raison d’être – the reason you guys exist in the first place.

This is first acid test we recommend, time and time again. Get the focus off yourself, your company, your quirks. Turn the argument around and put the spotlight on your buyer. That’s where your marketing content needs to be.

©2009 Briarpatch Creative

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