Showing posts with label no fluff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label no fluff. Show all posts

Friday, August 5, 2011

8 Steps for Creating an Effective Main Message

 It's a familiar situation.  A company or division is formed.  It develops a product, then races to launch.  Somebody throws together an initial message and a web site.  Product launches.  Revenue starts flowing.

It's time to hire a marketing exec and build a team.  Founders emphasize leads and conversion rates.  Good things like SEO, lead nurturing, online marketing get implemented. But one fundamental is often missing.

Sin #1.  Positioning / Main message.  Let's look at the main message from two companies web sites:

-  Zoho

- Workday

Are these accurate and good in the eyes of these companies?  Probably.
Is this the way their customers think?                                      Probably not.
Do these miss a chance to communicate the true value?          Yes!

A strong main messages gives the best opportunity to grab prospect's attention... the right way. It also flows into the rest of messaging, impacting  PPC, SEO and the conversion rate.  In fact, vague main message  results in wasted money and ineffectiveness of marketing campaigns.  This is especially painful for startups with little brand recognition.

Here are examples of effective and clear messages from Pandora and AppAssure:

How do you develop a strong main message?  Here are some key principles:

1.  Grab attention.  It has to be unique enough to grab visitors attention and encourage further browsing.
2.  Differentiate.  Has to communicate at least one unique angle or a customer benefit.
3.  Specific. The benefit has to be specific.  Statements like having "all-in-one," "complete," "best" are often subjective and indicate vendor's point of view.  In the examples above, the word "complete" may have a very different meaning for target customers vs. the vendor.  It can discredit the message.  What I like about the message from AppAssure is that is specific.  "Recover in Minutes" sets a pretty specific expectation.
4.  Believable. It is important to keep the balance between reality and outrageous statements that prospects discount as zealous or exaggerated.
5.  Language.  The message has to be in the language used by target customers, which is often different from the vendor's language.  If your target customer is CIO, too technical of a message may be a mistake.  If you are targeting sysadmins, you may want to be fairly technical and specific.
6.  Easily understandable.  The prospect has to be able to quickly grasp the message.  Don't make them think too long - often people don't have time or desire to do that.  They will just leave the site.
7.  Customer tested.  It is critical to test the main message with a number of customers and prospects before going live.  You can start with a qualitative test via customer conversations.  Then, you can finish with an online survey.
8.  Not Perfect.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  You don't have to spend months on this.  It OK for some internal folks to struggle with it.  It can be work in progress, however you don't want to change it very often.  It just has to be effective.

To summarize, a strong main message could drastically increase the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and ROI of your marketing spending.  I will discuss the sin #2 in the next Hack Marketing blog entry.

Here is an example of a message that we developed about 6 months ago:

Monday, July 11, 2011

6 Ways To Avoid Fluff in Your Marketing Materials

FLUFF is one of my pet peeves. Why use complicated words that add up into phrases that mean nothing?  Words like leverage, easy, flexible, scaleable, secure, ROI, TCO.   They demonstrate lack of subject knowledge and discourage the target audience from reading these documents / web sites / blogs.

Here is an example I just found on a web site of a well known vendor.  "...(product) is the foundation for the CIO's and IT leadership team's performance system. It features a cascaded optimization system, the industry's deepest and broadest insight into IT-controlled assets, and a secure, comprehensive, operational environment for a hybrid world."

What?  A "hybrid world?"  Wasted words.  I counted 19 words that are just fluff and mean nothing.  Wasted space.  Wasted time and budgets.  There are better and more practical ways of writing marketing materials that people understand and read.  My suggestions are below:

1.  Know your audience.  Understand who exactly is your audience.  Which industry?  What is the main function of your target reader?  What are their pressures and challenges?  What are their titles and reporting structures?  Their internal customers.  Demographics.  Internal politics, etc.

2.  Understand the lingo your audience uses.  Talk to your customers directly.  Ask how are they using your product.  Don't assume you know the words they use.  For example, you would fail if you used "IT words" with process engineers in Electric Power companies.  When marketing cyber security to Power and Energy, we had to change about 80% of our marketing materials.  But the results were amazing - almost every IT department we contacted, wanted to talk to us.  Even at the meetings, we were treated like peers rather than vendors.

3.  Simplify.  Read what you wrote out loud.  Pretend you are presenting in person to your target audience.  Keep on rewriting until the text flows easily and you would have no problem verbally presenting it.

4.  Be brief.  Less is more.  Remember, the goal of most marketing materials is not to close the deal, but rather get the prospect interested enough to contact sales or try the product.  Longer texts tend to discourage busy viewers from reading.

5.  Avoid fluff.  Avoid generic words, like flexible or leverage.  Try quantifying or using proof points.  For example, "the industry's deepest and broadest insight into IT-controlled assets" is fluff.  However, something like, "a system covering 95% of the industry's IT-controlled assets" is much more credible and easier to understand.

6.  Test.  Most of us, marketers, don't work in the functional area of our target buyers.  It may be a good idea to test the text with your target audience.  This can be a very revealing exercise.  In my experience, this step has revealed some gems that turned into new marketing tools and lead generation approaches that we never knew existed.  For example, from our customer conversations we discovered an IT community called Spiceworks, that turned out to be one of the best lead  generation sources for SMB markets.