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How is my driving? 

How is my driving
Have you ever been approached by someone who wants to market their product or services to you but you don’t understand what they do? Do you receive direct email blasts that fly through the inbox all the time leaving your confused? Are you getting bombarded with solicitations and calls from people trying to market their services and products and you don’t know what they sell? I often feel the urge to grab them and tell them I have no idea what they are offering or selling or marketing. This happens to me all the time.

Maybe I am slow or not as smart as the average 6th grader, but I find it interesting how frequently marketers will think I know what is in their head.  Some business offerings are so unclear, complex and unimaginative that I get struck by how they need to rethink what they are offering. Why should I do the work for them?

Here are two specific suggestions to improve your communications.

1. Start with me and my problem 
(not you and your solution)

I don’t really care about your technical wizardry, the awards you have won or the talent who works for your team. Don’t  tell me how 8 of the top 10 industry leaders use your service. Start with the basics.“What the hell do you do?”

Help me understand what problem you think you can fix for me.  

Do you think I need more customers who will pay a higher price for my widgets and you have exactly what I need to get the job done? Come on, that isn’t clear enough or precise either.
But if you have experience with clients who need to open up new markets for their product or service and you can help provide that road map to growth, then explain that benefit quickly and crisply. Do it in a way that clearly illustrates and explains the before and after value your service will give me. I received about 20 email communications/solicitations yesterday and all of them were about 300 words or more. Can you do this in 26 words or less- hey, I’m busy!

You need new markets to expand.

We specialize in designing blueprints for growth in new market segments.  Think of us as architects for new distribution channels. 

Once I have a frame of reference about how you can help me, then I can go down the path of determining if this is a real need and am I looking for someone to help me solve this problem.

Imagine I am in a car driving along the highway and my tire is going flat. I pass by a store that has a big sign in its window advertising that if you feel bumpiness in your morning commute, your tire could be flat and we can help. Simple. Clear. To the point.  Marketing should work this way and start from the beginning. But if I see a sign in a window offering 1,000 services- I probably will miss your message. Pick a message. Make it simple and clear. Please. 

Here is a great example of a great product idea and a terrible communication. Just the other day my 84 year old (young) Mom said I only need a cell phone that I can use to make calls. Her friend’s son bought her an iPhone and it was so complicated for her, she too just wanted a phone THAT ONLY MAKES PHONE CALLS. What a novel idea- a real niche, older phone users who want a simple one-function device.

Too much copy, lousy design, confusing message

Does this ad tell you this story? It has so many words and such poor design that how can you ever know what their hook is? This ad should start with the target and in a simple sentence tell the benefit. Why not just use the headline and the photo and a website/phone number on the bottom? What does everything else do but tell the opposite story of simplicity? I don't get it. 

2. Explain it like I am a six year old

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia 
Remember the movie Philadelphia? Denzel Washington’s character (a lawyer) keeps asking people to explain things to him like he is a six year old. I love that phrase. It forces you to break through the MBA/industry speak and to talk in plain English. I know it is hard and I feel your pain but can you explain what your business does in small words and short-phrases.  I recently received this email blast that among other gems told me this: 

 I sent this back to them but never heard back again. 

Dude, WTF?

Don’t give me a laundry list of 27 of your greatest capabilities. It is too much information and I am not yet engaged or really interested. Take one message and help me understand it in clear and specific terms. I am not advocating talking down to your target but I am recommending that you pick one message and make sure it is received.

Okay, I get it. Huh?

Sorry I wrote you such
a long letter
It is interesting to observe how we believe that the more we say or the more we cram in a PowerPoint slide, the clearer our message will be. In fact, just the opposite is true. The mathematician Pascal once quipped that "I apologize that this letter is so long - I lacked the time to make it short." 

It takes work to be clear and to simply state a marketing message that truly resonates. I know that for those of us who are writers-in-training, the hardest thing to do is to be succinct. 

Apologies that it took me 885 words to tell you this.

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