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Charles Born

This post is by guest blogger, Charles Born:

I could subtitle this “How to Lose at Buzzword Bingo and Increase Sales” but this is not where I whine further about buzzwords and jargon. I did that in previous blogs (Buzzword Bingo and Avoiding the Buzzword Bingo Trap). All kidding aside, there is a time for professional jargon: when you know you’re speaking to an audience that understands you, and you need the extra specificity and precision that jargon can sometimes provide. If you’re using it outside of that then you’re probably not communicating clearly, honestly, or effectively.

In the web and social marketing world, online “conversations” are the perfect opportunity to meet buyers’ information needs with smartly targeted and informative content that buyers consider valuable. Unfortunately, Web copy is often written in less than ideal circumstances by product marketers who do not have the time to do it right.

The good news is that anyone who writes content can ensure that every chunk of text on the web is doing something concrete and useful. Good marketing copy accomplishes specific goals; just touting a product is not one of them.

Let’s look at an example. Here is a chunk of text displayed prominently on one company’s website:

With Product X advanced features, capturing and reporting product sales data in the cloud and in real-time can improve operational intelligence and provide insight that enables more effective strategic, tactical and effective decision-making. With Product X researching your online sales is FASTER!

What do we know about this product from the two statements? Intelligence and insight will be improved by capturing and reporting! And that will enable, among many other things, better tactical decision-making! And we end with a tag line – in CAPITAL letters no less–with an exclamation point, indeed! Here we have a simple example of what happens when the goal of the writing is to fill up a web page with copy.

How do you approach writing product copy and potentially winning buyer attention and sales interest?

Just KIS – Keep It Simple (not stupid)

Most product content needs to answer 4 basic questions:

  1. Who is the product for?
  2. What is the product?
  3. What does the product do for its target user?
  4. Why is the product better than the available alternatives?

The lack of answers to these really basic questions is what frustrates buyers in their journey and wastes marketing money on writing babble. To do it right, let’s look at the questions in more detail.

Who is the product for? Think of your target audience. Can they tell from this copy that you are speaking to them? Can other people outside your audience tell that you are NOT speaking to them?

What is the product? Try to write in conversational tone using short and simple sentences. Make sure you have spelled out, clearly and in simple language, what the product is and that the nouns as concrete as you can make them.

What does the product do for its target user? Be specific in laying out the product’s primary features and benefits in a clear, concrete way.

Why is this product better than the available alternatives? Here is where flowery prose needs to be edited. If you make a claim, give evidence for the claims clearly and without empty language that makes you look like boasting.

Answer these questions, and you’ll communicate more clearly and efficiently than the horde of companies who’ve filled their web product pages with the content equivalent of cotton candy.

Please share your tips and suggestions to making content work.

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Buzzword Bingo

by Charles Born on October 16, 2012

in Marketing,Marketing 2.0,Messaging

This article is by Guest Blogger Charlie Born

Online “conversations” are a perfect opportunity for marketing to meet buyers’ information needs with smartly targeted and informative online content that buyers consider valuable.

At odds with this need for “conversations” is the high tech marketing history of using “words du jour” to make our products seem unique and different. Words like “cloud”, “social” and “big data” are just some that are rapidly littering our marketing content and are so over hyped their meaning is questionable. Coupled with over-used words like market leading, one-stop, scalable, easy to use, customer focused, best in class and many others, you have a winning game of buzzword bingo.

Does this buzzword bingo have any real meaning or value for the reader? The repeated use of trite phrases devalues them even if they are true. Furthermore, as marketers we know that when every company make similar claims, buyers struggle to tell us apart from competition. Of course, who wouldn’t claim these things? But more importantly, who isn’t claiming them?

Even if you think you are avoiding the creep of jargon into your marketing content, I’d encourage you to conduct a quick exercise with your marketing team:

1. Identify the most commonly used words and phrases on your website, in your online marketing materials and in your sales tools.

2. Do the same with your leading competitors

3. Compare the two.

If your language is truly distinct from your competition, congratulations! If, on the other hand, there’s an uncomfortable similarity between your words and phrases used by your competitors, then you have some work to do.

Next post, “Avoiding the Buzzword Bingo Trap”

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This article is by Guest Blogger Charlie Born

Are you generating leads and finding that the buyers who contact you are already far into their decision process, having already identified you as ‘1 of 3’ top but very similar vendors?  To prevent the final selection round from becoming a feature-function-price competition and create stronger differentiation, you may need to engage earlier in the Buyers’ Journey.   This early demand creation (in contrast to lead generation) requires changing what is in your buyers’ mind, and not what is in your marketing database. That means influencing the early learning process with the right information, presented at the right time, via the right mediums to help decision makers learn about you before they contact you as a prospect.

Information Must-HavesIt is not a surprise that the internet, social networks and online communities are key sources that potential buyers use to search for meaningful information during their Buyers’ Journey. These online sources are largely relationship and not broadcast oriented; this means information that stimulates interaction and response is welcomed and encouraged in a ‘community’ setting while obvious marketing spam is most often ignored.  Because of this, information needs to be packaged in buyer friendly content formats that make it attractive, discoverable, consumable and sharable throughout the entire Buyers’ Journey. Think of your information as ‘content as a service”.  Provide interesting whitepapers, webinars, blogs, info-graphics and “info-tainment” to engage your buyers and create demand.  Be sure to point your potential buyers to sources of information other than your own, which often carry greater credibility.

How can you be sure you are helping buyers discover what they want to learn at the right time in their Buyers’ Journey?  Engage directly with the buyers.  Meet with current customers, new customers and lost sales opportunities and focus on some of these concepts during your discussions:

  • Gain an understanding of the customer’s evaluation and buying process by industry and role within the company.
  • Talk to them about what triggered the need for the solution.
  • Ask them what they were looking for and where they went to find answers.
  • Find out who they spoke with directly and who influenced them and how.
  • And most importantly, find out how they evaluated the information.

It’s been my experience that through these meetings you discover how to align your marketing to the buyers’ information needs and to the content formats and outlets that are most effective for an audience. Your analysis of the information that buyers need, and when, where and how they consume it, should inform the process for creating, packaging, and disseminating information and maintaining consistency across communication channels.   That process will likely change your current marketing efforts to emphasize demand creation throughout the Buyer’s Journey, rather than lead generation when that journey is near its end.

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The New Challenges of Selling as “1 of 3”

by Charles Born on September 5, 2012

in Marketing,Sales Tips

This article is by Guest Blogger Charlie Born, the newest member of the Shirman Group extended team.

Over the last five years, B2B selling has evolved from general concepts of solution selling to the ‘Buyer’s Journey’ – a journey driven by the large amount of information available online.  A new sales and marketing reality is rapidly emerging as the internet plays an increasing role in buyer research.  I’ve seen the impact of this in my own marketing work, and I strongly believe we are on the cusp of some important changes to the conventional marketing and sales wisdom of the past

Studies are consistently showing that B2B buying habits are shifting.  Buyers are now 60-70% of the way through the buyer’s cycle before they reach out to your sales representative.   By that time, there is less need for traditional solution selling techniques.  In the new buyer’s journey, the buyers believe that, based on their own research, they have figured out what they need.   When they decide to contact your sales team, they have most likely decided you are one of their top three choices – you are 1 of 3.

Maybe this sounds like good news.  It’s not.  Most often the buyer views all three choices as equally acceptable, and the final decision comes down to features, functions, support—and price, price, price.  Exceptional sales representatives might be able to overcome this ‘1 of 3’ syndrome, but this is the antithesis of where you want to be with solution selling.

In this new selling environment your biggest hurdles are no longer your competitors or features and functions; they are:

  • The ability of buyers to learn on their own
  • How your company participates in that learning process

As the CMO of SAP, Jonathan Becher, said at a recent Churchill Club CMO Panel, “Being marketed TO is a mindset we need to end.  It’s helping (the buyer) discover what they want to learn about.”

Are you experiencing this phenomenon?  Has it changed your marketing strategy?

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