Marketing Messages That Are Way Too Complex
In part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of finding your unique voice. Great marketing really does start there. If you missed it, make sure and read my post on identifying your unique selling proposition.
In part 2 of the pitfall series, let’s turn our attention to a big problem. It’s a problem I see with well over 80% of clients (not exaggerating a bit). What’s the problem? – Marketing messages that are WAY TOO COMPLEX. It’s an easy trap to fall into – and worst of all, most clients have no idea they’ve even fallen into the trap! It’s the classic case of being too close to the issue… not “seeing the forest for the trees.”
Before we address why it happens and what we can do about it, let’s take a quick second to discuss why simplicity and clarity are so important to marketing. People write entire books on this topic, but I’m just going to boil it down to a quick example for this post. Imagine you’re the CEO of a construction business and you’re looking for a good accounting firm. You visit two websites. Here’s is the headline copy on each homepage…
Welcome to ABC Company. Through our specialized construction accounting expertise and the team mentality of our staff, we help you optimize your company’s tax strategies through thorough analysis, detailed planning, and proper execution.
Let us tend to the “heavy lifting” when it comes to your accounting needs!
Not sure about you, but I’ll probably quickly bail from website 1. As the CEO of a construction company, the LAST thing I need is more complexity – and these guys want to take me deep into the weeds right away – I’m GONE. Website 2, on the other hand, hits me at a gut level. I quickly get it. I’d like to at least spend a few more seconds to see what they’re all about.
So Why Do We Over Complicate Things?
I think there are three primary reasons…
THE EXPERTISE TRAP: When it comes to small business marketing, the “brains behind the operation” is usually heavily involved in generating content (website copy, brochures, whitepapers, etc.). Often this is the CEO and/or senior leaders in the company. The good news is that these folks usually know the market, the business and the company’s products inside and out. The bad news is they’re usually not skilled marketers. Subject-matter-experts and marketers are two very different animals.
What’s the result of having subject-matter-experts driving the marketing content? It’s marketing that is very company and product focused – marketing that is quick to dive into all the details – marketing that tends to be more COMPANY focused rather than PROSPECT focused. What seems to be a very simple concept or value proposition to the subject-matter-expert within the company, is often a confusing heap of words to the prospect. It’s not the case 100% of the time, but more often than not.
THE BUZZWORD TRAP: If you want to make sure you overcomplicate your message (and at the same time, sound just like all your competitors), this is the way to do it! Don’t assume all your prospects use, understand, or appreciate all the industry speak.
I was in the HR industry for many years. One of the terms I always thought was just plain awful was “human capital.” I can’t tell you how many vendors helped their clients “fully leverage their most important asset – their human capital.” What the %^$# does that even mean!???? If you’re going to help me reduce my employee turnover, just tell me that! If you’re going to help my sales people sell more stuff, just tell me that. Ughhh…
THE FEATURE DUMP TRAP: This is a classic pitfall. The features of your product or service are important. There’s no debating that. However, resist the urge to lead with this. You’re first priority in marketing should always be to get your prospect’s attention. What’s the most effective way to make this happen? It’s by focusing on the END GAME – what your product will actually achieve for the prospect. Introducing features before you’ve set the “value hook” is a sure fire way to loose potential customers!
So How Do I Simplify My Marketing Messages?
I’m pretty passionate about this topic, and it’s a theme that underscores a lot of what I share personally with clients, and publically on my blog. If you need help in this area, I’d encourage you to take 2 seconds to subscribe to my blog.
For today though, I want to leave you with a real simple tip. If you always keep this top of mind, you’ll be in good shape. I call it the 5th Grader Test.
No matter how innovative or complex your product or service might be, you MUST be able to boil it down to terms that any 5th grader can understand. Forget about the fact that your prospects might be college educated, might be physicians, or might literally be rocket scientists. You’re initial pitch must still hit them at a gut level – using words and phrasing that are easily comprehended by a bunch of 10 year olds.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? In practice though, it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. You’ll be surprised at how challenged you are by all the “baggage” you bring to the task of writing good marketing copy – your own expertise, your industry’s buzzwords, and your product’s great features! Resist the urge to go there in your initial pitch. Instead, think like a 5th grader!