I regularly drive past the office of a certain doctor looking to pump up his business with new patients. His yard signs say, “Accepting New Patients”.
I’ve never liked those signs. They make it seem as if I’d be lucky to be accepted. Personally, I prefer a doctor to do more than accept me; I like a doctor who is happy to have patients and interested in their well-being as humans, not sales numbers. “Welcoming New Patients”. The selection of a single verb changes both the tone and intent of the messaging. That modified language also signals to me, as a prospective patient, a more receptive attitude at that practice.
Language matters. And it’s an integral part of a communication plan.
In the context of digital marketing, visuals, language, and audience are the three factors to be tested in the process of developing a successful plan. You test a particular image with different language options on different audiences. You test the language options on different audiences. You test. You measure. The immediacy of the test results is one of the reasons that digital marketing can be so effective.
This is what marketing does, measuring successes and making improvements. Perhaps imperceptibly to the eyes of someone without marketing experience, a brand communication plan is at work. It is framing the brand’s message in visuals and language and choice of channel for reaching the audience.
Communication is the thread that pulls the brand together, and language is the needle.
The language draws the audience into the message.
The language offers them next steps.
Recently, I sat in a meeting to discuss an upcoming conference program. A hot topic for the discussion was, “What should be on websites,” and most of the discussion focused on the digital aspects. In this marketer’s opinion, what should be posted on websites is well-planned communication.
Creating a business’s website is not a technical effort. The website is often the first touch of a company’s brand; the technical aspects can be hired. A graphic artist can design the look of the site. A competent programmer can be hired to program the site. An SEO specialist can be hired to improve the site. But for a website to be effective, its communicative effect must be part of a cohesive plan.
Good website design is the outgrowth of a communication plan. The frame of the website should follow a logical pattern of information. Content must be created with the audience in mind; both the format and the language must resonate with the audience.
A communication plan is something you cannot hire for a single project, and many details of marketing rely on such a plan. One cannot run a successful advertising or social media campaign without a communication plan. Unfortunately, communication strategy often seems to be the last thing industrial companies consider.
Among the common explanations I’ve heard about industrial marketing hires, freelancer or staff:
● “We hired an intern for our social media.” (That’s still not a communications strategy and you’ve put someone “green” on the front line of your brand image, someone who may not understand important aspects of your industry or company culture. Their communication on your social media will reflect that lack of understanding.)
● “We hired someone to do digital ads.” (Ads are just one part of reaching an audience. How will that digital ad campaign be supported at events, in print ads, with sales materials - basically how does it fit in the rest of the communication plan?)
To get started creating a communication plan, think about your business. What words describe the company or product, or service. Create a list of keywords for use in sales materials, websites, and social media communications. Review a short description of the business to be supplied to media or used in trade show guides. Create talking points about the company for use by sales and customer service staff. Keep your audience and what action you’d like them to take when seeing your materials in mind while creating these materials.
Next, consider your communication channels, which channels will be used, and what tone will be set for each one. (Pro-tip: It can be helpful to chart this information.) Channels include media outlets/interviews, presence at events, on social media or in ads. Plan out what types of information may be used in press releases or announcements. Determine what information - client stories, employees’ successes, etc. - will be shared on which social media channels. Once the company’s communications plan is in place, review the communication plan versus the company’s strategic plan and make refinements to align the communications strategy.
For B2B companies, it’s critical to look beyond an individual campaign and focus on brand reputation as part of the communication strategy. Buyers are not always receptive to making a purchase but they should still be aware of your brand as a purchase consideration, and brand marketing achieves that goal. Building a brand reputation and creating awareness of a brand start with communication and the critical element of language.
Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Manager at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.