I’ve got two marketing secrets that will help non-marketers grow their businesses:
1) Marketing is not about selling, it is about communication. And most frequently, marketing is about communicating a change.
2) People do not like change.
No one wants to know about your policy change or new website, or anything your company is doing that represents a change to them – including the new product you’re offering to replace the supplier and process they have in place – unless, of course, the change was their idea.
“Forced” change is scary and destabilizing on an emotional level that we don’t often associate with business. But the truth is that every business is made up of people: people who work for the business and people who buy from it. These are the individual users of your product or service, who become your customer base – and the audience for your marketing (aka communication) program. These people will be impacted by the change you’re communicating to them, a change to the product they use, or how they use the product, or how they interact with your company.
The thing I do most often with planned communications – internal or external messaging, press releases, web copy, etc. – is adjust the tone to move the focus from the change action to the change’s impact on the audience. Because for a potential customer the most important point is … What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)
Sending a sales email? Don’t write about how awesome your company is; write about the problem the customer has and how your company solves it.
Need to communicate a staff change? Don’t focus too much on the reasons for the change, which the audience may read as a justification. Write the memo about the benefits this change will have for employees.
Issuing a press release? Remember to hit the where, when, and what – but especially why this news item is important to customers and/or the industry because of the advantages it offers.
The first building block to good business communication is understanding. Who are your customers? A harried lab manager? A small business owner trying to gain efficiency? The CFO trying to justify costs to a board of directors? A purchasing agent who values efficient ordering? Knowing who your customers are will help you to frame the information they share, because the second building block to good communication – business or personal – is listening. Listening will also improve your understanding. Your customers will tell you what their concerns and needs are. (They will even vote with their dollars!)
Good communication grows from a place of empathy. There are questions you can ask yourself that will help you express that empathy in your marketing. What would your audience be concerned about? Can any of their potential concerns be addressed? Can you show them benefits? Is this believable based on your prior actions? Will they need reassurance on some front about your stability, or that products are still available to them? What is important to this audience? How can you ensure your communication expresses those benefits to your audience?
Writing communications is a different process for you and every writer because you draw upon your own viewpoint and expertise. Some folks are naturally empathetic. Some are “just the facts, Jack”. It can be easier to start writing about the change you want to communicate, and then back into addressing what the audience might be concerned about as well as what the benefits of the change will be to your customers.
I have one more marketing secret to share. Whatever your job title is – you are Marketing. If you respond to customer emails, aka customer service, you are Marketing. If you are supervising employees – you are doing Internal Marketing in addition to your supervisory duties. (Heck, if you are a parent trying to get your kid to eat green beans – you are Marketing.)
We are all advocates and detractors, influencers and anti-influencers to a sphere of people. Those people may include family, co-workers, or customers. Remember that customer with payroll issues, and the enthusiasm you shared once you explained how the new ERP feature will run that data in half the time? That was marketing communication – specifically, product advocacy. And that’s just one example of everyday communication efforts in the workplace.
So, the next time you are planning a change in your business (or even a personal change), think about how communicating the WIIFM could help your customers embrace the change.
Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.