Are You Writing For Your Buyers?

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What specific problems do your products solve? Your buyer wants to know in plain language. Your website is just the beginning of a relationship with your buyers. For this relationship to develop and drive action you must focus on buyer problems. And you must communicate clearly how you will help your buyers. To focus on buyer problems, you must understand who your buyer is, and what problems they have.

Many marketers, especially business-to-business technology companies don’t understand their buyers, or how their products solve customer problems. This comes across in their marketing.

Since they have to write marketing copy they list product features, talk about how great their product is, and lace liberally with impressive-sounding (but meaningless) industry jargon.

The customer is left scratching his or her head.

Don’t Hide Behind Industry Mumbo-Jumbo

Most jargon isn’t useful, it’s filler. And it turns off buyers.

David Meerman Scott, in his book the New Rules of Marketing and PR did an interesting analysis of how many useless words and phrases (gobbledegook) were being used in news releases sent to one of the North American news release wires between January and September 2006. The news release wires included in the analysis by Factiva Reputation Lab were Business Wire, Canada News Wire, CCNMathews, CommWeb.com, Market Wire, Moody’s PR News wire and Prime Newswire.

He also published the Gobbledegook Manifesto, which is an excellent read

The results were staggering. According to Meerman Scott:

  • Of just over 388,000 news releases in the nine-month period, 74,000 mentioned at least one of the gobbledegook phrases:
  • Next generation was the winner with 9,895 uses
  • Flexible, robust, world-class, scalable and easy to use, had 5,000 each
  • Cutting edge, mission critical, market leading, industry standard, turnkey and groundbreaking had between 2,000 and 5,000 each
  • And interoperable, best of breed, and user-friendly had over 1,000 uses in news releases

Remember, these are just press releases. Having reviewed many business-to-business technology websites (and their offline communications), the above didn’t surprise me one bit. After all much of the time the press release content is from the corporate website.  All the same, I took myself off to tour a few more sites to refresh my memory. I found more culprits to add to the gobbledegook  list, including:

“Leading edge technology…”

“ State of the art product…”

“World leader, internationally acclaimed….”

“World class optimized processes and functionality….”

“Packed integrated solutions…”

“Performance enhancing strategies…”

“Streamlined business processes…”

“Solutions”

“Unparalleled success…”

The list is far from exhaustive. I found several more, all of which left me scratching my head. And the reason this generic gobbledegook is so prevalent is that marketers are basing  their marketing output on their product their company and what they think buyers want to hear, rather than buyer input.

Not only does  this kind of communication make the buyer’s eyes glaze over, it fails to help the company distinguish itself from the also-rans. In short, it’s ineffective, lazy writing.

Well, It’s The Technology Industry…Right?

Technology companies in the business to business space may be the worst culprits as far as marketing to and  writing for their buyers goes.

However, insular industry jargon is alive and well in all industries from non-profits, to banking to consulting, to the marketing industry itself (as in “let us strategize your integrated communications process -  for optimum marketing efficiency…”). It also shows up on corporate overview pages, home pages, product pages, as well as in marketing magazines.

A Simple Solution

Take another look at your website pages (all of them), offline communications and yes, your press releases too.

Scour them for industry jargon. Even better get a direct response copywriter to review your web site and other collateral. Why? Because a good Direct Response Copywriter understands that you must start with the buyer if you want your message to succeed and how to write customer-focused copy.

WARNING: your writing may be governed by larger global company branding messages, particularly if you work in a large corporation. The problem is large global messages often come across as empty and self-serving and they don’t sustain credibility. So, here’s what you can do:

  • Work first and foremost at understanding your target audience:
  • What are their problems?
  • What are their business issues?
  • What are their needs?
  • What are their emotional hot buttons?
  • What do they want?

Only once you know the answers to these questions can you start writing for your buyers. Then:

  • Put yourself in your buyers shoes and write for them
  • Tell them how you are going to solve their problem and meet their needs
  • If you are positioned as innovative, show an example of innovation, rather than saying you’re innovative
  • Is your company a leader? Present material that embodies leadership
  • Link every abstract claim to something that demonstrates that claim, don’t just make the claim

Make Use of The Social Web

Get your buyer’s input and feedback. With the Social Media tools available to any business today, including Twitter, blogs and forums, there is no excuse for not knowing what your buyer wants and speaking in plain English. Read The Gobbledegook Manifesto, which demonstrates the power of the web in getting feedback. There are many more options available to you.

Marketers – The Bottom Line

With today’s business environment there’s never been a better time to adopt a customer focused problem solving approach. In fact, you must – or prepare to be eclipsed by companies that do.

  • Focus on convincing your buyer, not touting your product or pushing your corporate message
  • Start with your buyer, not with your product
  • Go where your buyers are going
  • Listen and gather feedback, ask – use the Social Web
  • Speak in Plain English
  • Use straight talk

What do you think? Agree/disagree? What else should marketers do to create customer focused marketing? Are you a business-to-business technology marketer? How are you using Social Media in understanding your customers and prospects?

Written by Nicky Jameson

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Nicky Jameson is an urban photographer.She’s from London, England, and lives in Toronto. Her works reflect her love of architecture, historic landmarks, hidden urban gems and capturing the seemingly mundane in ways that rekindle the initial passions behind them. She uses her camera to both capture moments and frame memories. Visit her galleries at her Fine Art Website to view her photographs or purchase prints. Or engage with her on Google Plus Twitter or Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Nicky says

    @Steve – great! Glad you enjoyed it. Let me know if you think there are any points to expand on in future posts! I noticed on your site you use a great technique – using customer testimonials to tell the story. It’s a very good way to sidestep the “problem of excessive “product speak”.

  2. says

    Nicky

    thanks a lot. I really enjoyed this post and will work hard at following your guidelines.

    Picked up your feed to make sure I get the new posts every time.

    Steve