A short while ago, I gave a presentation at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery in Preston. It was part of a book launch and, together with another author, I was talking to a group of aspiring writers about some of the practical steps they could take to find their works an audience.
While giving the talk, it struck me that the advice I was giving to some of Lancashire’s would-be novelists could apply equally to many of the county’s businesses.
Start with the customer
One of the key messages of that evening was to remember your audience. The world’s best-selling books are not necessarily the best written, the cleverest or the most carefully researched. The single most important consideration when chasing sales is that there needs to be a demand for whatever it is you’re producing. It must be of genuine interest to your target audience.
That’s a principle that runs throughout the marketing discipline. A product won’t take off if people don’t want it, no matter how ingenious or ground-breaking it is. It goes back to the old business adage: “don’t sell what you know you can make; make what you know you can sell.”
It’s good advice of course. Too often, businesses become introspective. Impressed with their own technical capability, they allow it drive the new product development process rather than a clear understanding of what customers actually want (and how much they’re prepared to pay for it.) Market demand should always be the starting point, and just because you can produce something, it doesn’t always mean you should.
The same principle also applies to marketing content, and particularly to the written word. Content should be relevant and interesting; it should reward the reader’s time by giving them information or advice that they can take away.
To make sure that happens, a good copywriter should be imagining any piece of text from a customer’s perspective; the sort of customer who will be reading it and asking the question ‘what’s in this for me?’ It’s an important change of perspective.
Cut to the chase
People tend to be short of time, particularly at work, so they want their information quickly and clearly. It should be obvious, but being slow to deliver relevant, useful information is a mistake made by too many web developers and brand-owners.
How many websites and sales brochures begin with some long, self-congratulatory spiel? How many of them include narcissistic expressions such as “we pride ourselves on…” or launch into some long company history before delivering the information for which the reader actually came?
That’s a failure of perspective. It’s saying “here’s what we want to tell you” rather than thinking first about what the customer needs and wants to hear.
Be valuable; be useful
There’s a useful reminder about the sorts of material that marketers should aim to deliver. Just three words:
“Provide; don’t pitch.”
I forget where I first heard that – the phrase isn’t mine – but I’ve been re-quoting it in PR and marketing seminars ever since. What it’s emphasising is the importance of being useful to your audience. If they can see an obvious reward in spending time maintaining a dialogue with you, then that’s a relationship that’s probably going somewhere.
Of course, it demands that you’ve spent some time getting to know your target market but that should be a given. No one should ever start in business without that basic understanding.
In short, if you know your audience and you’re providing something of value, then there is something ‘in it’ for them and they’ll willingly give you their time. If you’re simply pitching to them and showing no regard for their needs and priorities, then don’t be surprised if they quietly slink away.
* * *
If you’d like help with a marketing communications strategy, customer research or copywriting, please get in touch. You can call us on 01772 866134.