Archive for March, 2012

Laughing Women In Audience
If your marketing content, in print or in person, is perceived by your customers as something other than what they’re used to getting, are they more likely to pay attention and remember? A gathering of skeptical New York corporadoes did double-takes recently when Gary Lyons of The Actors Institute told them how this was, in fact, the essence of getting any audience to remember anything you’re trying to convey.

To be clear, he wasn’t pushing frivolous theatrics or stage gimmickry. He was speaking on behalf of what storytellers from Aesop to Shakespeare to Don Hewitt, founder of CBS’ Sixty Minutes, have always known: an audience of any kind or size responds best to a story well told.  One that engages them viscerally, through the senses, as well as intellectually.

Not exactly groundbreaking revelations, especially today when so-called “storytellers” abound in marketing circles.  But the story-telling exercise he put them through raised their eyebrows. And then their voices.  The corner-office types bridled at his thesis insofar as any boardroom pitch was concerned.  But Lyons, used to heckling, held his ground.  By the time he was finished, he had a rapt audience convinced of the no-nonsense practicality of his storytelling formula: the language of the senses, or LOTS.

We won’t go so far as to say that your next case study should contain more sensuality, but Lyons’ message is nonetheless pertinent to content generators. Web site visitors, fact-gatherers and content consumers are human beings first and foremost, no matter what stage of the purchase decision they happen to be in.  To engage them, you must inject into your content any and all elements and anecdotes they can relate to and identify with. Case studies, for example, must present a story of how something was seriously amiss before the arrival and implementation of your offering.  The narrative must speak the language of conflict at some level: how the problem was becoming intolerable to people just like the reader.  And then how your solution delivered an almost palpable resolution of the issues that had so troubled the struggling customer before you rode to the rescue.  This thread must begin at the beginning of the piece and carry through to the summary.

If you prefer something less theatrical,
there is always WSWNW, as in the “What, So What and Now What” approach that business tomes have merchandised for many years.  But we like the LOTS directive of gripping the content consumer by the senses. It smacks of Hewitt’s memoir, the title of which should be the mantra of all content marketers: Tell Me A Story.

Product, Find Your

Savvy marketers understand that aging is great for wine and cheese, not for content on their web sites.  The implications for your content-marketing effort should be as plain as your website analytics.  Keeping all marketing content fresh, compelling and specifically relevant to more informed and better connected customers is the shortest distance to them.  Or, more accurately, the shortest route from them to you.

There’s no shortage of commentary about the effect of technology on customer behavior, but when a CEO like Zappos’ Tony Hsieh speaks it pays to pay attention:

“The future of business isn’t just about the latest technology”, said Hsieh (pronounced Shay). “It’s about market disruption and how an organization recognizes and adapts to new opportunities. If they fail to adapt, businesses will succumb to ‘digital Darwinism‘ “, he said in reference to the concept coined by author Brian Solis: that technology has given rise to a much more connected and informed customer whose behavior is changing.

A big part of this change is how these new customers find and share information amongst themselves in their purchase-decision process today. How they find the information they’re looking for is a direct result of how savvy you are in accommodating their searches and their content-consumption preferences.

It used to be that giving customers what they wanted was the key to their satisfaction, as the first step to their loyalty.  While this remains true as ever in technology marketing, there is an added requirement today that’s a function of the technology itself: we must reach out to those customers only in ways they prefer to be reached.  Don’t be digitally Darwin-ized.  Create content your customers can find on their own and want to consume. And the more often the better.

Empty Chair At Desk In Cubicle

Patrick May’s take on techie-speak yesterday was yet another reminder of language getting in the way of clear speaking and thinking.  The concept of “TLA” the initials for three-letter acronyms, is a long-standing techie tradition.  TLAs are used in marketing techno-speak the way Howard Cosell used to throw around multisyllabic words and ornate phrases.

But there was method to Cosell’s legendary loquaciousness (go ahead, look it up).   He was trying, and succeeding, to differentiate his brand of sportscasting from the drab uniformity of jock-speak and coach-isms.

It’s just the opposite in Silicon Valley, where so many techno-marketeers want their palaver to be consistent with what they hear in the echo chambers of their cubicles and conference rooms.  Too often, what we end up with is incomprehensible, convoluted drivel that’s counterproductive to the key process of successful marketing, namely, communication.

We have two antidotes to the brain-suffocation caused by terminal TLA.

1. Speak and write your main thoughts in plain English, a language honed over the centuries to communicate with vivid expression.  If you must use three-letter acronyms be certain that the concepts behind the words can be understood by a reasonably intelligent 12-year-old.  Think we’re overstating it?  Peter Lynch, peerless investor in the Warren Buffett league, used to say he never bought a stock whose business he couldn’t explain to his seventh-grade son — an engaging and intelligent lad, but not a child prodigy.

2. Spend less time in your cubicle and more time out in the marketplace talking to the people who buy and use your products.  Get them to describe how your offerings are making their business lives simpler, more productive, more satisfying.  How do they express themselves?

In the words of Hal Gregersen, professor of leadership at INSEAD, the solution is to leave the cocoon of an office: “Observe the people using your products and services. Pay attention. Second, network with people who don’t look, think, act, or dress like you”.  The latter may not always be easy to do in the homogenized Valley.  But where there’s a will there’s a way. Or,”T.A.W.” as some might put it.

(This post appeared today on The Write Stuff, the blog of the technology writing service Write Angle.)