We spend a lot of time looking for ways to differentiate our clients based on what they do. Sometimes – surprisingly often – it’s really hard to do because the company is operating in a crowded, noisy, mature market where everybody is making the same claims.
What’s become clear to us when working with clients in markets like these is that the way you market is as important as what you market. How many times have you read the same hackneyed phrases on a B2B tech vendor’s site (‘total solution’, ‘industry leader’, ‘our mission is to make you successful’, ‘total cost of ownership’…), all written in a dry, jargon-rich, third person style that has your eyes drooping after just a few short dreary seconds?
Back in the day, vendors used to be the only source of information. Now, the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, combined with the spread of social networks, means buyers can afford to be sceptical of vendors’ claims – particularly in the early information-gathering stages of a sale. And the fragmentation of media means that the sources of more impartial information and analysis – often from peers in the same industry via blogs – have spiralled. The result: vendors have to earn the right for prospects to read what they’re saying in an environment that’s becoming more and more hostile. The fight for credibility starts with the first sentence and is hard fought until the very last. Because you’ve got something to sell, there’s a big, red, neon sign on your head that sizzles, “Caveat Emptor”. That raises the communication bar to new levels.
You can get close to getting over that bar by the way you write and communicate. In our experience, three principles are critical:
Humanity – your targets are likely to be humans first and software engineers or mobile infrastructure specialists second. If we write our copy for people – in the first person, with clarity and humour and an in an independent tone of voice that doesn’t cram your widget into every sentence – we can come across as people they might like to do business with.
Empathy – Marketing via the web today is about having conversations rather than broadcasting. Conversations involve listening to what the other guy is saying. Putting your own goals aside to demonstrate that you understand what your prospective customers are up against will earn you marks from your increasingly sceptical audience.You may be desperate to talk about your vision, your technology and the fact that you have a new and highly experienced CEO. Suppress the urge. Your prospects couldn’t care less. They want to talk about - and learn more about how you can help them with – their problems, their challenges, their opportunities and the very real things that stand in their way.
Confidence – People buy from confident companies. You’re probably really great at what you do. Why not act like it? In a world where people are short on time and have a dizzying range of information sources to choose from, confidence feels like an important brand value. If you don’t have confidence in what you say, how can a prospect?
Communications that stick to these three principles are always better than those that don’t.