Straight-Talk Marketing Rules
Are you not sold on solution selling?
Done right, yes. But there's a trend today in which many marketers and sales-enablement programs focus on talking too much about the problems a customer might be facing. I find that if you spend too much time talking about obvious issues they confront every day, you're preaching to the choir and losing their interest. It all comes down to being respectful of a prospect's time, and adding value in the exchange, not repeating the obvious.
How has your “breaking through the clutter” message been received?
The hardest part is that old habits die hard. I think intuitively people say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” But it's been difficult to get a marketing organization to truly practice this.
How has sales responded to straight-talk marketing?
The key to success with sales is to give them confidence. If you publish materials that have lots of fluff and don't say much, they won't understand the subject matter that they're portraying, and they won't feel confident. This notion of breaking it down with straight talk really seems to give our salespeople the confidence they want and need.
What's an example of straight talk?
Most times, a prospect wants to know that we provide infrastructure and feel confident that our offerings can be trusted to run. We specialize in running and managing infrastructure, and we're better than anyone else. It works. That's what they need to hear. Does that have an impact on the business? Of course. I can go there, but let's talk about the fact that we provide “five 9s” of reliability. Let's talk about the fact that our service-level agreements are second to none in the industry. That's what they really want to hear from us.
What are the most formidable challenges you encounter in implementing and sustaining this approach?
It really is a discipline that you have to practice and stay on top of. As an industry we all constantly watch our competitors, and it creates a kind of vicious cycle where we copy a lot from each other. I always say that messaging and positioning is cheap because if it's done well, your competitors will have it in 30 days. That's why the same fluff tends to work its way back into the verbiage. To prevent that I've gone so far as to take pieces of our [marketing] content without identifying the source and then read them out loud in a group setting. When the content is completely disconnected from what it was supposed to talk about, it makes the point that we need to stay vigilant.
4 Ways to Make Marketing Messages That Matter
1. Go to the source: Jackson personally reviews nearly every core messaging and positioning document in the marketing function and edits the language so that it's clear, brief, and compelling.
2. Don't dwell on problems: Jackson advises his team not to spend too much time writing about the problems that Rackspace offerings address; prospects and customers are well aware of their problems, and their attention wanes when pitches overemphasize these issues.
3. Boost the sales team's confidence: The best sales-enablement content makes sales more confident that they understand what they're selling. Straight talk—this is what we do, this is why we do it better, and this is why it matters to customers—is the best way to cultivate the understanding that makes salespeople more confident.
4. Vigilantly monitor for ‘‘fluff creep'': Jackson notices that fluffy language continually worms its way back into messaging. To guard against this, he regularly reads aloud to his team anonymous pieces of content that has succumbed to fluff creep.