No B.S.—Communicate in a way clients understand

In “B.S. Detector,” a :60 spot for the Adobe Marketing Cloud suite of online measurement tools created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, an assortment of young execs are asked how their firm measures the results of its digital marketing efforts. Each marketer responds by tossing out such gibberish as “ripple effects,” “key influencers,” “cross-segment synergies,” and “360 views of the customer.” As they do so, they receive a shock from a machine that’s calibrated to penalize the usage of marketing speak—language that sounds intelligent, but means absolutely nothing.

While the spot’s humor is based on its exaggeration of reality, I think it reveals a troubling truth: Too many marketing pros are steeped in the argot of their discipline, and are literally unable to explain how their work can deliver the results their clients need in order to thrive in the marketplace.

According to author and corporate sales trainer Lee Boyan, there are three ways in which sales reps can close B2B sales: 1) They need to be able to explain how their product or service can make their clients money; 2) They have to save their clients money; or 3) They should help improve a client’s image in the marketplace. These are the essential “big three” achievement areas in which all companies must gain traction, and the “big three” results—revenue generation, cost savings, image improvement—that business owners and C-suite executives are focused upon.

Unfortunately, while many marketing pros can effortlessly sprinkle dazzling (and dizzying) buzzwords into their pitches and presentations, many are at a loss when it comes to concisely delineating how their offerings can deliver one or more of the three key results that will keep their clients operating in the black.

I’d say the reason for this disconnect is because most agency marketers have never owned or operated their own businesses. If they did, they’d realize that their clients need tools to help them make money, save money, and improve their image in the marketplace. If a marketer can’t plainly explain how a particular tool can help a client meet those needs, then it’s worthless to the client—irrespective of how successfully the tool can stimulate ripple effects, key influencers, cross segment synergies, or 360 views of the customer.

To help marketers communicate more effectively, they need to first realize that their primary function is to support their company’s sales team. Marketers must strategically identify the target buyers for their products or services, create the multimedia collateral that succinctly explains their offerings, and enunciate crystal clear value propositions that capture the deliverable benefits most appealing to potential customers—and are helpful to their company’s sales pros. If five different marketers working for the same company give five different answers about why their customers should buy their product or service—and they do so using the same kind of inane yang that’s featured in the Adobe spot—then those marketers are failing their department, their sales force, and their company overall.

To remedy this situation, marketers should spend more time learning about the unique needs, goals, and challenges of their customers and less time inhaling the sweet smoke of their own overcooked, overdone marketing slang. By putting themselves into a buyer’s mindset, they’d realize that a simply stated description of the specific “big three” benefits that a product or service can deliver is much more convincing than a string of moist, meaningless marketing mush that’s so devoid of substance, it could be used to describe just about anything.

Another option would be for all agency and in-house marketing directors to borrow Adobe’s B.S. detector and hook up each member of his/her team to it. After a few painful rounds of responding to the question “What are the benefits that our product/service delivers to our customers?” staffers would eventually figure out how to provide the correct answer. The result would be a reduction in the cliché quotient, an increase in brevity and clarity, and a much more effective—and profitable – way of communicating.

Rafe Gomez is a principal at VC Inc. Marketing. Follow him @vcincmarketing.

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