Is Your Marketing Just Blah Blah Blah?

28 October, 2011

You’ve been asked the dreaded “so, what do you do?” and your mind jumps to one of a zillion responses. How do you answer that question in a way that gets the attention of your listener and doesn’t sound like a whole lot of blah?

The same holds true for our brands. How do we tell our customers and prospects what we’re about without boring them half to death? There are things they’re interested in and things they aren’t. Our job as marketers is to work out which is which and then communicate the good stuff well.

So far on my expedition as a business owner I’ve learnt one terrifying truth: my target market doesn’t care about me (or you for that matter). They don’t even care about the service I provide. What they care about is the result of my services and how it benefits them. They want me to make them look good. Full stop.

Here’s an example.

Imagine you’re a retail store selling women’s clothing. Unless your customer has trained as a fashion designer or is an aspirant stylist, you’re quite safe to assume that what she wants is not another black dress. Whether she can articulate it or not, what your customer wants is to feel skinny and sexy (or stylish or sophisticated or stunningly beautiful). You promise her that and you get the sale.

So if that’s what it takes, then what’s your ‘skinny and sexy’?

Work it out like this:

  1. List all the features of your product or service that you know are tangibly true. In our example above you might list ‘dress’, ‘black’ and maybe ‘short’ or whatever.
  2. Now write down what that means: ‘feminine’, ‘slimming’, ‘shows off great legs’.
  3. Now end it off with the emotional benefit to the customer: ‘customer feels skinny and sexy’.

Now that’s the bit that your customer is interested in. She doesn’t give two scraps about the fact that it was steam-pressed by the owner on her day off, or that it was cut on the bias for extra stretch and comfort.

What you’re trying to do at this point is get your customers and prospects to peep over the wall. You’re in the ‘attraction’ phase of your communication, and your only objective is to get them interested enough to have a look. This is called Feature|Benefit communication and is one of the most repeated rules of compelling marketing – to stress benefits, not features, because that’s what will prompt the purchase.

But this is often not as simple as it seems. Sometimes we’re tempted to offer fake benefits to our customers, which is a sure way to kill any interest in our brand. Top copywriter Clayton Makepeace uses this headline as an example:

Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!

This might sound valuable but actually there’s not a single real benefit in the headline. We can test this through a simple mechanism Makepeace calls the “forehead slap” test. In other words, have you ever slapped yourself on the forehead, and exclaimed “Wow… I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!” No? So using a fake benefit to get someone to pull out their money to buy that so-called “benefit” will be tricky.

Here’s how Makepeace identifies the real benefit hidden in that headline:

Nobody really understands why they need to balance their blood sugar levels. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes. This is the true benefit that the example product offers.

To ensure your communication is effective, you need to:

  1. Show that you understand the world of your prospects (their dreams, hopes, fears, desires).
  2. Show that you can make it better (bring your true benefits to life) not with your history, credentials or the award you won for your customer satisfaction program.

In other words, you need to understand what problem you solve, what pain you remove and what pleasure you create. Contrary to popular belief, as human beings most of our decisions are motivated by the right side of our brain which are only later justified with left-brain logical processes. So the trick is to first help the right brain create desire, then satisfy the left brain with features and hard facts (the ‘meaningful conversation’ stage) so that you turn your prospect into a customer.

Whatever business you thought you were in, you’re not. You’re a problem solver. And that’s the only thinking that will move your brand from blah to star.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.