Marketing Mistake Part III: Wasting Time

Not knowing your audience well enough and wasting money are the first two biggest marketing mistakes. The third is wasting precious time. Opportunities to waste time are endless, but time is not.

Writing can also be a huge waste of time, especially if it does not come naturally.

Many people believe that because they can write the annual family Christmas letter they are good writers. That is like saying that you’re qualified to be an accountant because you can balance your checkbook.

Ineffective content wastes time. Always assume you have one shot to reach a reader. Most people will not read your material over a second time to understand it – especially on web pages where the first mental inpatient reaction can involuntarily click the mouse elsewhere.

Besides failing to get your message across in a compelling way, ineffective content risks unintended consequences like misleading reader.

Think of the last time you were staring at a blank screen wondering how to get started with whatever you needed to write. You looked at the clock and noticed that somehow another half an hour had gone by. You had only a couple of sentences to show for that half hour, and it was obvious that the sentences didn’t communicate what you truly wanted to say.

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Many people believe that because they can write the annual family Christmas letter they are good writers. That is like saying that you’re qualified to be an accountant because you can balance your checkbook.

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Perhaps it was a difficult memo to employees or a letter to clients about a change in management. Or maybe you have written so many marketing letters or materials for the same product and/or service that you need someone objective to breathe some fresh life into the text.

Lipold Communications specializes in business-to-business communications services. Business communicators are a rare breed. They are practical enough to understand the business world, but creative enough to offer innovative ways to make a point without pushing too far.

When you hire Lipold Communications, we will ask you about your audience, the purpose of the work product and necessary information. We also pay special attention to how you express yourself. If we have a better approach, we will explain why.

Next week I will cover the 4th biggest marketing mistake: Not investing in business fundamentals. These include business, marketing and communication plans.

In the meantime, try this: Keep track of how much time you spend writing. How could your time have been better spent? Please let me know what you think by writing me at Annmarie@lipoldcommunications.

Marketing Mistake 1: Not Knowing the Audience

Companies waste millions of dollars on ineffective marketing and communications efforts. While I cannot back this up with a study, anecdotal evidence and firsthand observation are on my side.

To stop the nonsense, I offer my list of the top five biggest marketing mistakes I’ve seen. Enjoy!

Biggest Mistake #1: Not knowing the audience and their needs well enough.

To reach your targeted audiences, you have to know them. Do you?

One of my clients thought they knew. My research, however, revealed that the company’s client needs vary by circumstance (such as company size, corporate philosophy and outsourcing appetite). I suggested tailoring services and product offerings not just by category, but by situation. Developing customer profiles helps assure you are reaching the right audience with the appropriate message.

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Do your materials help your prospective and current clients see why
they must have your products and/or services?

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I interviewed another client’s customers to discover their perception of its products and services. The customers were indeed very satisfied with the product and customer service. But, due to a merger, they were confused about the client’s name. The customers did not care. They were happy to know who to call to get what they need. Such results still call for a branding effort.

What do your clients need? What are they worried about? Of course they are looking to save money and time while boosting the bottom line. Who isn’t? But what particular challenges do they face? Does your message and supporting material clearly show — not just tell— the value you add?

Can you explain the value-added of your wares in a clear, succinct and specific manner that transcends empty buzzwords and promises?

Too often, marketing and communications materials are written from a general and corporate point of view. Do your materials help your prospective and current clients see why they must have your products and/or services? Have you actually satisfied the questions your customers want answered?

As an outsider looking in at my customers’ operations, I have the fresh look of their customers’ perspective. I write material that aims to give satisfactory answers. What is more customer-focused than that?

These basic customer questions are:

1) What in heck is it?
2) Why is this a must-have for my business?
3) What is so great and special about it?
4) How will it make my job easier?
5) How will it improve or support a better bottom line?

I often suggest graphic representations as another way to get your point across. People with high spatial intelligence are likely to get the point more quickly with effective graphic representation near the text.

For example, consider the insurance agent who is trying to sell more umbrella coverage. First, of course, he must describe what umbrella coverage does and why many people need it. But he can communicate the need more effectively with a graphic that shows the limits of auto and home insurance and the more comprehensive coverage that results from an umbrella policy placed over the others. (Here I refer you to Aartrijk, www.Aartrijk.com, which specializes in branding and public relations for insurance agents.)

(To learn more about thinking like your customer, check out my blog on customer empathy https://annmariecommunicatesinsurance.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/concerning-customer-empathy/.)

Next week, I will cover Top Marketing Mistake # 2: Spending Too Much Money.

In the meantime, have fun!

Business Lessons from Making Thanksgiving Dinner

Since it is Thanksgiving, I want to express my appreciation to my clients and those who support my career. There are many reasons for being thankful.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a great excuse to make a huge dinner of comfort food and then enjoy it for the weekend. Add in friends and family and what is not to love?
Since my mind is on turkey dinner and business at the same time, I thought it would be fun to share business lessons that can be gleaned from preparing thanksgiving dinner.
1) Look at the big picture and plan accordingly. Thanksgiving dinner requires a lot of thought to have all the dishes ready at the same time. It’s a killer to make thanksgiving dinner in one day, so stagger the work. For projects, start backwards with the desired goals and make a schedule.
2) Know Your Audience. Just like it is important to know the preferences of guests, make sure you know those of your customers.
3) Turkey, like great content, should not be wasted but re-purposed. When investing in a large editorial project, thought piece or a series of brochures and web text, think of other vehicles to feed content. In the same way, instead of trying to eat a bunch of turkey in a couple days, cube some and freeze in one cup portions for future meals. I have used cubed turkey for burritos, stews and any dish that calls for chicken. Don’t forget to have some onion, carrot and celery available to boil the carcass to make a freezable soup base.
The same is true for repurposing content. Don’t throw away the editorial content that ends up on the cutting room floor because it might be useable for future projects. Another tip: brine the turkey overnight for moistness and better flavor.
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Making thanksgiving dinner is a creative process just like making business plans, marketing plans and value propositions.
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4) Know where it is worth it to cut corners. Why serve a can of cranberry sauce when you can easily make it by boiling cranberries, water and sugar and even add your own special touch of orange zest? It does not take long and the results are worth it.
5) Know where to cut corners. Making homemade pie crust is a pain. When I am making the dinner, I buy pre-made refrigerated crust for pie.
6) Be flexible. Some customers want material online and others in print. Some of my crowd wants sweet potatoes with marshmallows and others, candied walnuts. My dish will have half of each.
7) Don’t be afraid to try something new. This year, I am making shredded brussels sprouts and red swiss chard. It’s healthy and has that holiday look of green and red. In the same way, challenge yourself to try something new, like initiating or optimizing your social media opportunities.
8) Be smart with stuffing or it can turn deadly. Chances are less so when you’ve done your homework. And, yes, you can still stuff a turkey without worries of semolina poisoning. Make your stuffing of choice the night before so it will be stuffed in the turkey at refridgerator temperature.
9) Get by with a little help from your friends. Accept dishes from guests, but make sure they are not essential to the meal in case plans fall through.
10) Have fun and enjoy! Making thanksgiving dinner is a creative process just like making business plans, marketing plans and value propositions. Make sure everyone has a seat at the table and brainstorm away!
Happy Thanksgiving!