Thursday, August 20, 2015

7 Tips to Make Your Communications More Customer Focused

By Cheryl Bascomb

Director of Marketing  and Business Development

We’ve all met him.  The guy who talks on and on and on…about himself. No one wants to be stuck talking to That Guy, and your potential customers don’t want to read marketing copy that’s all about you.

So here are some suggestions to avoid being “That Guy” and to instead offer your prospects material they’ll want to read:

Take the reader’s perspective: Make your content relevant to the readers. Know what they care about and why they care about it. If you know what’s important to your customers, you can reframe your strengths to match their concerns in ways they understand.

For example, as an audit firm, we find it is very important to our bank clients that the people assigned to their audits know the banking industry, the myriad regulations and the implications to their financials, the type of IT security issues they face, and what their customers and regulators are asking of them. So we tell them, using blogs, collateral, testimonials, web copy, published articles, and ads that we have people who have deep experience in the banking industry and the bench strength to make sure that the teams that work with them are made up of bank experts. We go on to link them to articles we’ve written, positions we’ve taken with the regulators, and tips on banking IT security. We make sure our content aligns with their issues.

Taking the client’s perspective also means speaking in the terms your client uses. Although you may call them senior living facilities, your clients call them nursing homes. Read your copy aloud to a person who does not share the same expertise. That way you and the listener can hear the jargon or internal references more easily.

Don’t make your reader work: Just because you’re clear about how your company’s best attributes solve a problem for your customers, that doesn’t mean the reader sees it that way. Don’t be afraid to spell it out.

In our company’s proposals, if we say that every client has direct access to the partners and senior experts on the engagement, we mean we have the breadth within each of our industry areas to provide you with senior people who know your business and environment. You won’t engage with only mid-level staff who are doing the work in the field while the partners manage many teams far and wide.

However, what the customer might think is: “Your company is too small or too expensive for my needs if the partners are doing all the work.” Don’t make the reader make an inferential leap to understand how your skills translate to benefits for him or her. They may not arrive at the conclusion you assume they will. A word of caution: when fully explaining something, be careful to educate and not lecture your reader.

Make reasonable, meaningful claims: Of course you put the customer first. Of course you’re committed to quality. Of course your employees make all the difference. These claims, while true, are not meaningful differentiators between you and your competitors. They’re expected of you and every one of your competitors and are usually too vague for a client to understand how she or he will experience it for themselves.

Not sure if your claims are unsubstantiated or too broad? Take the “opposite” test: What does it sound like if you claim the reverse? “We put the customer last (or even second).” “We don’t give a fig for quality; we’re all about speed.” Does it make sense at all? If not, come up with a claim that sets you apart in a way that the customer understands. Alternatively, you can back up broad claims with specific (and verifiable) data.

For instance, a company could back up a claim of quality focus by saying, “We have an entire department devoted to testing new products for durability, fit, and tensile strength. Every size and every design change is tested for xx weeks before it can be released to our stores.” That tells the reader: “We’re serious about quality.” So does a no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. Choose your weapon, but be specific.

Own your differences: There are things in your corporate culture, your marketing strategy, or even your location that set you apart. One consulting firm created a page on their website with rainbow colors surrounding their company logo. This told the world that they were proud of the fact that the company had always offered benefits to employees and their same-sex partners. Does this appeal to everyone? No, but it makes a statement to the government agencies who make up the lion’s share of the firm’s business and perhaps others who share the company’s values.

Use imagery: Break up your copy with images that do more than decorate. Use charts that tell a story—and go light on titles and explanatory copy. Create an infographic that explains a process or something you want your client to know in more detail. Show me, don’t tell me.

Images break through the clutter of information, give your material variety and visual appeal, and can catch the reader’s eye in ways that copy can’t. With more people viewing your website and your collateral on a small screen (as small as a watch in some cases), images can make your material more palatable and easier on the eyes as well.

Cover topics that may not be on your service list or the focus of what your company does: You can find expertise on topics of interest to your clients in surprising places in your company. Your business clients may need some information about systems security issues, or help creating a budget for a new line of business, or appreciate an update on the best ways to handle cranky customers or retain employees. Interview your company’s IT support, customer service, finance, or human resource departments to see what you can learn and share as helpful content.

Go where your clients go: Not sure what resonates with your clients right now or what is an emerging topic? Get ideas from the discussions they’re having on LinkedIn groups and other social media. Visit the websites of associations they belong to or the blogs and resources that appeal to that customer’s particular market segment.

You may know most of this already. But we’re not always consistent in applying what we know to what we do. I recommend that you give your marketing content a test—go to your website, pick some of your collateral material, select a couple of ads, and grab a proposal. Test each one against the seven points above. Count how many times you say “we” and “our” against how many times you say “you” and “your.” By making sure your content and your messages resonate with your customers, you go from being “That Guy” to the “Go-to Guy or Gal” who’s really got their back.

Cheryl Bascomb is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for BerryDunn, the largest independent CPA and consulting firm in Northern New England. She brings 30 years of wide-ranging marketing experience to support the professionals at BerryDunn. A versatile marketing executive and communicator, Cheryl’s marketing expertise ranges from developing marketing and sales strategy to brand management in a digital world