MRP Lesson 3: Watch your tone!

So, now that you’ve seen what kinds of marketing materials prospects do want (and aren’t getting) and why they’re more effective than traditional marketing communications, you need to know how to make this new approach work for your business.

One thing you’ll have to understand from the get-go — you can’t come at this process with the same mindset you’ve been operating with before.

A word about tone

To see what kind of tone these materials will require, try this little experiment: Pick up your current brochure (or whatever marketing materials you have) and read it all the way through (even if you wrote it).

Now, pick up a newspaper or one of the major news weeklies (Newsweek, The Economist, etc.)  Compare the language.

You’ll probably notice several things:

  1. One’s salesy, the other’s factual. It’s not that your brochure doesn’t contain bona fide facts, but the way they’re presented is different.  What you’re noticing is the difference between a journalist’s style of writing and a marketer’s.  Which sounds more authoritative to your ear?
  2. One tells only one side of the story, the other includes the larger context. Your brochure is all about your solution and your company.  The news piece adds background and balance.  If you were about to make a critical decision, which would you find more useful?
  3. One’s padded, the other’s stripped. Traditional marketing materials are big on superlatives and jargon.  News pieces, not so much.  The shorter paragraphs, more direct sentences, and plain-spoken vocabulary of the news item are a lot easier to read, aren’t they?

While you don’t want your information-based marketing materials to read just like a daily newspaper, a factual journalistic tone (rather than a more salesy one) is the end of the spectrum you’ll be aiming for.

Customer relationships are more crucial than ever

Now that you understand the tone your marketing materials will need to achieve, you’ll need to think about the content.  And where’s that content going to come from?  Your customers, mostly.  (Remember what I said about these pieces having a “strong narrative”?  Most of those stories will be about your customers’ success in using your product or service.)

But information-based marketing collateral demands a more substantive relationship with your customer than a “hey, can you give us a testimonial” request at the end of the game.  If you’re looking to use customer success stories as the basis for information-based marketing pieces, you’ll need to stay engaged with the customer as the story unfolds in real time.

After all, it will be their story you’ll be telling, not just your own.

Involving your sales team

In this effort, your sales team will become a critical link to these customer stories.  Their involvement should include:

  • Pinpointing great stories-in-the-making with new customers
  • Identifying specific requests from prospects they’re in contact with (such as a need for a success story for a customer in a particular industry, a white paper on a hot technology, etc.)
  • Greasing the wheels with customer contacts and pre-selling them on the idea of publicizing their success story

Your salesforce will be the first to recognize the power of information-based marketing, and your biggest allies in this process.  Use them wisely.

Coming up with a plan

Even before you decide to write a particular marketing piece, you should take inventory of what assets you have already (satisfied customers who are willing to help) and what assets you need (marketing pieces that address particular prospect needs).

Again, your sales team, with their “in the trenches” experience, can be a huge help here.  Do some brainstorming with them on what written sales tools would help them connect with your best prospects.

And think long term, too.  Once you’ve got some ideas down, put together an editorial calendar and plan your marketing collateral projects out over the next year.  A steady effort here, with some room for on-the-fly adjustments, will pay off big in the long run.

Speaking of planning, we’ll talk next time about:

  • The research and information-gathering process
  • Deciding which of the six formats to use
  • Conducting the necessary interviews (particularly with challenging cases like senior executives and outside consultants) and getting customer buy-in at all levels.

See you again in four days!

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