Before I get too far into this article, I’m going to come right out and say something: I believe Marketing Communication is quickly becoming a lost art. In fact, I would go as far as to say that at many companies, the quality of marketing-related communication is not only devalued, but coming dangerously close to being completely ignored.
I will save the ‘why’ for another day and another article. But suffice it to say, marketing’s recent love affair with things like YouTube videos, social networking and flashy interactive media have made writing great copy (much less ‘acceptable’ copy) a secondary part of the marketing function. And the recycled tag lines, over-used buzzwords and mis-statements of fact that result are often embarrassing . . . even to people who think “The Apprentice” is actually a show about business.
With the above in mind, the remainder of this article will outline nine reasons your marketing-related communication might be damaging your company’s credibility. If you are an experienced Marketing Communication professional and would like to add one of your own, PLEASE use the comment field at the end of this article—I would love to hear your thoughts. Or, if you disagree with any of this, feel free to let me know that as well.
Reason #1: You Don’t Write the Way People Talk
Sure, the latest Tony Robbins motivational guidebook is crammed with words like ‘engage,’ ‘empower’ and ‘impactful.’ But these quasi-meaningless terms are often out of place in real-world Marketing Communication. In both B2C and B2B environments, people prefer to spend their money with knowledgeable companies who can improve whatever situation they are currently in . . . not “engage with impactful companies who empower them to do better.” You can see the difference, right?
Reason #2: You Recycle the Same Old Tag Lines
In the early 2000s I worked for a software company who adopted the tag line “Raising the Bar.” It seemed like a great fit initially, until two months later a major fast-food chain ‘raised the bar’ on their chicken sandwich. Shortly after that a food manufacturer ‘raised the bar’ on a line of fruit juices, and a national health club chain ‘raised the bar’ on membership benefits. Before you inextricably tie your company to a new slogan or tag line, do some research and figure out how many other companies have already used it.
Reason #3: You Claim to Solve Problems That Don’t Exist
It’s a sad state of affairs when Infomercial marketing tactics make it into mainstream corporate communication. Prior to the invention of the Snuggie, were people really struggling to eat on the couch while remaining warm at the same time? Maybe. But the worldwide success of a blanket with sleeves does not give your company permission to ‘invent’ value for its products and services. Getting people to do business with you is difficult enough, without first having to convince them to solve a problem they don’t really have.
Reason #4: You Try Too Hard to Be Provocative
Drawing attention to your company by taking an aggressive stance is a perfectly acceptable marketing strategy- if you actually believe in the stance you’re taking. Tactics like asking obvious questions (“Is the Internet a fad?”) and referring to run-of-the-mill information as ’shocking’ are regularly used by companies to create attention. But today’s customer is sophisticated enough to know when you’re serious, and when you’re merely goading them into a knee-jerk reaction.
Reason #5: You Can’t Resist Telling People How Great You Are
A few weeks ago I received a “Customer Appreciation Letter” from the company I bought my car from. The contents? A one-sentence “Thank You,” followed by four paragraphs of reasons why this dealership was one of the best in the country. Very few marketers are good enough to disguise their marketing as news, industry updates, and casual conversation. Those who are good at it enjoy long marketing careers; and those who don’t are regularly ignored.
Reason #6: You Never Update Your Statistics
As someone with a short attention span and almost no free time, I love quick-hitting marketing messages that use statistics to drive home a point. But I also know that things change rapidly—and 73% today can easily be less than 50% a few months from now. For many of us it’s easy to fall into a ‘rhythm’ in our messaging, interviews, power point slides, advertisements, and so on. But the right to use statistics in your marketing comes with an obligation to regularly check and see if those statistics have changed.
Reason #7: You Exaggerate to the Point of Being Ridiculous
Along with #3 above—claiming to solve problems that don’t exist—ridiculous exaggeration is one of my favorite marketing credibility-killers. Not more than a few minutes ago I received an email from an author, claiming her book contains “everything my blog readers need to start and run a small business.” But unless this book comes with start-up capital, a great idea and three years’ worth of operating revenue, this can’t possibly be true. The fact is, very few products and services offer an all-encompassing solution for customer problems. And the role of Marketing Communication is to clearly, credibly and cleverly state this, without stretching the truth.
Reason #8: You Write in Multiple Voices
Anyone who has been in Marketing for more than a few years knows exactly what ‘marketing by committee’ means, and how damaging it can be to the effectiveness of a company’s messaging. Although everyone is entitled to their own marketing opinion (owners, executives, board members, product development staff, etc.) good marketing communicators must have the skill and the authority necessary to boil a half-dozen dissenting thoughts and opinions down into one cohesive statement. Just like your internal email database should have only one owner (as discussed in my article 5 Ways to Grow Your Internal Email Database), your company’s marketing communication should have only one voice.
Reason #9: You Can’t Stop Selling . . . Even for a Moment
In between sales and marketing messages, it is imperative that companies mix in a good amount of ‘no strings attached’ communications like industry facts, trivia nuggets and short “Thank Yous.” If your communications train customers and prospects to expect a sales pitch every time they hear from you, customers will quickly build up an ‘immunity’ . . . and simply stop reading what you send. The worst example of this I’ve ever seen? This past Holiday season a company (that I used to respect) donated 1,000 stuffed animals to a local TV station’s Toys for Tots drive . . . but not before embroidering each animal with their company logo.
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