No matter how tempted you are to run with your preferences… don’t.
Read this first.
Recently, Robert Rose, founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, published an article that had me cheering, “Why Internal Customers Will Kill Your Content Strategy.”
Rose identified a common mistake many businesses make when it comes to content creation. Namely, creating content to satisfy a company’s “internal customers” (staff) rather than focusing on the external customer… in other words, the ones who keep the lights on.
From the article (emphasis mine):
In marketing, we throw around the term stakeholders to refer to people affected directly by your efforts. That list is long – content and marketing touch almost every other function (business leaders, IT, sales, communications, public relations, product, and external groups like partners and investors).
But a funny thing happens when I ask the content team if they consider themselves to be stakeholders in sales or comms. The content team leaders laugh softly and say, “Oh no, they’re our customers.”
That’s not ideal. I once worked with a B2B company where the content marketing team existed to respond to the product marketing team’s requests for “thought leadership” to accompany new product launches. But the product marketing team viewed thought leadership as lightly veiled customer success stories or fact-filled technical schematics of how their product worked.
How did this approach work? Not well. The product marketing team loved the content. But the potential real customers didn’t.
This often happens when a company loses sight of the fact that they’re in business to attract the attention of prospects and clients—and they buy something.
What Happens When You Lose Focus
When you’re creating marketing assets, you need to focus first on the customer/client, not yourself.
I’ve shared this story before but it’s especially relevant to this topic. Years ago, I was contracted to help a cybersecurity enterprise revise their web copy. It was a great project and at the end of nine months, I was given another opportunity—write copy for a brochure aimed at the C-level suite.
The creative director already provided a robust set of buyer personas. One featured persona was of the CIO. I knew from experience that the CIO’s concerns were similar with most C-level executives.
I used that information to kick off the copy and then developed the rest of content into a benefits/features section with a call to action at the end.
I’ll never forget the phone call with the creative director after sending the first draft. He quickly pointed out the introductory messaging. “Yeah, you know this area where you’re talking about the executive? Well, it needs to be about us.”
I wanted to shout, “No. It’s NOT about you…yet!” But I didn’t. I was polite and listened to the rest of his suggestions. I adjusted the copy but suspected I had mis-stepped in the eyes of the creative director. I knew from our history of working together he had a demanding marketing director to please. I had a strong hunch the change requests were more from her than him.
So, it wasn’t a complete surprise that after sending him the second draft, I never heard from him again. And I was flummoxed that a multi-million-dollar company could be so unfocused.
I’ll Keep Saying It… Your Customer Doesn’t Care About You
If I had been more honest (and courageous) with the creative director, I would have said this:
“I get it. You want to immediately jump to the ‘main course,’ which is your company’s services. But you need to connect first with your prospective buyer. You don’t do that by jumping ahead to what you want to talk about. It’s like dating. Anyone who monopolizes the conversation by focusing on themselves will likely watch their date make a quick exit, never to be seen again.
Instead, I write copy to first connect with the reader. I empathize with their problems, their fears, and their concerns. What are their priorities? How can I connect that to your solution? My challenge as a writer and yours as a marketer is to send a message to your prospective buyer that will make them feel understood. You want your company to be relatable. And that doesn’t happen if you immediately talk about yourself.”
What I wrote above is every marketer’s challenge. Many of my fellow copywriters also deal with the same wrongheaded thinking when it comes to writing sales copy. Too often, the client wants to lead with their solutions first before establishing trust.
The prospect is rarely impressed.
Looking For Someone to Trust
There’s a lot of talk about authenticity but what does that look like for your business? How can you come across as more authentic to your prospective buyer?
Your prospect doesn’t care about your company, its long history, its “best in class” achievements, etc. as much as they care about you addressing their immediate needs. Will your solution help them solve their top challenges? Will it help them fulfill their objectives? Will it resonate with their priorities?
Over the years, I have read a lot of marketing copy. I lose interest when the copy leads with features and benefits. It comes across as uncaring and self-centered.
Instead, when I read copy that speaks to me—using liberally the word “you,”—then I’m engaged. Naturally, I want to know more. This is true for everyone. If you throw a bunch of information about your product or service at a prospect without letting them know you “get it,” prepare to be ignored.
People buy from those they know, like, and trust. Trust doesn’t happen when you’re talking about yourself all the time. It happens when you show you care about your prospective buyer’s concerns.
Back To You
Coming full circle to creating marketing assets for your business, you have to put aside your own preferences. Whenever I’ve spoken to a client about their target market and research, about 90% of the time, they’ll tell me they were surprised to discover what really concerned their audience.
One client said, “I thought I knew my audience, but not really. I was surprised to find they cared much more about an issue that didn’t even show up on my radar.”
This is why it’s critical that you deeply research your target market. Get to know your prospective buyer inside and out. Then use that intel to create marketing messages that will keep their attention.
It doesn’t matter if the President, V.P. of Sales, or product marketing team loves your copy. If your prospective buyer, customer, or client doesn’t… your objective has failed out of the gate before it gets started.
Get to know your audience well. Love them. Show you care about them. They’ll reward you with their time, their interest, and their money.