Why your marketing's not working

It's possible that you're too inwardly focused. Try putting yourself in your customers' shoes and see what happens.

Read time 3min 00sec

Years ago, I did a marketing strategy workshop with a company that makes and installs stair-lifts. I gave the team five minutes to write down what their company does - without consulting each other.

The answers were slightly varied, but each focused on their products' features. They talked about building stair-lifts that have good quality materials, excellent engineering, customisation options, reliability, and top customer care.

But that's not really it...

Yes, that's all true. But what this company really does is let people with mobility problems live in the homes they love for longer. And they give great peace of mind to children who buy the products for their elderly parents.

Speak to customers in their language, about their issues.

Jo Duxbury is the founder of Peppermint Source.

This client had been looking inwards for their marketing messages. Once they started thinking about the impact their products had on their customers' lives, they came up with stories that would resonate better with their target audience, and connect with them emotionally.

The team really did have an excellent customer care ethos, and were soon excitedly sharing stories about their customers. All this was wonderful material for their future messaging.

Stop looking inward

Just about every company I've worked with has had to make this shift - and it's hard to think of an industry where this is needed more than in tech. My IT and telecoms clients are so passionate about their work that they simply don't realise their jargon and acronyms can confuse and scare off potential clients.

It's about focusing on benefits too, instead of just features. You might still be too internally-focused when it comes to interpreting your benefits. For example: “Our software is built on open source code [feature] meaning it is flexible and compatible with other tools [benefit - but more explanation is needed for it to resonate with your customer].”

However, this is still a bit meaningless, unless you contextualise and apply the benefit to your client's business. For example: “You won't need to upgrade any of your other business systems [benefit, addresses a concern] - because our software is open source [feature], we can integrate it with what you have already [another benefit].”

Focus on solving real problems

Always keep your customers in mind and consider what problems you're solving for them. Speak to customers in their language, about their issues.

Tip: Don't assume you know what their issues are, or what it is about your service that they really love. Ask them - you might be surprised at their responses.

This feedback will help you create marketing messages that are more on target. It will also help you discover what your differentiator is - from your clients' perspective.

Your new look newsletter is not news

Nor is the fact that you've redecorated the office, or that you had a fantastic office party. Okay, perhaps this stuff interests you and your staff. But outside your office, nobody really cares.

So, in closing, next time you're putting together a newsletter, e-mail, presentation, press release or other piece of marketing collateral, think. Ask yourself whether you're talking about something that's more interesting to your colleagues than it is to your customers. And ask whether you can spin it differently - repositioning it from your clients' perspective.

Give it a go - you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Jo Duxbury
founder of strategy agency Peppermint Source.

Jo Duxbury spent nine years as a freelance and full-time ‘suit’ in various communications agencies in London. She returned to Cape Town in 2004, and after freelancing at an ad agency, spotted a gap in the market for an online space for freelancers and clients to find each other. She took the plunge into entrepreneurship and launched in early 2006. January 2010 saw Duxbury launching Peppermint Source, a spin-off of Freelancentral that offers full-service outsourced marketing to companies that don’t have the time, skills or staff to handle their marketing in-house. Duxbury is inspired by simplicity, clever and beautiful design, and optimistic people who work to make their dreams happen. Find out more at her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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