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Kissing 101 for IT companies

Why are IT companies like awkward teenagers on a first date when it comes to their marketing?

Read time 3min 50sec

Keep it simple, stupid (KISS)” is not a new philosophy. It's one that's been enthusiastically adopted by software developers all over the world.

Simple is not about dumbing down the messages and patronising the audience.

Jo Duxbury is the founder of Peppermint Source.

Being 'simple' is not the same as being simplistic. Simple is not about dumbing down the messages and patronising the audience. Simple communication is also not devoid of personality - it may demand ruthless editing, but does not silence your brand's voice.

There are ways to keep it simple, without appearing stupid.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” - Leonard da Vinci

Simple is all about being clear, to the point, and getting the message across effectively. It's about using plain language. The higher up the chain your client is, the less time she has for you, so 'simple' becomes even more important. It's likely that a busy CEO would rather read something that's short and easy to follow than a long, complex and jargon-filled missive.

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” - Albert Einstein

[EMBEDDED]There's a lot of truth in that, Mr Einstein. A short, clear answer to a question sounds much more credible and reassuring than a load of waffle and off-the-point detail. Anyone remember answering a difficult exam question with a long, complicated explanation, in the hope that the examiner would find a few marks in there somewhere?

"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I've written a long one instead." - attributed to Pascal, Twain, Voltaire and others.

It's not easy to KISS properly. But doing strategic work up-front will help you build a strong foundation for all your communications. Never underestimate the value that a solid brand and marketing strategy can add. It will save you money in the long run. Keeping it simple also means working hard at your copy - get a professional writer to help you with this. Their outside perspective will be important too.

How to KISS:

1. Focus more on the other person than on yourself. Make it about them. Their needs. Their frustrations. How you will make their lives better, jobs easier, and most importantly, make them look good. What are the problems they are facing, and how can you address them? What is their level of knowledge in this area? Listen more than you talk - and learn from it. The things you find fascinating about your product might not interest them. Do they care that it was precision engineered in Germany, or that a lifetime warranty means that all repairs will be free?

2. Be original and memorable. Just because everyone else has a four-page brochure packed with long copy and complex diagrams, you don't have to do the same. Think about when you visit an industry expo and collect all those brochures - which ones do you end up reading back at the office? I thought so...

3 Give them what they want. Understand that you'll be talking to different people at different points in your sales cycle. They'll want different types and levels of information from you at these stages. Simple doesn't mean just one generic brochure for everyone - it means giving people the content they want and need at the right time.

4. Use few words. For many IT companies, TLAs and jargon are as familiar as breathing. But remember that it's Greek to many other people. Rather than making your company sound knowledgeable, it's likely to put people off. People want connections - so if you can add an emotional resonance to your messages too, you're onto a good thing.

5 Commit to it. It will be tempting to slip back into old, verbose habits. Stay focused and you'll see results.

A perfect kiss from someone you love is memorable, interesting, sincere and believable. It's delivered with passion and enthusiasm. And practise makes perfect.

I'm not saying there's a marketing brochure or Web site out there that can make one weak at the knees, but if you apply 'KISS' to your business communications, you could be amazed at how your customers respond.

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 www.freelancentral.co.za 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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