“Honey, look, this cordless phone has little wheels, and it’ll drive over to me on the couch if someone calls.”

“Big deal. THIS phone manufacturer says they’re committed to a tradition of service excellence. PLUS they’re proud of their employees!”

For many company managers, it seems bold and earnest to begin their marketing writing with what the company supposedly is committed to, stands for, or is proud of. Of course, those same managers, in their role as family consumers or business buyers, wouldn’t get past a single sentence of that corporate chestbeating in any other company’s brochure. For them (as well as for everyone else), that approach is a roadblock that sends the eye off in another direction, usually within a fraction of a second.

Humans are a pretty self-centered species, and that goes double for folks who might possibly have money to spend on your product. If you’re wondering what’s truly important to customers, think about what’s important to you in the real world. It’s such a simple exercise that it doesn’t even occur to most well-paid marketing consultants.

It’s not just a matter of focusing on buyers’ needs. Lots of companies do that, but they do it from a boardroom table perspective. If they broke through to more of a kitchen table sensibility, managers would rise above the notion that this is about them or their company. Initially, it’s not even about the product. Surprised? In the real world, what it’s about is each person’s (or businessperson’s) logical and emotional universe of competing needs, pressures and related considerations. That’s where insightful marketing starts. It empathizes with the buyer’s plight. Then it offers hope, with a sequence of win-win persuasion points that allow readers to come to their own conclusion that this is a smart solution. It creates a vivid enough picture for the buyer to “taste” the satisfactions of having bought and used (and perhaps having been complimented on) the product. That’s the magical point when “can’t afford it” becomes “gotta have it.”

Do you have a product that’s pretty much the same as your competitor’s product? Simply do a better job than your competitor at showing you understand the buyer’s problem (as well as potential objections to the sale), and guess who she’s going to gravitate to.

It’s natural for people who work for a company to have a mutually-reinforced corporate view of customers and product issues. But when internal sensibilities set the tone for external marketing, you can (literally) watch the target reader’s eyes glaze over—including qualified prospects. Happens every day. The conundrum of marketing is that when managers develop or approve messages that appeal to them, the final marketing may in the end only appeal…to them. However if the communicators go the extra mile to understand the prospect’s existing view of the issues, the marketer stands a real chance of piercing their built-in “buyers’ armor”. Paid research is often helpful, but listening to key customers and salespeople, plus a bit of applied common sense and an open mind, can often go a long way.

1. Go easy on the words “we,” “us” and “our” in your marketing messages, and use “you” and “your” as much as possible. Although this may take you out of your comfort zone at first, that’s part of the exercise, because it will automatically force the seller to approach issues as a buyer would.

2. Instead of expressing what you’re company is proud of, is committed to, or believes, start thinking about what your customer is proud of, is committed to, or believes. Then find a connection between that, and what your company offers.

3. Remember that buyers are always faced with competing considerations and imperfect options. If Charley Chakalaka in Chattanooga is holding off on buying your top-of-the-line 2-story tudor-style motor home because he has no place to store it, your marketing text might include some creative ways to solve—or at least think about—the problem.

4. Don’t simply tell readers, “We understand.” That sounds smarmy. Instead, “show” them you understand by reflecting their own views and feelings back to them, and offering some empathy for their plight and their frustrations.

5. Continue to sell logical benefits, but don’t forget to appeal to the emotional side of virtually every purchase decision. Even if it’s the business buyer’s anticipated relief at finally finding an ink that doesn’t gum up the printer-copier-fax machine.

As marketers, the point of marketing writing is to sell more. However if we can do a more insightful job of solving our customer’s problems, our problem will most likely get solved by default.

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