In business, we’re defined by our roles. I’m a marketer, he’s an engineer, she’s the COO, he’s the head of IT. It’s one of the first things you see on any creative brief: Who are we talking to and what’s their role at the company? It’s so basic in defining your target persona, if you left it off it would be pure negligence.
That role, so clearly defined by the decisions it can make, the people it reports to and who report to it, its duties and functions, and all the fun vocabulary words and jargon that it uses in its day-to-day work activities, has nothing to do with the person who actually responds to your marketing.
The person who needs a latte or a Red Bull to wake up in the morning.
The person who’s late on their car payments, whose daughter needs braces, who put on a few extra pounds at their cousin’s Super Bowl tailgate party.
The person who’s just as embarrassed about screwing up at work, just as hassled and pressed for time, just as baffled and confused about the latest developments as you are even if they don’t show it.
If you talk to a role, you might get an eBook download, or get someone to watch five or ten minutes of a webinar.
If you talk to a person, you’re much more like to get a customer.
This simple-sounding but profound change of viewpoint has enormous consequences and implications. I hasten to add that many of them have nothing to do with writing at all! Developments like marketing automation, which lets you market in a “tree” fashion so that the first touch’s response influences the content of the second touch, are positively invaluable, and still far too seldom used.
In fact, every marketing message a target sees should be personalized, not with “Hi Dave”–that’s kid stuff–but with an actual value prop and offer specifically crafted to drive response for that person, based on previous behavior. That’s just the price of entry today.
But beyond that, there’s something you can do with writing, too. It has to do with voice and tone.
Even the most specialized businessperson or technical person doesn’t want to read emails, social posts or eBooks that sound dry and uninteresting. The benefit needs to be clear and the wording needs to be concise.
A common mistake is thinking that if you just load up the copy with enough jargon and superlatives, getting the target’s attention will take care of itself. It won’t. Your value prop will be buried under all the jargon, and by making them hunt for it, you’re showing your targets that you don’t respect their time. That’s marketing poison.
Don’t talk about how great and amazing your new product or development is… How your engineers are breathtakingly brilliant… How your [insert trendy technical term here] conquers, bests and defeats all the old-fashioned [insert less trendy technical term here] on the market.
Instead, display empathy for the the relatable human problems and issues they face on the job:
- Tight budgets
- Need for approval
- Stress and time crunches
- Disappointment with inferior solutions
Or, to flip it around, be aspirational. Show them how they can get peace of mind… higher status (being a company “hero”)… a sense of self-worth and value by helping others, such as their customers, patients or employees.
Get the idea?
Appeal to the human, not the role, and they’ll respond.
Dave Dumanis is a San Francisco Bay Area creative director, copywriter, and longtime marketing and advertising veteran.