Recently, I spent some time in-house on the marketing team at a finance technology company. We sold software to financial advisors, and during my time there, we acquired a major player in the investment management space.
If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, think about being on the team writing about that acquisition. It was an endless monotone march of investment returns, proprietary strategies, open architecture, diversification and synergies – or at least, it could have been.
Our CMO at the time had other ideas.
After napping through some of the communications we were drafting, she pinged me.
“Don’t kill me. But I think we need to make these more exciting.”
Couldn’t argue with that.
“Let’s do something unexpected. Something like a story, or a poem.”
I queued up my favorite Jennifer Lawrence gif, sure that she was joking.
"Wait. What if we actually wrote a poem?!"
I stared at the message for a few seconds before sending the only response I could think of.
"Do you...want it to rhyme?"
She answered immediately. "Yes. I think everything should rhyme."
Here we were, announcing the financial services industry’s biggest acquisition since Schwab got its hands on TD, and instead of digging into multi-asset class investment strategies, I was brushing up on iambic pentameter.
But to this day, that poem is still one of my favorite pieces. And it performed well – probably because advisors were curious about what in the world a "ballad" was doing in their inbox.
"In marketing, different is better than better." I’m not sure who originally coined that phrase, but I know it’s true. Our CMO knew it, and that’s why she was the CMO.
The truth is, the poem didn’t capture all of the acquisition’s important integration features and value propositions. It certainly didn’t address every prospect’s pain point. But it worked because it was markedly different from anything our audience was being served in their emails and news feeds.
Maybe delivering major company or product news via sonnet isn’t the right fit for your business, but when you look around at what other companies are doing (mostly all the same things), you’ll find some major opportunities to make a splash. Here are three ways to help your company stand out.
I don’t mean profanity (although I do believe it can be effective if used sparingly in some specific instances, but that’s a blog post for another day), or mutilating sentence structure solely for the sake of differentiation (shout-out to our editor, who would not stand for that strategy).
In this case, what I’m actually talking about is killing the jargon.
Depending on your industry, technical terminology may play a huge role in day-to-day communications – medical, manufacturing and engineering, to name a few.
I would argue, though, that even professionals steeped in acronyms and highly specialized language don’t enjoy reading jargon all day, and certainly not after their workday ends.
But people do enjoy conversation – so why don’t more businesses use simple, conversational language in their marketing?
TheCLIKK, one of my favorite email newsletters and the only one I read religiously, does a great job of explaining for me why their emails – and the tone they use – they are so effective:
The overall, nutshell reason for theCLIKK’s conversational voice: it’s what the people want(ed). Simply put, a lot of digital business and marketing info is really dry. For most people who want that info, the problem is not a shortage of content; it’s being able to (A) identify the best content and then (B) engage with it and digest it.
Keeping your content casual, accessible and conversational – and funny, if that works for you – makes it more likely that people will actually consume it, which is the whole point of content.
Want your B2B marketing to really stand out? Don’t market your product or solution like you’re selling to a business – because you aren’t.
All marketing is really H2H: Human to human. After all, there’s a real person behind the personas you create, and those real people have real fears, uncertainties, goals, egos and aspirations.
Use your marketing to speak to them.
B2C marketers do a remarkable job of this (check out some specific examples here). You could argue that’s because B2C is “easier” – shorter sales cycles, lower price points, one stakeholder instead of many, and the list goes on.
All of that is true, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use what some B2C companies are doing as inspiration for your own marketing. It comes down to understanding your customer, and then focusing on your customer – not on what makes your business so great.
It seems obvious, but we come across companies all the time that are so excited to tell their story they forget about the customer entirely. Their messaging is “us/we/our” centric, not “you/your” centric. Your product’s features aren’t going to make an emotional connection with your audience. Surfacing their pains and challenges will.
Let’s explore this final point using video content as an example. Webinars and webcasts – as well as podcasts, the audio counterpart – are absolutely on fire right now, as businesses adapt to new methods of engagement in our mid-COVID reality.
“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “If webinars and podcasts are so popular, how can they help me stand out?”
The problem, which creates your opportunity, is in the way that many companies are using webinar and webcast channels: To deliver a thinly veiled product pitch, and/or to follow up with attendees via endless and intrusive sales cadence.
That’s not marketing. That's sales. And there’s nothing wrong with sales, but it doesn’t belong in your marketing channels. Your prospects are smart; they’ll see right through any sales ploy masquerading as a marketing initiative, and it will ruin any trust you’ve built with them.
Don’t do it. Play the longer, more difficult but worthwhile brand-building game with your webinars and podcasts. Use them to initiate powerful conversations with prospects and customers, as an educational tool and as a means to establish your company as a thought leader in your space.
Doing actual marketing – not sales dressed up in a marketing costume – will differentiate your business all on its own.