For me, there’s one thing that separates the serious players in marketing and marketing comms from the amateurs, would-be’s and downright bullshit merchants who stalk the halls of our industry.
It’s an understanding (implicit or overt) that all forms of successful marketing communications are fundamentally based on a transaction.
But I’m not talking about a financial transaction (although we often like to hope that this scenario duly ensues).
The transaction I’m talking about is this…
Your customers give you some of their precious time to look at your website, email or ad. In return, you give them some information or entertainment.
Information is often a solution to a problem: what to cook for tea, how to improve the workforce’s productivity, how to cut the cost of the company’s mobile phone calls, what’s the best way to hit a golf ball further? How much is this TV set and where can I get it?
Entertainment can be whatever you think your target customer might appreciate. (There’s a reason the internet is full of click-bait pictures of cute cats, naked women and fat film stars.)
And, of course, some of the most successful and long-running campaigns offer both simultaneously. (Simples!)
So here’s how the transaction works…
Your target punter sees your comms. She’ll give you a tiny bit of her time to read your headline or subject line, and/or glance at the picture. A second or two if you’re lucky.
If she’s rewarded with a hint of useful, relevant information or potential entertainment, she’ll give you a tiny bit more of her attention — perhaps another couple of seconds to read on a bit, or watch your telly ad a bit longer.
But if you’re not rewarding her straight away she’s gone.
You’ve failed in your half of the bargain. She gave you her time, you gave her nothing in return.
Think of a business-to-business sales email. We all get dozens every week, don’t we? Why do we bin the vast majority of them unopened?
Because they fall at the first hurdle of the transaction.
They don’t immediately offer us something we want: information or entertainment. The subject line is too bland or too clever-clever. The opening sentence that pops up in our preview pane doesn’t scream This Is For You!
And think of your website…
When a potential client lands on the homepage, are you rewarding their attention with a promise of a solution to a problem? Or perhaps an attention-grabbing piece of news about their industry?
Or are you simply blathering on about how wonderful your company is, how your team are all ‘trained’ and ‘friendly’, and how you were founded in 1842?
Whichever medium your message is appearing in, make sure it’s working technically, too. Is it easy to read? Is it easy to find the stuff you need? Are you being clear about what they need to do next? Never make your customers work any harder than they have to.
So every time you see some new marketing comms from your agency, or freelance copywriter, or in-house team, ask yourself (honestly):
“When our target audience sees this, will they want to give up some of their most precious commodity — time — to engage further with our message?”
If the answer is “Probably not — now you put it like that, actually”, you know what to do.