There’s a strong focus in marketing circles right now on content marketing: publishing valuable content designed to create an affinity for your brand. It is very important to nurture prospects along the decision path with consistent, branded communications that don’t feel pushy or salesy.
But what about the art of being direct? Getting right to the point? Sometimes it’s best to be subtle, but sometimes a good smack over the head is called for. Once you’ve identified a need and opportunity to be direct, how do you go about crafting the marketing message?
The short answer is to ask for what you want.
A Case Study: Who Said It Better?
Two empty storefronts here in Boston are seeking tenants. Both use the same tactic of posting a sign in the window. Which one puts a clear idea in your head?
I must have walked past “Retail Space Available” a dozen times before really seeing it.
The first time I passed “We Want a Café…,” I noticed. It’s different, specific and engaging (as far as real estate posters go). And if I come across anyone who wants to open a restaurant or food shop, guess which one will come to mind first?
Putting It Into Practice
Formats vary (emails, billboards, sponsored tweets and a million others) but messaging is always the key. Here’s how to apply this lesson to your own business and effectively ask for what you want:
1. Know who your target customer is. This takes strategic planning, market insights, and the guts to make some hard decisions. What you’re selling can’t be for everyone, or it’ll be for no one. The more specific the better.
In the café example above, the building owner decided not to be generic and compete for hundreds of other types of tenants. It was a strategic decision: they’ve targeted a segment and are going after it with laser focus. They’ve traded off the opportunity and the distraction, making for crystal clear messaging and increasing the chance of success.
2. Understand the channels. If you can talk directly to customers, do it. Sometimes, because of market dynamics or logistics, it’s more efficient to go through agents or other sales channels, in which case you have multiple audiences to consider in your messaging. Note: Audiences are different than customers.
3. Be clear about what you want the reader to think. You’ll have a split second to convey your message, and you don’t want to miss the mark by being forgettably vague or watered down. It’s difficult to resonate with customers numbed by mass media and click bait. Don’t get comfortable using stale industry jargon or cliché headlines that have lost all meaning to the intended audience. If you can, A/B test your message.
4. Be blunt about what you want the reader to do next. Include a simple, straightforward call to action. Don’t use a QR code. (QR codes kill kittens.)
5. Let the concept lead the design. In Option A of our case study above, the company logo takes up 2/3rds of the sign. That would be fine for a branding effort (a sponsorship banner or office signage), but is not effective on a direct marketing device. The café folks are focused on getting results, and their intention led the design layout. Form follows function.
To be fair to the “Retail Space Available” team, it’s easy to pass judgement without the inside scoop. They probably also send targeted communications to brokers (a key audience) and consider the sign as part of their branding arsenal, hence the emphasis on the logo.
The hard parts are defining who your customer is and deciding on the idea you want them to have in their minds after seeing your message. Don’t worry about format and design until you have these pieces solidified.
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