As I pointed to a clunky phrase, the client waved me off. “Don’t worry about the language. It’s a proposal, not a marketing piece.”
She saw my confusion and explained, “We don’t need to waste our time making the language flowery or sales-y sounding. This is just so we can get all the details together for them to review. We’ll attach other materials with the marketing stuff.”
I’ve heard comments like that many times. There’s a common misconception among business owners and managers that only certain things fall under the marketing umbrella … and that’s a deadly mistake.
You see, anything that represents you before a prospect or customer is a marketing piece. You might not intend it to be used that way, nor would you assume that anyone seeing it would think of it as an attempt to market your business, but the reality is that’s exactly what happens.
Once something leaves your hands, you lose control of it. You don’t know who in your prospect’s organization may end up reviewing it. You developed the proposal for the buyer or specifying engineer you’ve been talking with, but he may pass it along to his boss. And she may have given it to her boss, or another department head. Do all of those people already know your company? If not, your proposal will create their all-important first impression of you.
If that proposal is poorly organized and poorly written, your company will appear to be disorganized and ignorant. If the language is thick and technical, the impression will be that your team can’t communicate with mere mortals. And if it’s nothing more than a dry recitation of the facts, your dynamic organization is bound to be viewed as dull and uninspired.
“It wasn’t meant for those other people!” you protest. “It was for their engineers!” Or their accounting staff. Or a medical practitioner. You created it for someone who speaks your language and sees the world the way you do. But your intent doesn’t matter, because it was shared with someone else who will weigh in on the decision whether to give you the business.
Beyond that, you’re falling prey to stereotypes. It’s a myth that engineers respond only to copy filled with complexities, that CPAs find the Internal Revenue Code exciting reading, or that physicians want everything presented to them in many syllables as possible. No matter how they earn a living, they’re people, and they react to things just as you and I do. They have many of the same emotions and fears, even if they have larger vocabularies or actually understood what their Analytic Geometry teacher was talking about.
What you need to understand is that companies don’t buy from companies. People at those companies buy from people at other companies. And if you want people to have confidence in your company, you must connect with them at a human level.
That’s where language some people dismiss as “marketingese” or “flowery” or “hype” can help. Well-crafted documents and copy communicate at a one-to-one level. They’re written to draw readers — all readers — in and guide them to the information they need. They contain all the facts and details, but present them in a conversational, understandable manner.
More important, they mirror the public image your company has worked so hard to earn in our noisy, highly competitive marketplace. Every contact a customer or prospect has with your organization — whether it’s looking at your website, reviewing your proposal, or reading your product’s instructions — should carry the same voice and attitude.
Great companies understand the importance of consistency in everything. Next time you visit Starbucks for your double skinny soy mocha latte, pay attention to all the written material around you, from posters to packaging. The voice and the vibe are the same, and they scream Starbucks. Next time you fly Southwest, pay attention to how everything from the in-flight magazine to the posters in the jetway to the flight attendants’ announcements reminds you who you’re flying to your destination. You’ll know you’re not on Delta or American.
Those companies view every contact as a chance to strengthen their brands, so they take full advantage of every marketing opportunity. Doing the same may not make your company a household name, but it can help you grow your business more effectively.