Ellen Cline, writer
Creative communication that markets, informs, and entertains

Subscribe to my RSS feed
What's an RSS feed and why would
I want that?

Narrowing Down the Info

Author: ; Published: Dec 27, 2009; Category: Business Writing, Message Simplicity; Tags: , , ; 3 Comments

When you’re starting to think about marketing a new product or service, sometimes you will come up with lots of great points. There may be a gazillion good features and even more benefits.

So on your first pass, you might end up with far too many things. That’s OK. I’ve had engineers and scientists tell me 25 reasons why their new technology is so great. Or photographers list hundreds of bullets for their features and benefits. We just narrow this wealth of information down.

What’s the top reason someone should buy what you’re selling? Most people, including your potential customers, will glaze over before they get to number 25, so you’d better have the top reason pretty well focused, and near, or at the top of the list.

Quite often I listen to all the information, take notes, and then come back with things sorted into groups and prioritized. We might go through several iterations before we agree on the top points.

When doing ads, or other types of marketing materials, I’ll often push people to pick one main point. We very likely will hit a few more things besides this one top point in our marketing piece, but we’d better be focusing on this one first, followed by the secondary reasons someone will want to buy.

You might have lots of great features, but knowing how to pick the top one and then sticking with it is extremely valuable.  In longer forms of communication, like a large brochure, or on those second or third level web pages, you can always go into the points lower on the list for those who want that level of detail.

Why is having one top point so important?  Imagine an ad.  When doing a creative concept, the headline and visual together are going to communicate one clear message.  What’s that message going to be?

Some of the information that backs up this key point will be in the body copy.  Without one clear focus, the ad will not be effective.  The same holds true for other types of marketing materials.  It seems so easy, but actually, achieving clarity can be very difficult. But don’t skip this step because it’s hard. It’s the key to success.

You can always tell people more but usually it’s going to be another time, another place.  Just like they tell entrepreneurs to have an elevator talk ready, you need your short version for anything you’re selling. You’ll also need other, longer versions for other purposes.  Just don’t try to tell everyone everything all at once. Usually they’ll just end up not hearing or learning anything.

When Selling Becomes an Education

Author: ; Published: Dec 20, 2009; Category: Business Writing, Message Simplicity; Tags: , , ; No Comments


When marketing new products and services, sometimes you need to provide some education. Do your potential customers know much about what you’re selling?

You might just be selling something that’s very similar to what’s already out there. If so, you’ve just got to figure out your unique selling point, something that differentiates you from the others. It might be real, or just something nobody else is touting right now. (That’s not what we’re going to talk about here.)

But if you’ve developed some new technology or a whole new service category, you’ve got a more serious education task. You might have to teach people what it is you’ve come up with, what it does, and why they need it. This all needs to happen before anyone even thinks of buying.

If your company has the first vertical cavity surface emitting lasers, you might need to tell people what they are, and how they can be used in practical applications. If you’re the first to turn recycled beer bottles into growing media for hydroponics, the benefits of that vs. the media that’s been used for years might need to be explained. Or if you’re the first to purify water with a new mixed oxidant technology, you might want to tell people why that’s a better way to clean water.

You’re asking people to change, so you’d better have some pretty good reasons why.

When starting a new marketing project or program, make sure to think about the informational or educational aspects. For scientists and engineers, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that people don’t know what you’re talking about. But if these people are not your peers, but your potential customers, and what you’re selling really is new, then yes, you’re going to have to explain it. (Remember, you know too much.)

First decide, am I selling a new product or service? If so, think about educating, then selling.

If you’re just selling more of the same, you’ve got a different challenge: differentiating yourself.