When you’re trying to sell something, it’s terrific to have plenty to say about it.
The more features, advantages and benefits you can communicate, the more points of persuasion you have to offer, the more ways you have to differentiate your offering vs. your competition’s, the sooner you can get to close. Right?
Too much information, driving me insane.
Trouble starts when you try, as a beloved mentor would say, to stuff 10 pounds of poop into a 5-pound burlap bag. The bag loses, and so do you.
- You lose your most vital messages—the ones you can’t let your audience forget— because there are just too many other competing messages.
- You lose your reader, who doesn’t have the time or patience to slog through all 10 pounds of poop—er, information.
- You lose the conversation, because you lost your reader.
- You lose the sale, because you lost the conversation.
- And to be brutally candid: Your brand suffers, because when you let your key messages get lost, no one knows what you stand for.
Before I continue, a disclaimer: While the story that follows centers on a printed brochure, the learnings apply to ANY content asset you’re creating. Here goes:
This is important! So is this! And this!
Some time ago, I took on a project for a fintech client: a 4-page brochure (it would also live online) for a services offering that stood to become a significant revenue generator—IF they could just figure out how to sell it!
The product leader supplied me with a mother lode of input: audio of a conference presentation, several PowerPoints, and some sell sheet drafts that never got off the launch pad because, well, too much information.
To the product leader, everything was important. I get it: This services offering was her baby. She didn’t want to leave out any feature—no matter how minor—for fear that that feature could be the one that moves the sales needle.
But over here on the marketing side, we have a saying: When everything is important, nothing is important.
Harness information overload by answering 3 driving questions.
How did we get the content across the finish line? We reset the starting line, following Stephen Covey’s advice to “begin with the end in mind.”
But even the end we had in mind was unclear. So I asked the product leader three focused, driving questions:
- What can you reasonably expect this content asset to accomplish?
It would be flat-out unreasonable to expect this brochure to close a six-figure tech services contract. We got the product lead to agree that this piece would be a “handshake,” or conversation-starter, with enough compelling benefits to pique a prospect’s interest, be shared with stakeholders and decision-makers, and prompt a deeper consultative sales discussion.
- Where does this content fit in the sales funnel?
A core tenet of inbound marketing is, “talk to your audience where they are in their buy-cycle.”
Is your content talking to new prospects? Marketing qualified leads? Sales qualified leads?
The most engaging content has the information your audiences are looking for right now (that’s where keyword research comes in), and little or none of what they don’t want or need. Because the brochure would be distributed at conferences and one-on-one sales calls, we targeted the content mainly to sales qualified leads.
- Who are your audience personas?
Will this content speak to the person who would use your product, or the decision-maker who would pay for it? This is where personas come in. If you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t control the company purse strings, you need to give her persuasive information to take up the ladder so she can make the business case for purchase—or at least a further conversation—to her superior.
The content spoke largely to director-level executives who may or may not have spending authority. We bridged the gap by providing both tactical feature/benefit content AND, for C-Suite decision makers, the “big picture” business advantages.
Back (quickly) to that brochure…
Something amazing happened as we went through the iterations of copywriting: When the product leader saw how focused our content was becoming, she came to feel that even four pages were too much. The end result was a crisp, clean 2-pager(!) that lives online and enjoys wide circulation at trade shows, conferences and, of course, sales calls.
So let’s recap: Before you start creating content:
- Have agreement from all stakeholders about goals and expectations.
- Know who your audience personas are.
- Know where they are in their buy cycle.
Define these three boundaries for each piece of content and you can then weed out and cast aside the information that’s not relevant. You’ll transform your content from an overstuffed burlap sack to a perfectly tailored Savile Row suit!