One of the most frustrating parts of working as a marketing creative today is that, no matter your particular skill or specialty, there is no end to the parade of people ready to tell you that customers only care about something else.
Are you a graphic designer? People want to see photography. Web engineer? What matters today is multimedia. Multimedia producer? You’re going to need a good website for that, as well as a good story to tell around your video. Copywriter? Sorry – no one reads anymore.
There is no question that the explosion in global and mobile digital communication has forever upended how businesses and customers find, regard and interact with each other. But people do still appreciate great graphic design. They can still get a bit choked up with just the right brilliant image. And, yes, people do still read. What they don’t read is the stuff that bores them to tears – which, unfortunately, accounts for a staggering portion of modern, prose-based marketing today.
The Atlantic Monthly published in 1916 an essay titled “A Literary Clinic”, written by Samuel Crothers. It had nothing to do with marketing, but rather spoke directly to the chasm between popular reading and “literary” reading. It’s a wonderful piece that makes a very direct, very timeline point: that reading is only marginally about relaying information or participating in the educated social conversation. The main and most vital mission of the written word is to offer council, to leave the reader better off than when you found them. In short, to provide therapy.
When someone is lost deep in a book, they are almost invariably alone. They may be sitting in a hospital room, waiting on good or bad news. They may have had an absolutely terrible day, or it may have been the best day in their lives. They may have just been chewed out by their boss. They may be struggling through month six of unemployment, unsure how to make it through another day. Regardless of the message you want to get out or the service you want to sell, your reader is always fighting the good fight to stay upright, healthy and sane.
If you want your customers to read your white papers, case studies, website content or other marketing collateral – and yes, I realize that they follow very different rules than literature – you need to remember at all times that what they really need is a psychic Advil.
In other words, your story isn’t really about you. It’s about them.
Your opportunity to demonstrate that you can effectively solve your customer’s problems starts with the chance to produce compelling language that gives them a quick help right now. Give them a story that they can emotionally identify with. Find the universal human conflicts that drive society’s need for what you have to offer. Show that with just a few words and a small bit of time investment, you can immediately make their day just a little brighter and more manageable.
Because, seriously. If you could do that with just words and time, just imagine.
What could you accomplish with your product or service?