Not long ago, on a rainy January afternoon in the office, I took some time out to catch up on some long overdue cold calling. I will admit without reservation that this isn’t my favorite activity. Occasionally it bears fruit – which is why I do it – but most of the time, a typical call session accomplishes little but burning off a few unused hours of the day.
From time to time, however, I encounter a situation that gives me pause and makes me think.
This call was to a midsized firm operating in the telecom sector (our wheelhouse), and I explained myself as I usually do. We develop written collateral for technology product and service providers, with a particular emphasis on the telecom, healthcare and emerging Internet of Things arenas. If your firm needs some help with whitepapers, case studies, website content or the like – and if you want it written with just the right balance of engineering know how and reader-friendly marketing style – then I’d like to talk to you. Because that’s what Load Bearing Creative does, and I think we do it very well.
It was a pleasant, professional conversation, but I could tell from the start that it wasn’t going anywhere. However, I’m always open to being wrong. We chatted for a bit, and finally the gentleman I was speaking to said this:
“We’ve never really considered outsourcing that kind of stuff. Because we have a very complex product, and to really sell it, you have to really understand it. And only we really understand it.”
In almost two decades of doing this, I’d never heard that before. Not in those words, anyway.
Only they really understand it?
I thanked him for his time, ended the call, and went on with the next. But that line stuck with me.
When someone asks me what I do for a living, I usually answer with either “writer” or “I own a marketing firm”. There’s no point in making it more complicated than that. Most of the time, they appreciate the brevity and we move on to the next topic.
When pressed to further explanation, however, I tell them this: we work with very smart people who know their businesses really, really, really well. Most of the time, they’re engineers or people who work closely with engineers, and the topics involved are usually very sophisticated and highly detail-oriented. These are highly educated folks who have spent decades learning the details of their worlds, in industries where small details can have high impact.
They are experts. And they know their businesses so well, in fact, that they’ve lost the ability (or inclination, or patience) to effectively explain it to someone who doesn’t know it at all.
And that’s where we come in. We have the technical background, the engineering knowledge and experience to quickly grasp and understand the finer details of what you do – and to shape that into an effective message for a harried C-level who doesn’t want to be an expert in your product. They are busy being experts in their own problems and needs, not to mention their own businesses and markets.
The truth is, where your marketing is concerned, the last thing you want to be is your own best expert. Because, ultimately, what you are doing probably isn’t nearly as innovative or esoteric as you think it is, and the odds are good that your competition is doing a better job at communicating what really matters: how and where it fits into your customer’s world.
If you think that only you really understand the thing you sell, that’s not a badge of honor. Rather, that’s your most immediate and pressing marketing problem. And you may need an outside voice or perspective to solve it, with a breakout message that isn’t rooted in the assumption that your complexity itself is a direct selling point.
Complexity hides a multitude of sins. Don’t make your best selling point that you keep a detailed catalog of them. Your customers will greatly appreciate it.