5 Reasons Your Marketing Communication is Falling Flat

One of my associates sent me a promotional email she’d received. “I know this marketing communication doesn’t work,” she told me, “but why doesn’t this make me want to buy?” I took a look, and what I saw was familiar and sad. The promotional piece was for a weekend retreat. I could feel all the good intentions behind it, but the words just lay on the page like tired puppies. Worn out. No zip. No life.

As solo business owners, we are often at a loss to understand why our words aren’t getting a better response. Although an offer can fail for many reasons, I always recommend you look first to your marketing communication.

Why? Because if your message doesn’t connect, you won’t get much payoff from more exposure. Once your words really speak to people, you’ll get more bang for your buck from more marketing activity or better alignment.

Here then, are the top 5 reasons your marketing communication may fail to strike a chord.

1. No Clear Focus for What You are Offering.

When we aren’t clear on the ultimate outcome that we are delivering, we sometimes try boosting our appeal by offering to deliver everything under the sun. In this case? The retreat offered: renewal, creativity, connection, peace, appreciation of life, awareness, balance, and self-discovery

Phew! It’s so many different ideas my poor brain can’t wrap around it all. There’s no central theme or image I can use to fix in my mind what she’s offering. Instead of thinking “wow! I’d get a lot from this experience,” I walk away thinking, “I am confused, and I wonder if the retreat leader is too.”

2. No Verbal Markers that Say “I am talking to you!”

When we try to be a fit for everybody, we end up being a fit for nobody. Even when we think we believe in the law of attraction, our words often reflect our indecision or confusion about whom we want to reach. One sure sign that you aren’t clear? When there are no concrete “identifiers” in your copy. By identifiers, I mean phrases like “as a working mom,” “as a business owner,” “in the workplace,” “navigating the world of academia.” These concrete markers confirm for the audience that your marketing communication was written for them. It makes it personal.

3. No New Insight into Your Audience’s Struggle

It’s no longer enough to let your audience know that you feel their pain. You have to quickly demonstrate that you have valuable insight into that pain. That you’ve made some connection they haven’t about why they are stuck where they are. That gives them hope that what you are offering aren’t the same old tired solutions that they’ve heard of before.

In this marketing piece, I would have liked to have heard answers to questions like “What is it that leads us to be so disconnected from ourselves?” “Why is renewal needed now more than ever?” Even something as simple as “The harder we work, the more we need quiet, open space to recharge our batteries” would have made me go, “hmm, could that be true for me?”

4. No Visible Plan for Delivering on Your Promise

Once you’ve shown that you know your audience, and you have a juicy and specific outcome to offer them, the communication shifts. Your reader is no longer asking, “Am I interested?” She is asking, “Do I believe this person can deliver on what they are promising?”

Testimonials are one way to establish credibility, but what testimonials don’t do is create a picture for your audience of how you lead them step by step to the destination you’ve promised. When the way you deliver is a mystery, you’re asking people to take a big leap of faith. When you describe your logic, process, or philosophy in a limited number of steps, your audience can see how your steps or ingredients add up to the outcome you are promising.

For example, if the woman offering the retreat had listed the “five stages of renewal” or the “three ingredients of creative discovery,” her readers would have immediately believed more strongly that she could deliver.

5. No Fire in your Belly

To me, words are transparent. They reveal every nuance of who you are, how you see yourself in relationship to the world, and how you feel about your work. Since so many creative professionals say they hate marketing, it is a surprise that the communication they write comes across as strained and tense?

On a gut level, you readers will feel if you are writing from the place of consuming excitement about what you offer or from a place of caution and ambivalence. The more you let your words carry your passionate and full-hearted energy, the more your message will have an indefinable “something” that stirs the readers’ soul and sparks their interest in what you offer.

Copyright 2004-5. Isabel Parlett. All rights reserved.

Discovering More About Integrated Marketing Communications

Integrated marketing is best described as “the management of three interconnected business drivers.” Under this business strategy, the business seamlessly optimizes its brand by identifying the unique characteristics of the brand, by training personnel and by launching an aggressive integrated marketing communications program. In order for an enterprise to succeed all three components must come together so that the success of the brand is directly proportionate to the success of the business in merging the three tiers.

The brand is usually characterized by the business model, the product designs, the organization’s culture and the external presentation of these attributes. Defining the products and services that comprise the brand and develop a strong support network is an important preliminary step in any integrated marketing program. This process is similar to determining the company’s mission statement but goes a several steps further.

The second phase of an integrated marketing program is to train all employees so that they understand the culture of the business. Businesses often rely upon their HR departments to initiate the corporate culture and to sustain this ongoing strategy until high performance, consistency and product knowledge are ingrained in the workforce.

With these two sectors in place, the business is now ready to launch its integrated marketing communications program. This multi-dimensional approach is intended to add reach, enter new marketplaces and use both business-to-business and business-consumer marketing approaches to maximize the return by expanding the customer base and increasing sales.

With more and more businesses and consumers purchasing online, the need for a strong online presence is imperative. In today’s marketplace, an online presence is more than the whimsical creation of an information site. Today, an online presence must be well planned, diverse and comprehensive.

The use of social media is one aspect of the company’s marketing policy. There are many social media outlets that can bring consumers to your site or to your brick and mortar locations. Again, the social media message must be consistent with the corporate culture and brand.

Many businesses now have presences on Internet platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Squidoo. These same businesses are apt to use YouTube where poignant messages can be delivered. Twitter is the fastest growing social media and should be part of every integrated marketing program.

As can be seen, the implementation of this marketing strategy will require the launching of a coordinated effort that will require ongoing management. Whatever characteristics the integrated communication program utilizes must remain consistent with stages one and two of your comprehensive marketing strategy.

Marketing Communications Audit – What is It, and Why is it Necessary?

As a product manager or marketing director a key responsibility is to develop and implement an effective marketing communications strategy. One place to start is with a communications audit.

An audit is a review of all current marketing and other communications vehicles to answer some basic questions:

o What are we saying about our company/brand/products?
o Is the message consistent across formats and audiences?
o How are we presenting the information?
o Who are we talking to?

The results of the audit should help clarify the communications strategy and provide a framework for future projects.

The simplest way to begin is to gather all existing materials and lay them out on a big conference table. Materials would include product and corporate brochures, product packaging, business cards and letterhead, annual reports, advertisements, direct mail pieces, investor kits, and website screen shots. Even things like internal memos, press releases, promotional items, company t-shirts or hats, and PowerPoint templates should be included.

Once everything is laid out, some basic questions can be answered. First, do all the items look like they are from the same company? Is there some consistency in layout, use of color, and fonts?

Second, is the company positioning clear? In other words, if you asked several people to review a number of your communications and tell you what they perceived to be the company mission or value offering, would the answers be consistent? Or would it depend on what pieces were reviewed?

Third, what are the key messages that are being communicated? Are those messages coherent, or fragmented? Are the messages consistent with your intent?

For many businesses, the answers to these questions are not encouraging. Fragmentation and inconsistency are common, especially as an organization grows and as communications responsibility becomes dispersed.

Unless there is someone within the company charged with maintaining an overall vision, and empowered to enforce guidelines and standards, it is often unavoidable that the communications water gets muddied.

Some may say, “So what?” There is a feeling that as long as each entity within the firm is communicating effectively with its own constituency, there shouldn’t be a problem except for marketing purists. The fallacy with this argument becomes obvious once you begin talking to various stakeholders within the organization, as well as customers and investors who are either getting the wrong message, or aren’t sure about what the message is in the first place.

The communications audit is really only the first step. Understanding the impact your messages are having requires research, and developing a process for ongoing review and implementation integrity requires dedication.

It’s one thing to give lip service to communications consistency, but quite another to put in place the means to make it happen. By regularly reviewing your communication strategy, and evaluating your materials to ensure they are meeting your goals, you will improve message clarity and better meet the needs of your customers, investors, and employees.