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The Big Marketing Communication Mistake Most Businesses Make

14/02/2016 7:58 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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A school friend of mine works for an NGO that focuses extensively on the skill development and income generation capabilities of children and women from a certain region. As with most NGOs, they have 'cash crunch' and so need to raise funds periodically to survive and sustain their social work. For 2016, the NGO wanted to secure the funds by curating an art exhibition. They planned to use a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the artwork towards the NGO. Since my friend did not have any contacts for marketing/advertising/promotions, I offered to help her. All it took was my time and creativity, and all for a good cause -- so why not?

The first thing I told her to do was to create a small visual invite for the event. When she sent me the first version, she had written about the trust which supports the NGO and put up a collage of the artwork that would be on display during the exhibition.

"So, who do you think should attend this event?" I asked her.

"Anyone who has an interest in art, and can afford to buy," she ventured.

Some leaders and marketers become so emotional or inward focused that they completely miss out on the customer/buyer perspective.

"OK, so can you describe your buyer in a bit more detail," I persisted.

"Wealthy people. Folks from show business, bankers, investors, business leaders from corporates, successful entrepreneurs, sportspeople, maybe even politicians," she said

"So, when any of them read your visual invite, do you think they'll attend?" I asked.

"I don't know. But I wish they do as the NGO needs the funds," she responded.

"I wish they do too. But, honestly, in the current avatar I doubt it. The invite speaks about the NGO and the trust that supports it. Do you think that would appeal enough to an art lover and compel them to attend the event?"

She saw my point.

"So what do you suggest?" she asked

"Well, for starters, do mention what is unique about the art exhibition you are curating. Who is the curator? Who is the art critic? Who are the artists? What is so special about their paintings? And of course, mention the date, time, venue and any special guests/celebrities who will attend," I suggested.

She agreed and did make the changes and sent me a note which said:

"I am very emotional about my work. Mostly, I am thinking just from the NGO's point of view. Thank you for the feedback which compelled me to re-articulate the invite and explain what there was in the event for the art lover."

This not a one-off example. In my experience, too many businesses make the mistake of talking too much about themselves and not enough about their customers.

In short, what they need to do is have a ready answer for the question that lingers in every customer's mind:

"What's in it for me?

I see businesses failing to address this basic question not once or twice but over and over.

Some leaders and marketers become so emotional or inward focused that they completely miss out on the customer/buyer perspective. In the process, the business loses out -- in terms of mind-share, market-share and profit-share.

If as a company or brand, your customer is unable to relate to your story then you've lost him or her.

As a marketer, I strongly believe that marketing communication is the one of the most important components of business branding, sales and customer loyalty. If as a company or brand, your customer is unable to relate to your story then you've lost him or her. In today's competitive marketplace, that is a steep price to pay, both in the short-term and long-term.

So as I conclude, I leave you with four points you should bear in mind for all marketing communications:

1. Know your customer: Really know your target audience. What are their problems in context of what you are offering? Which channel (TV, radio, print) is most effective to reach this customer base?

2. Tell a story: Create your marketing communication as a story which will connect with your potential customer base. Something which makes them feel that yes, you know who they are. Something that makes them feel connected to you. Something that might lead them to exclaim, "Wow! This is me that they are talking about..."

3. Keep it simple In terms of communication content and style, keep it short and simple. Jargon seldom works. Use visual/ images to reinforce the message. Also be clear in terms of what you expect the communication to do for your business -- are you hoping to generate brand awareness or to establish thought leadership?

Make sure your communication clearly answers this question of every consumer: What's In It For Me?

4. Answer "WIIFM": Make sure your communication clearly answers this question of every consumer: What's In It For Me?

5. Use the right channel: Ensure that your communication reaches the right (target) audience with the most cost effective channel (e-mail, SMS, etc.).

What are the best practices you follow in crafting marketing communications? Leave a comment to let me know...

This is an edited version of a blog posted here

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