Friday, April 29, 2011
My son recently entered a particularly interesting new phase of life. He has decided that the standard response to everything that I ask him to do will now be "Why?" Go to bed – Why? Eat your dinner – Why? Clean up your toys – Why? And so it goes.
I've heard some parents describe this as the "the most terrible phase of life". As a parent I might agree. But as a marketing person, my two year old has taught me a valuable lesson (whilst simultaneously causing my hair loss to accelerate).
One of the needs of all people is simply a better understanding of Why?
The world of technology marketing however hasn't always understood this. If you think about it you can probably think of endless streams of marketing messages that answer a different question – How? More gigabytes, more megahertz, more bandwidth, less bandwidth, less megahertz, less gigabytes, or maybe even a patented algorithm… all this serves to tell and audience is How something works. If the joys of parenthood have taught me anything it's that nobody cares (or at least little boys) about How something works until they first understand Why it's important.
A simple example. If I was someone who had never driven a car, I wouldn't care about horsepower, in fact I probably wouldn't even understand what it was, I'd gotten where I need to go by walking and it was fine. To join the ranks of car owners I would need to first be educated on Why getting places faster would give me more time in the day, or Why owning a car could give me the freedom to go anywhere on my own schedule. I would need to first understand Why a car could help me, before I cared about about How it worked, or How one car was better than another car.
You might think that this behavior is exclusive to technology folks. But I've seen enough panty liner advertisements focusing on how much blue liquid can be absorbed to know that this behavior has less to do with technologist and simply more to do with marketers.
Understanding Why can educate and even inspire. Simon Sinek's golden circle describes this in a much more profound manner than I ever could and I encourage you to check it out. Sadly answering Why instead of How is difficult to do, but I think taking a step back to think about it is worthwhile for all marketers. I think my son would agree….
PS. You need to go to bed on time and finish your dinner to grow up big and strong.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
A friend of mine recently took up just about the most interesting hobby I've come across. He has spent the past few months taking workshops in standup comedy. I'd imagine that standing up on stage and actually trying to make people laugh ON PURPOSE must be one of the most intimidating tasks out there. For that I commend him.
In talking to him about the experience and what it's like he shared something thing that I believe should be a lesson that should be given to folks like me that work in marketing. During one of his early comedy lessons the instructor shared with them one of the golden rules of comedy: "Never talk down to your audience… assume they are smart enough to get the joke."
How profound. In the context of a joke, adding unnecessary explanation and clutter to your deliver simply renders the punch line UN-funny. In marketing the same type of behavior can render whatever message you're trying to convey overly confusing. To my dismay, I've been guilty of this. I've been guilty of failing to give my audience enough credit.
I can't help but think this simply boils down to having a better understanding of your audience. Understand their background; understand their expectations. In short know what matters most to them.
I work in the B2B space selling software that manages datacenters. Something that I've found myself guilty of is over-explaining the things that my products did. Sometimes even down to describing basic concepts. In retrospect I've now realize that keeping those slides a part of my presentations, not only made my presentations too long, but they also rendered my message overly complex, or worse, condescending. IT professionals don't need to be told what a computer is or what a storage array is. Heck, most of the time they just want to get to the point, they simply want to know what the result of using my products will be, and if those results align to whatever needs they have. Simple right? Turns out not so much if you spend some time reading enterprise datacenter management software brochures.
I've now begun my journey down the road of trusting that my audience will get the joke….