Monday, March 13, 2017

Marketing Messages - Ten Hints to Make Them Work

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on....................."

We are in a constant pursuit of trying to create marketing messages that will resonate with the target audiences; trying to tell our stories in a way that the reader / listener will find them interesting and compelling.

But for most organizations, those reader / listeners are often bored silly reading or hearing the story we are trying to tell.  Too often we present the same old presentation over and over again.  We use the same words and the same tired language that everyone in the field uses.  Moreover, we often use too many words to try to create too many images with the result that our message doesn't convey either what we want it to convey or what we hope it conveys.

It is smart to take a long, cold look at our messages - whether in our advertisements, on our website, in emails, or brochures or direct mail solicitations -- and imagine we are the intended target and ask ourselves is it boring?

Several considerations play into this review.

First, less is often more.  Try to say what you want to say in as few words as possible.  Don't make your reader or listener work too hard to get through all the verbiage.  Everyone is inundated with way too many messages competing for their attention.  The world is jammed with what amounts to noise.   And beyond the sheer volume of messages targeting us, far too many printed brochures, advertisements, emails etc. are too overloaded and busy.  If, for example, you are trumpeting a performance, you already have to provide the specifics - what, where, when and how much.  Too much additional chatter just turns people off.  People don't read things today, they scan them.  Very quickly. Better one brilliant line, than an essay.  The best messages are often very short.  Too much information drives people away.

Second, hyperbole is usually recognized as such.  Don't insult your targets by making the arrogant assumption that merely using words that promise the most, the best, the greatest experience of a lifetime.  If you are selling a performance, you need to convey what they get by attending - and very likely promising them a life transformative experience will be recognized as ridiculous - even if it happens.  You have to be more creative in making sure what you are delivering is believable.

Third, differentiate between various purposes for your messaging.  Selling people on a performance and getting them to buy tickets isn't exactly the same message you would send to people you want to donate to your organization.  Try not to confuse your targets.  Boomers and Millennials are different.  So are a score of other categories of people.  Using one single message for different target audiences is probably never a good idea.  People can easily discern what they perceive to be disrespectful marketing, and using the same old language, year after year, is disrespectful.

Fourth, craft messages that take direct aim at a desire or need for the target - be that an enjoyable night out with friends, or being part of a community that makes a local difference.  Remember the message isn't directed at you - it's aimed at people outside of "you".  What works for you is a poor gauge of what will work for your targets.

Fifth,  images are more effective than words in almost all printed materials (including emails).  The famous "GOT MILK" tagline over a plate of chocolate chip cookies was more effective than a thousand words.  The image of a battered seal pup accompanying a plea for donations to save them was all that was needed to move people to action.  But some images are better than others - and if all you do is pick some "clip art" that is somewhat related to your work, you are likely to squander this opportunity.  A generic drawing of two ballet dancers is virtually meaningless.  A photo of two of your ballet dancers in action is more memorable.  But a photo of any ballet dancer may not be the right choice.  THINK about how the image will play to the intended audience and whether or not it is likely to move that audience to do what it is you want them to do.  Do some homework.  Is it overworked?  Is it fresh and original?  Will people remember it?

Sixth, imagine you are the reader / listener.   Don't assume they are as passionate or informed about what you do as you are.  For the most part, I guarantee you they are not.  They may not even be that aware of you, and they may simply not care.  Your message has to try to make them care.

Seventh, offer something extra in return for the requested action: If you donate, your name goes on our annual honorees wall.  If you attend, we will give you a discount on the next two upcoming performances.

Eighth, play into the times.  Help Save Dance in the current era of possible political attack may hit the right emotions today for example.  You may think what you do is timeless, but your audience still lives in today.

Ninth, do some research on what fonts people most respond to, what colors elicit what reactions, what subject lines in an email increase the odds it will be opened.  There is research out there on a lot of this.  Don't just make your message choices based on what you like or what you think works.  Find out what people actually do like and what does work.

Tenth, if you don't know what works with your target audiences - take the time to ask them.  Do some surveying, get people involved in helping you figure out what will work best.  Test things.

Whatever you do, don't just keep using the same, tired old words in the same tired old messages that don't work.  You're just wasting precious time and insulting the people to whom the messages are directed.   BE CREATIVE. And being creative sometimes takes time.  Don't leave something as important as your messaging to a half hour time slot on one of your afternoon "To Do" lists.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit