Talk to your customers up at their level

The World Cup, with all that awful bland “global” advertising, has reminded us that if you don’t talk to your customers and prospects at their level, you may as well not talk to them at all. In the effort to speak to the whole world at once, most advertisers there have managed to come up with messages which mean nothing to anyone. Still, nobody ever got sacked for coming up with a meaningless slogan. Probably.

In technical business-to-business advertising, we have both the easiest and the most difficult job of all when it comes to speaking our customers’ language. It’s easy because all they really want to know is “what’s in it for me?”, and the answer is the product’s benefits, preferably in quantitative terms. Tell them that “this Blue Widget will make your machine run 25% faster” and you’ve done your job.

At the same time it’s difficult, because many people in B2B marketing communications aren’t as technically qualified as their customers, and are scared that what they’re naturally inclined to say won’t impress them. So they retreat to the sort of blandness which loses any appeal at all. Flick through a few pages of adverts in a trade magazine and you’ll see a number of instances of what I mean.

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