Another tedious reminder to focus on the prospect

In the 20 years I spent in engineering journalism, I went to more company press conferences than I can count. The best were always those which treated us like a market to be sold to. In other words, not “here’s why our new product is brilliant”, but “here’s why you should write about it”.

My favourite ever was by the broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson at the Motor Show. It lasted about 30 seconds. He said: “Look, I’m a journalist, you’re journalists, I’ve got a DVD out, this is what it looks like, there’s a press release in the post, none of us want to be here, why don’t you all just go to the bar?”

The worst press conferences were those which padded out the presentation to justify the effort which everyone had made to get there, including the company representatives and the guests. These events would normally begin with the MD being wheeled on to “give you all some background about the company and where we come from”. One seasoned editor always timed his arrival to be just as the pitch was finishing. You could hardly blame him. Nobody wants to see an organisational chart any more than you want to see the accounts department on a factory tour.

Sorry, I’m rambling. What sparked me off was seeing an online product presentation which replicated the worst press conferences. I’m sure the company had the best of intentions when it decided to start off by talking all about its history. Establishing credibility is important, I get that. But it was also saying that it didn’t care nearly as much about its prospects and their requirements as it did about itself.

Great salespeople instantly work out the crossover between what they can offer and what the prospect needs, and focus on that. Supporting information is a nice extra to bring in later. We all need to make sure our marketing material works that way.