What My Teenagers Taught Me About Marketing "Stuff"
By: Charlie Cook


My kids taught me a lot about marketing communication when they were teenagers. My son had me playing 20 questions. When I asked what he'd done at school or out with his friends the night before, I'd get one of two classic teenage responses; "Stuff" or "Nothing". I'd have to pepper him with questions to learn any more.

With my daughter, I could hardly get a word in edgewise. She's a great storyteller, but she wanted to tell me everything about everyone. Neither of them were really giving me what I wanted.

If these had been sales calls and I'd been a business prospect instead of a devoted parent, I'd have ended the conversation or walked away. I'd have thought, "Great people, but they don't understand my point of view or my problems."

Does your marketing turn prospects off with too little or too much information?

Do you approach your marketing from your customers' point of view?

Is your marketing generating the leads you need to grow your business?

If a prospect asked you what you do, you'd n.ever respond by just saying "Stuff". But what do you say? Do you tell them that you're in advertising, or that you are a lawyer, accountant, designer, entrepreneur, franchise consultant, realtor, trainer, or software developer? Statements like this don't start a conversation fully explain what you do or how a prospect could benefit from your products or services. These one or two word answers are the equivalent of your teenager telling you they've been doing "Stuff".

Don't make your prospects play "20 Questions" with you to understand your business. Give them a clear, succinct marketing message that describes how you can help them and why they need you.

Once you've got their attention with your marketing message, follow it up with the information they need, a clarification of the problems you solve, the solutions you provide and a reason to contact you. Make it easy for your prospects to get what they want from your marketing materials, whether you use ads, brochures, a web site or other media.

- Define your prospects' most common concerns and the problems they want resolved.

- Present the solutions your provide in the context of these problems.

- Explain why they need you, from their point of view.

- Anticipate and answer their questions.

I was on the phone with Marilyn, who wanted to know what her firm could do to spread the word and get more clients. Last year they made over a million dollars, but so far this year they haven't gotten the number of inquires they need to continue to grow the company. What's getting in the way?

While I was talking with Marilyn, I typed her firm's URL into my web browser to take a look at the way they are promoting themselves. I had two reactions when her site came up in my browser. One, it was very attractive and professionally done. Two, after looking at it for a few minutes, I had no idea what the company actually did, who they helped or how.

There was a lot of information on the site, but it wasn't telling me what I needed to know. It took me another ten minutes and a number of questions to find out what her small business software development and computer-networking firm did.

Your prospects don't have the motivation of a parent talking to a teenager. If its hard for your prospects to figure out whether or not you can help them from your marketing materials, they're gone. Don't expect them to decipher unclear copy or hunt through your web site to find the information they need.

Generate more leads and sales by using a marketing message, supporting marketing copy and a coordinated marketing system that helps your prospects understand why they need you and how you can solve their problems.

2005 © In Mind Communications, LLC. All rights reserved.

- The author, Charlie Cook, helps service professionals and small business owners attract more clients and be more successful. Sign up for the FrŽe Marketing Plan eBook, '7 Steps to get more clients and grow your business' at http://www.marketingforsuccess.com