Aaron’s Answers: The problem with marketing messages

The Question (posed on LinkedIn):


I foolishly indicated that I am looking to replace a particular service provider due to their failure to live up to a level of service that might be acceptable. I have been inundated with emails from people trying to market their products / services.

Most of these appear to have been written by the same person – they contain the same phrases, just in a different sequence. “Leverage our capabilities”, “Maximise your sales paradigm”, “Dynamically enhance your business intelligence”, “Industry focussed eco-system”, “Ramp up your business processes”.

In most cases, I have found that the people that use these phrases clearly don’t actually know what their product does, as they are unable to re-phrase the text in plain English. Is it a case that they want to give the impression that they are clever? (Or do they really believe that they do know what they are talking about?)

Aaron’s Answer:

Once upon a time there was a marketing team that wanted to go with a really simple sales proposition — “Increase sales” — for their company’s product. It made sense and they knew it would resonate with the target audience.

Then the marketing manager got it and said “our customers will respond better if we stick the word ‘your’ in there. Make it ‘Increase your sales’.”

Then the director of marketing reviewed it and said “We do more than just increase sales. Please change it to ‘Increase the effectiveness of your sales’.”

Then the VP of Sales and Marketing said “It’s too long. Can we just say ‘Increase your sales effectiveness’?”.

Then the CEO said, “I don’t want us confused with a sales-coaching company. Let’s change ‘effectiveness’ to ‘intelligence’.” So it becomes “Increase your sales intelligence.”

Then the legal department said “We can’t say ‘Increase’. It has to say ‘Enhance’… ‘Enhance your sales intelligence’.”

Then the product people make a frenzied Friday afternoon call and they are furious because the marketing people have limited the product’s benefits to sales when, in fact, the product does so much more. Thus, it gets changed to ‘Enhance your business intelligence.’

And just before the marketing plan was implemented and all the ads were printed, a hotshot stakeholder on the fast track through the organization got the CIO to call the CFO to tell the CEO to tell marketing that the word “dynamically” would really make the phrase stand out against the competition.

Thus, “increase sales” becomes “dynamically enhance your business intelligence”.

And that is the story of how a compelling and clear marketing proposition becomes a stupid one.
-Aaron Hoos

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Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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