If you want to have fun at an otherwise dull wedding or corporate event, try to sit next to a professional event planner. When they aren’t trying to plan their own events, they can be found sitting in the back of other people’s events dishing out the catty remarks that make the back row so much fun. You’ll hear stuff like “Well that’s one way to save a few bucks on pate” and “I’m sure that give-away looked great in the catalogue.”
They can’t help it, and marketing folks can’t help being equally bitchy about bad marketing. It’s not that we’re mean (which certainly helps) but that we notice stuff other people don’t. Let’s start with this ad.
This has been running in HR publications in Canada (and maybe elsewhere) for years. The marketer who allowed this to see the light of day should be ashamed. The good news is something this awful is likely to be noticed only by other marketers who want to feel better about their own hideous materials. I am pretty sure it isn’t noticed by many other people.
The marketer who perpetrated this mess of a brochure should also have their toys taken away for a while.
Other than probably not working all that well, these are both exemplary cases of Feature Puke. We’ve all sat through endless pitches where some nervous rep breathlessly takes us through every, single feature of a product without ever really telling us what it does, why we might need it and how it might be helpful. Those are also called “show-up-and-throw-up” meetings. Nasty.
This email recently wasted three seconds of my time:
I haven’t seen that much puke since I undercooked the chicken at a church supper.
The issue with Feature Puke is deeper than bad design or inexperienced sales squirrels. The issue here is fear. These sales and marketing people are terrified that if they leave out just one little fact, feature or benefit, it’ll be the very one some prospect is going to say they were counting on — best to play it safe and put it all out there.
To lazy sales and marketing people everywhere this makes some kind of sense, sort of like a giant plate of nachos makes sense five beers into the evening; of course, the trouble is, the nachos always turn out to be a bit more trouble than they’re worth, and so does a Feature Puke.
Sales Squirrels are not there to dump out a bag full of stuff about your product and then help the customer or prospect pick through it until they find just the right thing that will move the sale forward. Their skillset is building relationships, not teaching. That means putting exactly the right thing out there in the first place. Marketing’s job is to know what that right thing is and to help the Squirrel make it relevant and trustworthy.
Right things, though, are not to be found in the minute details of your product specifications; they live in the higher order of the value proposition. Buyers will sidestep price and even gaps between their wish list and your sack of toys if they truly believe you will solve their problems and add some value.
To be sure, you eventually need to start delivering details, specifications, compatibilities and all of that, but that’s way down the funnel and even there, puking all over your customers is generally a terrible idea.
If you have recognized your own work in some of these examples, you probably need to fire or apologize to your agency, yell at your marketing managers and give the sales people something to do while you get your head on straight.
Get back to your brand value proposition. That’s the thing that helps you understand what you do, not what you sell. Next, blow the dust off that persona guide and figure out who you are talking to and what problems you can solve for them. Then give your sales people the information they need about these folks to get out there and start building trust.
Interesting Things I Found This Week
Franke, the Swiss kitchen systems manufacturer remembers a thing that B2B forgets sometimes, which is that at the end of the chain there is often a real person who wants to put something in their mouth. These illustrations are playful, emotional and utterly human. Nice way to not suck.
If you haven’t had a chance to hear or read Adele Revella from the Buyer Persona Institute, you are missing out on a lot of common sense. She has a new book out. Stay tuned for a review.
BizMarketer is Elizabeth Williams
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