Are you talking to your customers about the things that matter to them using the right language?
There’s a simple three-step process to make sure you’re using language that resonates with your audience, but first you’ve got to find that language before you can be sure you’re using it correctly.
Finding the Language Of the Dog
Years ago, when I started working for a software company, the marketing copy read like a romance novel for robots. I was fairly technically competent, and I couldn’t even understand it. And the parts I did understand put me to sleep.
Their problem was, their customers were often first-time computer users. This was software for blind people, being bought by people who didn’t know a lot about computers, to be used by people who knew even less about computers.
When I came in, I said we needed to “speak to the dog in the language of the dog.” That meant no more writing copy with a bunch of technical crap. I rewrote everything, and talked to our buyers and users about things that mattered to them.
Rather than talking about how the software accessed the operating system, we talked about how easy it was to use. Rather than discussing how it “interfaced with different computer peripherals,” we said “it works with any keyboard.” And rather than talking about all the different applications they could use, we said they could read emails, browse the web, and even play games.
We had to figure out what the audience wanted, and we had to tell them as simply and plainly as possible. That meant no more specs, no more technical jargon and no more product features.
The things that mattered to our customers were the benefits. Only the benefits. And we had to write at a sixth grade reading level.
Not because our audience wasn’t smart; rather, that’s where most people feel comfortable reading. That’s also the reading level of your typical newspaper.
Bottom line, more people knew who we were, we got calls and requests from state agencies that finally understood what we did and our sales increased.
We did it just by following the mantra, “Speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, about things that matter to the heart of the dog.”
Speaking-To-The-Dog copywriting is a three step process that makes copywriting easy, if you know how to do it. (Spoiler: it looks like every other good copywriting formula out there, but this one has a nice rhythm to it.)
1. Speak to the dog.
Who’s “the dog?” Who’s your audience? Every marketer knows they should know this, but you’d be surprised at how many of them forget to ask.
When I got to the software company, they weren’t sure who their buyers were. We had a few ideas, but they were all over the board. Once we figured it out, we addressed them directly.
2. Language of the dog.
Knowing your audience means knowing their “love language.”
If your audience is a bunch of Ph.D. scientists, then you get to use all the big words and jargon you want, because that’s their love language. But if your audience is a bunch of government employees, you have to speak to them about employment rates, ease of use, training costs and reliability (fewer crashes means more employers are happy, and will hire more blind people).
3. Heart of the dog.
This is where the “benefits, not features” discussion happens. Customers don’t care how long you’ve been in business. They don’t care about your state-of-the-art technology. They want to know if your product will make their lives easier or make them more money.
For our software, the state government agencies wanted something that could help their clients find work and stay employed. When we were able to demonstrate that with a report, one state agency dropped our competition completely and switched to our product. The users were often frightened of the brand new technology — many of them had never used a computer before. We had to make sure they felt at ease and comfortable.
Copywriting is always a simple process, if you know how to keep it simple. A lot of marketers lose sight of their customer, and start waxing rhapsodic about those things that really don’t matter to their customers. They just look cool to the other marketers.
But if you can focus on what the dog wants, and talk about it in a way that the dog understands, you’ll find your success.