Blog_CustomerVoiceGraphic_v0.2Marketers are determined to get closer to and more knowledgeable about their customers. To keep up with our customers’ needs and aspirations, the marketing team at Integrate is going through a major review and update of our customer communications – rethinking both what and how we communicate.

I’ve been part of many of these initiatives before, but something seems different this time.  Upon reflection and therapy-like exchanges with other marketing executives, there are two big factors I see contributing to the increased pressure and simultaneous excitement that we face today:

  • The rapid pace of change for marketers is driven by our customers and our customers’ customers, challenging us to learn and adapt faster to customer needs
  • The rampant amount of choices and decisions marketers must make every day/week/month to deliver ROI: Which channel(s) do I use? Which data metric do I believe gets me there fastest? Which technologies do I invest in, when?

In this turbocharged environment and through our review process, we’re learning valuable lessons on how to up our impact via customer-centric communications.  Here’s a list of recommendations you can use now based on our learnings:

Involve your ideal customers in your communications planning effort

One of the most powerful things we can do as marketers is to have a conversation with our best prospects and customers. The goal is to understand a day in their life, their full world, and their current priorities and pains – and to have a dialog about what the future looks like from their view.  What excites them? What bugs them? What’s on their wish list?  These conversations can take place via a quick phone call, a face-to-face visit over coffee or lunch, at a conference, or even an email exchange – without focusing on your product or solution. This authentic, conversational approach shapes your messaging and keeps your communications real.

Communicate in plain English

Your customers’ needs and wish lists rarely contain marketing lingo, industry jargon and marketing buzzwords.  The industry lingo may make you or your company look smart, but glorious descriptions and trendy phrases rarely hit home with your customers.  For example, customers talk about their “marketing technology,” they rarely ever use industry descriptions like my “marketing cloud.”  Avoid the buzzword trap and use words your customers can understand, relate to and use in their conversations.

Focus on problems you solve, not features and benefits

One invaluable guiding principle we received from Kevin Barber, Founder of Lean Labs (the company we are working with on our new web site) is “don’t write copy in a Microsoft Word doc or in a content management system” (I always did).  Rather, write as if you were responding to a customer’s inquiry or most pressing questions, literally via an email.  This way you focus on your prospects’ most pressing problems and respond with how you solve them. Try it. We were blown away by how much more you focus on real issues and less about your products’ features and benefits.

Less is way more

Don’t share everything your company or product can or will do. Simply focus on the core problems your solution solves and the possibilities you enable.  All the rest gets in the way of prospect or customer journey to learn how you can meet their needs and solve their challenges.

Test everything, keep testing and never stop evolving

One of the biggest advantages of today’s growing set of data tools is that we can test and capture feedback on what’s working and what’s not.  This is about setting consistent testing processes, and committing to “always be testing” so you can evolve with your target customers.  This also allows you to use data and feedback to educate the CEO or executive critiquing the work (colors, words, layout, etc.) because they think “this xx approach would work better.” You know that person!

Avoid consensus design and messaging development

Which leads to the next killer of good communications – writing and design by committee. Many impactful communications have been butchered by multiple people weighing in to edit, nitpick or contribute half-baked comments.  Don’t get me wrong, we need editors and we need to validate key points with outside parties and experts and seek other sets’ of eyes to review. However, a consistent tone, look and feel is critical to deliver clear, relevant information across all of your communications.