I learned a long time ago that a big part of being a marketing partner for companies is to act as a translator and cultural attaché. No, I’m not a polyglot or an etiquette expert, but a big part of what we do is to bridge the gaps between people.
In fact, it’s rare to find a business or business leader who isn’t struggling with a significant gap. More often than not, it is a barrier to communication. Sometimes this involves difficulty getting prospects to understand the benefits of the company’s products. Sometimes it’s an inability to articulate the CEO’s vision in a way employees can understand. At other times, it can really be a cultural divide, like when a company is trying to market to prospects in another part of the world.
What we think of as barriers to communication actually extend far beyond the written and spoken. They can encompass the many aspects of culture, linguistics, organizational attitudes, individual emotions, psychology, etc. When businesses turn to marketing partners for help in promoting their products or services, most of the time they are actually asking for help in understanding and overcoming these barriers.
One of the most common obstacles in marketing is the use of jargon. All companies speak with unique lexicons reflecting their industries, their history and the education of their leaders and employees. In an internal meeting or document, this is rarely a problem because everyone knows the same terminology. But when the company tries to communicate with an external audience, these obstacles get in its way. The public probably has its own lexicon. What the first company calls a widget, the second can call it a widget. Sometimes the differences can be so great that it’s as if they are speaking completely different languages.
It can also happen internally. When employees with specialized knowledge, such as engineers or CFOs, try to communicate with other team members who don’t have that knowledge, obstacles can get in the way. At best, these barriers create frustration. In the worst case, they can lead to serious problems.
Another common example is when a company fails to capture what is truly important to its audience. Internal staff can be extremely proud that their ratchet assembly is chrome plated, so they see this as a key market differentiator. What they don’t realize is that the people they’re trying to sell to don’t see chrome plating as a big deal. They are more interested in something else, like tight lubrication.
This is where a marketing partner can help, by developing a deep understanding of audience needs and shifting the company’s sales messages to focus on those needs. A big part of an effective marketing partner’s job is to stand in the audience’s shoes, help the company better see what matters, and figure out the best ways to present that information. It can be embarrassing to tell a CEO that no one cares about what makes them proud, but candor is key to avoiding missteps.
Finally, there are times when clearing an obstacle involves tactics you might never consider. A case in point was a construction client that served high-end markets. After doing extensive market research, rebranding, positioning the product, and sending key messages, how could we improve that all-important first impression? Was there another way to convince prospects that their services met their expectations for quality and sophistication?
We added another element, both tactical… and tactile. When people examine a finished construction, their assessment goes beyond a visual assessment. Touch is just as important. If you’ve ever walked through a model home, you’ve run your fingers over the countertops, wall coverings, and fabrics. You’ve grabbed railings and door frames to see how sturdy they feel. Your eyes can tell you if the work is to your liking, but your touch becomes the true judge of quality and workmanship.
Reinforcing this idea, we ensured that the prospect’s first impression capitalized on the importance of touch by creating a presentation format incorporating a unique, thick and velvety paper. When prospects picked up the presentation book, their immediate impression was one of substance, durability and style – all essential elements in the type of construction our client has achieved. The premium quality of the presentation book also sent the message that our client thought the prospect was important. Before the prospect glances at a single photo or reads a single word, they have experienced a palpable luxury.
Our client knew the importance of tactile prints in their projects but had never thought of it as a way to break down barriers. It’s a great example of how the right marketing partner can deliver the perfect touch.
Deborah Daily is co-owner of Buckaroo Marketing | New Media, a Fishers-based advertising agency established in 1999. She can be contacted at [email protected]