You May Need to Reframe Your Benefits
In 2013, I learned a tough lesson about what happens when businesses don’t get their messaging right…and it led me to the business I’m in now: creating content and sales copywriting, freelance.
I was a Senior Business Consultant in a group with a mandate to modernize the Ontario Public Service. “What the..?”, you may well ask.
That’s right, ‘modernize’. It sounds vague and a bit daunting, and it was both.
In plain language, we were there to help the public service plan, deliver, measure and adjust like a modern organization.
And we were making headway. We were leading things that had rarely been done in the public service…in fact, that few people in the ministries even understood.
To be clear, it wasn’t for lack of marketing that we weren’t understood. We ran content marketing, video training, event marketing and more. Every chance we got, we told people that we were helping create a ‘modern government’, a ‘transformed government’.
Sounds impressive, right?
And yet, we missed the mark.
Why Marketing Sometimes Falls Flat
One of the Deputy Ministers hit on a chilling truth when he said our group was “the best kept secret” in the ministry.
How could that be when we were working so hard to market ourselves?
We made the all-too-common mistake of marketing the wrong benefits. It didn’t matter how much noise we were making. As long as we were trumpeting benefits that felt cold and distant, our value went unrecognized.
This is true for any business. If you aren’t tapping into the real motivations of your customers, you’ll be the best-kept-secret of your industry.
Instead, we needed to convey ‘what was in it’ for executives.
Sure, execs liked the ring of ‘modern’ and ‘transformed’. They liked the idea of strategic planning, project management and continuous improvement. But those concepts were too abstract.
Day to day, public service leaders are under pressures that have nothing to do with lofty outcomes. They needed to hear that working with us would solve painful problems with unions; improve embarrassing scores on employee surveys; meet performance commitments that made them sweat over their ever-shrinking budgets. Those would have been invaluable benefits for execs.
If we’d used copywriting to nail those egocentric, specific, and deeply emotional motivations, things may have turned out differently. When it came time for department cuts, executives may have said, ‘No way. We need those guys.’
Communications Is Not Copywriting
At the time, I was astonished. I didn’t get how the measurable value we’d created could be dismissed.
It wasn’t until later, when I really came to understand the essence of persuasive sales copywriting.
You see, I came from a communications background. I did an MA in Comms and then went straight to working at NATIONAL Public Relations and Free the Children. I learned to write subtly, the sort of content that was neutral enough to get picked up by the media. Sure, I knew how to embed persuasive elements, but it was a far cry from copywriting.
When I left government consulting and started studying copywriting for an e-commerce client, it clicked: your audience will only give you so much time to tell them why they should keep listening. This is true today more than ever.
You can communicate like crazy. You can push out content with great regularity. But if you’re not using the psychological insights of a sales copywriter, you won’t sell.
What This Means for Your Business
Too many smart businesses fail because they’re not tuned into what really motivates their customers. Or, because they don’t know how to articulate those benefits in persuasive copy.
Getting it right isn’t easy, and it’s especially hard when the business is your own.
Sometimes you need an objective outsider to tell you the hard truths; to pull you back from the marketing precipice when you’re about to write your entire website around features and benefits that mean nothing to the people you serve.
Over time, I’ve learned how to hone in on the motivations that matter. It takes effort and research. We don’t guess. But ultimately, this is the work that will fail-proof your business.
It’s work that will:
- Help your ideal customers immediately connect your business to their needs
- Shorten your sales cycles, because you’ll spend less time selling
- Create more customer satisfaction, because you’ll have made your value clear
- Turn customers into ambassadors who know exactly how to communicate your benefits
Whether you’re offering a service, a product, or Software as a Service, getting your business benefits right will create more growth and resilience, and give you better results for your marketing investments.
But Wait, What Happened Next?
You may be wondering, how did I go from being a management consultant to running a content marketing and copywriting business?
When I left the public service I knew I had to acquire marketable skills, stat. It had been nearly a decade since I’d worked in private sector communications. Things had changed…but little did I know how.
Then, I discovered digital marketing. The rest is a blur of self-education and trial by fire. Every course I could take, every book I could read, I blew through. And I was lucky to have a client right out of the gate, to test out my newfound knowledge. I worked, and still do work, with TOP Nutritionals, better known as Natural Calm Canada.
During the first few years I balanced freelancing for that main client with trying to get my own business model right.
Which Brings Us to Now
Today, I work with a variety clients who market products, services, and software.
With each, I ask hard questions about their messaging before I write a line of copy – and I don’t let up until we’ve nailed the benefits that will make their ideal customers perk up and take notice. It’s the foundation of my services.
Contact me to learn more.