Just about the simplest, most helpful marketing communications tool I ever happened upon (and have used ever since), came from possibly the most creative communicator of our generation – Dave Trott. Below I’ll summarise how I use the tool to inform my B2B marketing, but first, a few words about Dave….
If you haven’t yet read Dave Trott’s books, I heartily recommend that you log onto Amazon in a few minutes’ time – once you’ve finished this post 😉 – and treat yourself to a few of them. They’re all good, and I’m convinced that every marketer can learn from them.
That recommendation, and also my respect for Dave, don’t just stem from his legacy of unforgettable advertising (much of which has remained stuck in my head since my formative years) or from the fact that Advertising Age magazine once named Dave’s agency the most creative agency in the world. More than those points, my respect for Dave stems from the fact that, while most of the marketing ecosystem extols the benefits of storytelling, Dave just gets on and tells amazing stories that pack a marketing punch. He walks the walk, rather than talks the talk – and I admire that.
As you can probably tell, I’m a fan. For disclosure, it was Dave’s words that inspired me to start my own blog (the one that you’re on) – in which I’ll be sharing my experiences of delivering B2B marketing campaigns.
Impact – Communicate – Persuade
Homage duly paid, one of the many things I’ve learned from listening to Dave over the years is the following little tool, which (some time ago, via Twitter) he kindly gave me permission to reproduce.
I’ve provided a video link below where you can listen, first-hand, to a talk about this, but first I thought I’d share my interpretation of the tool as it to relates to my role as a creator of B2B marketing communications, campaigns and other content. I’ll also then share why I think the tool is so helpful and how I use it as part of my day-to-day routine.
B2B customers are busy. Their worlds are full to bursting point with work, conference calls, team responsibilities, shareholder reporting, compliance commitments, office politics, hangovers and countless other distractions. It is against that backdrop that our marketing communications compete for attention. In a world of noise, a role of marketers is to earn that attention – and to do that our communications need impact.
Simply put, no-one will read our marketing communications if no-one notices them. And if our communications aren’t getting noticed by our respective target audiences, they effectively don’t exist. So, while impact isn’t the only thing we need to deliver as marketers, it is typically the first thing.
Impact is about stopping B2B readers in their tracks with unmissable and unignorable communications, which is usually about cut-through ideas, brought to life with arresting visuals, inciting words and, perhaps, brave media choices. As a simple example of that, my team used branded stilt walkers at an international trade show last year. We did it to bring to life a message about helping clients to see further ahead, and also to make sure that our brand was the one delegates were looking at. It was a little bit out of the norm for the austere setting, which was largely the point.
Once each of us have earned someone’s attention, we have a precious opportunity to deliver our brand’s message. Assuming that our target customers are time-poor, that opportunity won’t last long – so it is our responsibility to communicate those messages in as clear and memorable a way possible. To communicate what is it we can do for a customer and why should they care. To articulate what problems we can solve for them or what new opportunities we can create and to then evidence why we are the best choice of B2B supplier to achieve those things. To re-frame an issue our customers are worried about. To position our brand and de-position our rivals. To let readers know what we would like them to do next.
An example of that in practice came from aircraft engine manufacturer, CFM. Fuel efficiency and engine longevity are among priorities in that sector – for regulatory, financial and customer service reasons (eg faulty engines = service outages = pissed-off passengers). Launching their new LEAP turbofan engine, CFM succinctly communicated why LEAP was the best engine choice for efficiency and longevity. The marketing material cited 1,003 patented innovations, including things like the use of carbon fibre composite materials in the engine fans, which lead to lower engine weight, and therefore more efficient flight, and therefore lower emissions and running costs. Another innovation was a debris rejection system, which keeps unwanted grit out of unwanted parts of the engine (imagine sand in your swimsuit, writ large). I’m no expert on aviation tech, and can only go on their marketing materials, but a resultant 50% reduction in emissions sounded pretty attractive to me. I infer from the publicity I’ve seen that resultant sales were healthy. The powerful communications must have put CFM in the best possible position to succeed.
The objective of any communication is ultimately to persuade someone to take an action or to change their behaviour or attitude. For example, to give them a reason to get in touch with us or to convince them to register for something. Or, at the very least, to make them think or feel differently about a business issue and our brand’s role in helping to solve that issue.
Creating a sense of urgency and using clear calls-to-action are the most obvious manifestation of that in B2B: come to an educational event; book a demo; get a free audit; find out the 3 things your rivals are doing better than you. That sort of thing. Most B2B brands I know are getting pretty good at that now (although no doubt more persuasive communications would transform each of our respective conversion rates).
But persuasion needn’t just be about immediate calls-to-action. Take, for example, the challenges faced by our B2B marketing colleagues working in the large scale construction industry. In that industry it can take years (or even decades) to win a B2B contract to build a new nuclear power station or cross-border rail link. Consequently, sales and marketing tactics need to play out over very long time periods. Creating immediacy and urgency may be a challenge there. Persuasion, in those cases, may be about measurably improving share of voice, brand awareness and brand sentiment. It may be measured, for example, in a growth in pitch opportunities among a target community. Increased return web visit activity from named accounts or, better still, repeat coffee-catch-ups, can be valid metrics and valid persuasion goals.
The key point is that each of us must have is an absolutely clear idea of the goal of the communications we are creating, and then make sure our communications are effective in persuading people towards that goal.
How I use the tool
That is my interpretation of the tool in a B2B marketing context. I encourage you to interpret how you can apply it to your marketing role once you’ve listened to Dave Trott below. But before you skip to that, I promised to share how I use the tool on a day-to-day basis…
You’ll notice my use of the word ‘tool’ throughout this post, because that’s how I view it. I use ‘impact – communicate – persuade‘ as a tool – more specifically, a checklist – to evaluate the B2B marketing communications ideas and outputs that my team or I come up with. I use it as a mental reminder to ask some vital questions, such as – do the ideas and outputs have impact? Do they clearly and memorably communicate my brand’s key message(s)? Will they persuade readers in the way I intended? Are my target audiences likely to see my communications and then think or feel something different as a result of them? Will they ultimately convince a reader to take the desired next step?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, I work on the principle that we need to hone our work. I use the checklist to benchmark whether I think my communications are fit for purpose.
If ‘impact – communicate – persuade’ resonates with you, I recommend that you consider also using it as checklist for your work. Working that way won’t guarantee campaign success, but in my opinion it will increase the likelihood of success. It will help each of us B2B marketers to avoid publishing unnoticeable, unclear and forgettable communications – because communications like that won’t help us to win the battle for customer attention and preference.
Good luck – I hope it helps. And enjoy Dave’s books.
To close, here’s the original. Enjoy 🙂