CASE 1: I received an email (a B2B-type message, a stranger trying to sell me something) today. The person was trying to convince me to meet with them at an upcoming trade show. In the email was a list of clients (impressive names) and some vague mentions of achievements associated with each. Trouble is, the author never told me what their company does.
CASE 2: I received another email today. This time from an existing vendor. It was elaborate. In it, the salesperson was offering to enhance my relationship with them. It all centered around an acronym - a term that I just couldn't connect to anything.
In each case, the deal was dead in the water - because the seller assumed I knew what they were talking about. I didn't.
In business to business marketing communications (B2B Marcom) we are charged with the role of getting the message through. Sometimes its outbound, other times its inbound. At times the message comes directly from our department. Often, though, we are helping other people get their message out.
First step: Slow down. I know we're all busy. Skipping a few steps helps us get through our day. Trouble is, we start making assumptions. If we're getting a lot of poorly-done things accomplished, what are we doing to our companies? To our careers?
Second step: Make it a point to drastically reduce, or eliminate, acronyms from your Marcom vocabulary. See things from your target audience's perspective. They're as busy as you. They're skipping steps all day long. Don't assume they're totally ready, and prepped, for your message. Speak to them as if they don't know what you're talking about. Of course, this is critical the earlier you are in a relationship - and can be skipped if you are totally sure your customer DOES know exactly what you are talking about.
Third step: Set the stage for your target audience - in THEIR terms. Help them instantly appreciate what's in it for them. Once they get it - and see how they win, they will become interested. The catch is, they've got to actually understand what you're talking about.
Fourth step: Sell this entire message to your Product Line Managers, Sales Managers, CEO, etc. When you're creating programs and documents for them, they'll want to sprinkle in jargon and acronyms. They'll be in a hurry. They'll want to skip a few steps and get right to it. Heck, they'll try to bully you into doing it their way. Help them understand that it is very likely that their product is likely not the most critical thing to their target audience. Help them realize that investing a little time, up front, being sure that the customer is "with them" can make a huge difference. I've noticed that some engineers feel the need to impress people in all their communications. They throw in big words, complex sentences, and very sophisticated concepts to help them look really capable. There's a place for all that - just not in the early stages of getting noticed.
In my Case 1, I wasn't interested enough to invest the time trying to figure out what the person was actually selling. I deleted the message.
In my case 2, an existing vendor, I was forced to reply with the simple question, "What does that acronym (upon which the entire proposal was based) mean?" Frankly, the sales person should be embarrassed. I bet he won't be - he's too busy for that.