So why don’t professional services coms deliver? The answer may lie in the nature of the service itself.
Because complex service offerings must appeal to logic as well as emotion, marketers often think they need longer explanations. To reach multiple decision makers, they throw in the kitchen sink. But nothing could be less productive. Professional services buyers are overcommunicated and pressed for time. More than any other segment, they appreciate information that is clear and succinct. Here are a few ways to make your message both brief and compelling.
Shorter = smarter
Professionals who’ve spent years writing long scholarly papers often underestimate the value of brevity. They may think accuracy demands including every fact, theory and idea. But keeping it short is harder, not easier. It takes precision and intelligence to edit out the irrelevant details that dilute your message. Try thinking in headlines and bullet points and reducing your themes to improve understanding. Remind doubters that some of history’s most significant, persuasive writing has been short. The Gettysburg Address—272 words. Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor speech—518. Shorter messaging will not only strengthen your message it will set you apart from your competition, since few firms take the trouble to do it right.
Understand the format
On average, a person sees 100,000 words, 375 ads and 121 emails a day.* Can you say “oversaturation”? But the good news is that technology, teasers and opt-in devices let readers choose how much information to receive. Start with just enough to catch the reader’s attention and provide a pathway to learn more. Then, invite your reader to opt in. For example, provide an interesting survey fact that entices people to download the full survey. Or pose a trending question for readers to answer—and let them opt in to learn the results. Giving the audience control is a smart way to make sure your communications are welcome, not annoying.
Know what to say
Once you get someone’s attention, find a path into their long-term memory. Overly general statements are not helpful. Neither is refusing to commit to anything. Understand two things: 1) what you do better than anyone else, and 2) what your audience cares about. If you don’t know, invest in research. You may be surprised to learn that the attributes you think are unique actually aren’t—and that others you take for granted can win mind share and business.
Customize by market segment
Focus information to your target group—don’t try to make your communications all things to all people. Segmented marketing is more successful and conveys a deeper understanding of the issues. If you need to reach different groups, don’t use more words or less precise ones—customize and repackage the material with slight edits. Instead of titling a thought leadership piece “What should you know about cybersecurity,” try “What should retailers know about cybersecurity.” Your imagery as well needs to resonate with your market segment. For instance, if you sell cloud services, don’t just show a cloud. If a key pain point for your target group is security, show an image of security in the context of the cloud. Get the details right in both word and image.
Segmented marketing is more successful and conveys a deeper understanding of the issues.
Use the right images and infographics
Be concise in your visuals as well as your words. Images should support your message, not just look pretty and take up valuable space. Infographics are a great tool, but they can be misleading if not well designed. If you use them, test them first to be sure they are easily understandable. If not, redesign or ditch them.
Keeping things to the point means respecting your audience’s time—because time is a nonrenewable resource. Enough said.
* Figures from HMI Report/UC San Diego, Huffington Post and DMR.