Put Yourself on Kool-Aid DeTox


Working in a large organization, it’s easy to get lazy with your marketing. Marketers like to market to themselves, their peers, their friends, create buzzwords, cool sounding phrases, repackage stale concepts. Just look at the evolution of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). Before SaaS, we were talking about SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), before that it was Web Services. At some point, someone in marketing coined these terms which eventually became standards. But, most of the time, clever phrases get cycled and recycled by marketers to the point where customers have no idea what we’re talking about. Check out Prose and Cons: Marketing Jargon Gone Wild. This entertaining blog tracks marketing jargon trends. When I posted this “Crowdsourcing” and “Trust Agent” were on the rise.

The best way to detox yourself from your own Kool-Aid is to talk to customers. Unlike with internal constituents, customers will let you know immediately whether what you are on target or full of c*&p. You’ll also get a real-world look at the problems they’re dealing with which you’ll be able to use later to improve your value proposition.

Last week, I presented our introduction to HP deck to an enterprise customer in the HR outsourcing business. Just preparing for the presentation forced me to lift my head up from my every day work and brush up on our news and acquisitions. I had to learn about areas of our business of which I was unfamiliar. I got rid of our “fluffy” slides attempting to dramatize, such as ”When a mother dials 911, you know you can count on us.” That may work for an ad, but I could never imagine saying that to a VP of IT. The presentation also forced me to speak in plain English and strip out all the “Complete Integrated Solution” and “Best-In-Class” language which we so often find so liberally sprinkled throughout tech brochures.

A lot of marketers I know rarely talk to customers because it can be intimidating. What if they ask me a tough question? What do I talk to them about? But, as a marketer, you gotta do it. It’s like going to the gym; it takes discipline, but if you don’t do it your mind gets flabby.

Here are some easy, low key ways to meet with customers:

  1. Go to an industry conference. Talk to customers in booths, at sessions, in networking events.
  2. Seek out industry bloggers and forums. Enter the discussion by posting comments.
  3. Connect with a sales person. See if they wouldn’t mind you sitting in on a presentation.
  4. Do a case study on a customer.
  5. Present your expertise to customers. (OK, this requires more involvement, but is the best way in my opinion).

Not only will this sharpen your marketing, but it will give you better “street cred” with your peers and the sales force you support.

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