Communication Breakdown, It’s Always the Same
As marketers, we can often be our own worst enemies when it comes to client communication.
Our professional world is overflowing with jargon, creating an ever-changing world of vague terminology that often isolates our clients and our non-marketing colleagues.
“Synergy.” “Leverage.” “Bandwidth.” You know the sorts of words I’m talking about. And I’m definitely all-too familiar with this world. In fact, several years ago at a pre-Formada company holiday party, we had a lighthearted marketing department award ceremony. I was deemed, “Most Likely To Use Corporate Buzzwords.”
While it was kinda my job to talk and write that way (see how I’m still defensive about it!), the broader reality of the award made me queasy. Not just because I didn’t want to be perceived as, “That guy,” but because I had dedicated a good portion of my career to communicating ideas as universally as possible. Perception, however, isn’t always reality.
Now, while using industry-specific language might be fine when speaking with peers, it’s a terrible way to speak with clients. The problem? It’s language designed for us, not them.
When we communicate in this way, we’re not speaking to their needs or their experiences, which is especially ironic, given that marketing’s purpose is to communicate, empathize, and sell.
If we can achieve this level of clarity in the work we create for our clients, why is it so difficult to do this when speaking to our clients?
- It’s worth considering if our respective industries contain potentially self-serving terminology
- It’s almost always better to use simpler language than more complicated options
- Our work is more than our products or services. Our communication is a central part of how others experience our work and should be treated as such
Remembering To Never Forget Who I’m Working For
As someone who is responsible for all matters related to Formada’s brand strategy, I have to frequently remind myself of the way in which our clients would communicate their needs vs. the way our industry prescribes solutions to those problems.
Recently, I was working on a content project designed to directly address how our services solve specific problems that businesses face. I had done the research, compiled my findings, and was just about to get started on the actual writing.
I was reviewing my project plan in our weekly Brand Strategy meeting when a colleague spoke up. “Technically, this is all accurate,” she said. “But, honestly, I haven’t heard a single client mention any of these issues when it comes to how their business needs digital marketing help.”
And she was absolutely correct. I was answering the question as a marketer. I was gathering supporting information from sources solely dedicated to digital marketing. It was digital marketers speaking to digital marketing professionals, and wasn’t at all addressing the problem I was trying to solve.
Typically, a business owner isn’t concerned with building “brand authority” online. They simply want to improve their search ranking.
Nor are they typically thinking of their campaigns in terms of an “omni channel presence.” They want to know that their message will be seen by customers.
Ultimately, this was a good thing. I was reminded of my biases. I got the feedback that I needed and I was able to change course. But how many times do I simply forge ahead without getting the criticism I needed? And where else do these biases creep in without me knowing?
- When creating content for your business’s campaigns, remember that you aren’t your audience — the copy, imagery, and call to action to reflect their needs, not yours
- Erase all industry jargon from your campaigns. Be empathetic to the layperson’s experience
- Marketing and Sales should frequently check in with one another to ensure that market research reflects real-world client conversations
Explaining Intent Is Essential In Creating Successful Marketing Campaigns
Clarity in communication is essential in every aspect of the agency-client relationship. This is especially true regarding how different marketing tactics support different aspects of a marketing strategy.
“Results” can mean drastically different things, depending on a certain tactic’s role. It’s our responsibility to explain this to our clients — and to our colleagues, for that matter — to ensure that there is a clear understanding of what the budget is being invested in.
Education is a must. It doesn’t matter how basic you believe the subject might be. Marketing is a strategic and essential function of any healthy business. However, without the right education about the intent of each tactic within a campaign, marketing teams and agencies run the risk of creating the perception that their function is to burn money.
And marketing can do that. Bad marketing, anyway. Good marketing makes money. And this is why we stay committed to helping our clients understand how each marketing tactic contributes to the overall success of a campaign.
- Branding ads create awareness
- Blogs go in depth on a topic to educate the audience and establish the business’s expertise on a subject
- Organic social posts showcase the business’s cultural perspective of and approach to the subject
- Retargeting ads drive to landing pages with time-sensitive calls to action and easy to complete forms
- Sales takes all leads and works to turn them into customers, attendees, or clients
Now, this is just one very simplified way in which a campaign can function. The point is, when a campaign is being devised, that the agency and client should be in lock-step in terms of what the goals of the campaign are, how each tactic supports those goals, and who is responsible for what parts of the campaign.
Clear communication removes the mystery, builds trust, and gets the team closer to a winning campaign.
What’s more, it makes it simpler to understand where things can be improved, without having to throw out the entire campaign.
This is why we remain committed to throwing the jargon out of our reporting. We want our clients to see their reporting and easily understand their results, have confidence in new recommendations, and be explicitly aware of any refinements that we’ll be making.
- Educate clients about the different tactics that the campaign is composed of
- Help your clients (and you non-marketing colleagues) about the intent behind each tactic and how they support the overarching goal of the campaign
- Remove the jargon from your reporting and provide clear, actionable recommendations for continuous improvement
At Formada, we really do love getting to partner with different types of businesses — understand their goals, their challenges, and what they most want out of a relationship with a marketing agency.
We feel like our business is great at what we do precisely because of how committed we are to building relationships, and that relationships are built on the sort of communication that drives incredible results.
That means we do our best to learn your language, not force you to learn ours. Contact us to learn more. We’d love to help you achieve your goals.