“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”



Following on from our previous post, it may be valuable to offer a case study. Many businesses struggle to differentiate their products or services from one another. Ask a CEO or sales person why you should buy from them rather than the guy down the road and you will likely get something like "because we're better" or worse, "because we are cheaper". But why are they better, how are they better.

We came upon this issue in the accounting profession. What do accountants offer? Tax advice and tax returns. So many people go to them to minimise their tax and not much else. Their web sites generally read about the same.

So how do you differentiate an accountant from any other? Price? Generally a short road to ruin. Quality? But how do you measure quality?

We have been working with a firm for a while and helped to rebuild their web site. At the same time, they distilled their offer to two simple words - trusted advice. Now that seems simplistic. Surely any accountant would say that. But what their CEO did next surprised us. We convinced him to include a video front and centre on his web site. And then we wrote a script. At its heart was this line: "If you can't trust us, don't deal with us. It's that simple." I thought he would want change it a little, water it down a tad, make it less confrontational. He didn't. He read it looking straight down the lens of the camera. And his performance came alive in that section of the video. I asked him afterwards and he explained. He truly believed what he was saying. It is at the core of his working life and of his team.

A lot of businesses could use a similar slogan, could make similar claims. Accountants generally have to live on trust. But this team made it front and centre of their offer. And they live it.


The power of persuasion

Australians are increasingly disillusioned by our politicians, particularly at the Federal level. Polls again and again demonstrate an electorate (read people) disconnected from the vital process of government and parliament. The televised and live streaming of Question Time reinforce an impression of a group of people intent only on point scoring and bickering.

It's not that they don't work hard; it's not that they don't believe in their causes. It is simply that the current crop of politicians have forgotten that one of their primary roles is to communicate, not in three-word slogans or 15-second TV grabs and stunts but in the power of persuasion.

How long has it been since we heard a politician attempt to explain a policy in detail? How long has it been since a politician attempted to provide a vision for this nation's medium and long-term future?

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating on restructuring our economy, on floating the dollar and the short-term pain it would cause.

John Howard on the need for a broad-based consumption tax - after saying he would never introduce one.

Since then, nothing. One might argue that Kevin Rubb rose briefly on why we need to tackle climate change. But he had no deep conviction, demonstrated by dumping plans as soon as he was seriously challenged.

Now, more than ever, our leaders must tell us not only what they want to do for us but why.

But what has this to do with marketing?

It's the same thing. Businesses need to talk to their market, to explain their vision, bring their prospective customers with them in a visio for how their products and services can help to improve their lives.

Marketing is not an advertising headline or a slogan. Above all, it is the power to persuade.


Sending us up

Have you seen ABC TV's comedy Utopia? Like much that Rob Sitch and his team do, it is delightfully funny and so close to the bone. Click HERE to find out more.

I particularly love the wonderful Kitty Flanagan.

In an organisation supposedly devoted to developing Nation Building projects, Kitty's character is obsessed with their marketing activities and the "digital space". Bugger the projects, first it's a logo that unfortunately looks a little like the prism on Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon album cover (scrap one idea), then a web site called "Pipeline" that is all about linking music tracks to content.

Just as well we marketing types have thick skins!


The power of words

I discovered an interesting video on YouTube today.

I know. There are lots. Even more on TED.com.

But this one attracted me first for its title "The power of words" and then for the little story. You can watch it on Imprint Media's Facebook page.

Briefly, it is about changing words to change responses. I won't give the punchline away but we all use words to convey meaning and often we discover that what we intended to convey was not what the listener understood. Wrong choice of words. Say the same thing in a different way and the intention is conveyed.

Telling stories is what we do at Imprint Media. Whether it be the design and structure of a Web site, a news release, a brochure or a feature story for a publication. Even the design and structure of a business card. Imprint Media's business card was ridiculously expensive to produce. It is die-cut in the shape of the curly brackets you see throughout the site.

Why go to the expense when everyone says business cards are passe now. It is fun to watch people's response when I hand them the card. They play with it. I have never seen anyone simply glance at it and slip it into a wallet or pocket. They play and then they comment. A conversation has begun. Over a little piece of card. There's a story.

When any work leaves Imprint Media, I hope that it has been crafted, that the receiver will do more than simply file it away. I expect that the receiver (recipient seems a bit old-fashioned somehow) will view it, play with it and use some parts of it to complete their own story.

Shakespeare invented words that we now use every day. He did it because there wasn't one at the time that conveyed exactly what he wanted his audience to hear. Remember, most of what he wrote was not meant to be read. It was meant to be heard from the stage, words delivered by actors. Words such as champion, discontent ("now is the winter of our discontent. . ."), unreal and even zany.  He got away with it because of context. His audiences immediately understood the new words because of the context in which he used them.

I have no plan or skill to invent words. I simply love them and believe we should all use them with all the skill we can muster.


What do you want of a visitor to your web site?

When someone visits your web site, what do you want to happen?

Most certainly you want the visitor to engage. Hopefully to inquire and perhaps even to buy.

So why do so many web sites yell at their visitors? Not physically or aurally. But in their words and their images, they say "look at me! Look at what I can do!"

When you visit a retail shop, what is the first thing that usually happens? The one thing you generally fear. The sales person approaches as soon as you walk in the door.

"Can I help you?"

Your response will almost certainly be a simple "no" or "I'm just browsing". And your hackles rise just slightly.

Or worse, the sales person says something like "we have a great deal on ......" fill in the blank.

What if the sales person left you alone for a while to look around and eventually approached with an engaging, open question?

In a clothing store it might be "what style of clothing are you looking for?" In a car showroom a good sales person might simply ask about the kind of driving you do. Open-ended questions that demonstrate an interest in you, the customer.

So surely that should be the objective of a web site. It is your passive, automated sales person.

First, we should engage, empathise reach to the customer or prospect. Talk about their needs and desires. Only then do you have the right to offers solutions. And don't spend too much time telling your visitor what they would expect you to say. "We're XYZ Co and we make great widgets". Well, of course you would say that. Does anyone else think they are great?

Spend some time building your story.

I came across this 60-second TV commercial today. For the first 40 seconds it tells a pretty obvious story. But no sales pitch. Then it provides a twist. Only in the final 10 seconds do we see product placement, and it ties in with the entire story.  I would rate it powerful.

Of course, I'm not suggesting we all run story videos across our home pages. Just that we think about what our prospects might want, need and, most important, why they chose to visit our web sites in the first place.

They don't visit to be told how wonderful we are. They don't visit to be sold to. The might visit to buy.

There's a difference.




Experiences – lagoon, Lord Howe Island.