You have to keep your reader's interest in mind

On target: keep your audience in mind

This is a basic rule for effective communication:

You have to keep your reader in mind.

It sounds simple but it is easy to get wrong.

And the cost for getting it wrong is exuberant: you loose your audience, no matter how favorable it is to your offer.

The latest marketing campaign by my mobile carrier, Mobistar, is a good example for that.

Here’s what happened with the brochure they sent me.

A golden opportunity

Mobistar has an offer for small business owners that makes international calls cheaper.

The company has a good chance to sell me this offer.

First of all, I am interested. I would love to make more international calls if prices are reasonable and predictable. It’s a win-win potential: I make more calls, Mobistar makes more money.

Mobistar has another advantage. They can see how I use my phone. They know which offer suits me.

Even better, they know how to reach me. Mobistar sends me a brochure together with their monthly bill and I am sure to see that.

Really, this is marketing paradise. They know what I need and they know how to tell me.

Still, they missed the target.

Slipping up in marketing paradise

The brochure that I got last week kicks-off with marketing stereotypes. It tells me that I lead a busy life, that I need simple solutions.

That’s the first column. The second column continues with stereotypes. I learn that business life is complex and that Mobistar wants to make my life easier. But how? Do I find out next?

No. The brochure tells me that I can choose the offer that’s best for me. Things are turning from bad to worse:

I was hoping that Mobistar tells me which offer suits me.

Looks like I have to compare, and that sounds like work. And, by the way, I still don’t know what the offer is about.

I finally learn that on page 2. The problem is that, by now, my mindset isn’t positive. But let’s suppose, somehow, I was still interested. The brochure could save the day by making the next step really easy for me. The final call to action could look like this:

Phone us on 1902. We will look at your call-history and propose the offer that suits you. It only takes a minute. Here’s the number again: 1902.

The brochure doesn’t do that. Instead, it tells me that I can find more information…on the internet! My life just got a little more complex.

What went wrong here?

The authors of the brochure never put themselves into my shoes.

Had they done, they would have realized that they can’t make my life easier by saying that they make my life easier. They would have known that I don’t need intentions. I need solutions to my problems.

That is the lesson: writing a text (or making a video or selling a product in person) is not about descriptions. It’s about solutions.

It would have been easy to present solutions:

Pay X Euro more per month and call 30 minutes to any network in Europe.

That’s it. That’s a benefit. They could have added that I can stop worrying about spiraling costs:

Our offer gives you peace of mind: phone from abroad as if you were at home.

Those are benefits.

It’s always about benefits. An often quoted example says: if you sell grass seeds, don’t sell the seeds, sell a green lawn. That’s the benefit: the flawless juicy-green lawn.

How to get it right

The secret to getting it right is to look through the glass from the reader’s perspective. Actively ask these questions: what is her benefit? What problem do I solve for her?

It’s easy to forget these questions. It’s easy to sprint off in the wrong direction.

That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit: always put yourself in your reader’s shoes.

Over to you: do you have tricks that help you focus on your audience? You can leave a comment below.

About Carsten

Hi, I am Carsten Wendt. I help people make their writing more exciting. I am also a passionate public speaking coach and Humorous Public Speaking Champion of Belgium.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Niklas July 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Thanks Carsten,
I will try to keep in mind when “selling” the next audit report to my “customers”.

Reply

Carsten July 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Mmmh, an audit report. I’be interested to know how you apply that advice there. But I guess it ain’t public?

Reply

Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss) March 2, 2014 at 2:56 am

Great post! I keep a quote-book and have added this line to it:
“They [marketers] can’t make my life easier by saying that they make my life easier.”

I’m working with colleagues at the moment to improve written content we work with, in the online courses we publish. One of the things I’ve suggested looking out for and rewording or deleting is content that sounds like it comes from a brochure!

Reply

Carsten March 10, 2014 at 9:26 pm

That’s a very good policy: delete content that sounds like it comes from a brochure.

People who make brochures should run that policy too!

Reply

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