End the tyranny of the templates

I want to foster a rebellion against the misuse of templates, a non-trivial barrier if you want to build sales tools that influence real people to buy your stuff and not someone else’s. If we could just recover the time wasted on filling in worksheets and counting words, we could get out of our own muddled heads and into the clarity that arrives when we have grokked a buyer who needs to make a decision.

Ask a product expert to complete a positioning template that calls for benefits statements, and he will fall back on his greatest strength, his product knowledge, and write words describing problems the product could address. That’s one reason why product managers resist the positioning exercise until the last possible moment. They are confronted by the difficulties of reducing a bunch of
great features and capabilities into a few words that fit into the template. After
many hours of effort, the product expert circulates his work throughout the
company, where it is subjected to countless revisions. This is just more wasted
time and effort as various stakeholders debate the capabilities that could be
emphasized, minimized, or rewritten.

Then, the final indignity, few people use the words in the template. Each new sales tool and marketing program sets off another round of agonizing over words, stakeholder inputs, further revisions and ultimately, a tool that almost no one reads. Ugh.

Ask any marketing writer which is more valuable – (a) a completed positioning and messaging document, or (b) a clear picture of the target audience, where they are in their decision process, and the concerns that, if addressed, would motivate them to take the next step.

A good sales person always listens to a prospective buyer’s concerns before presenting the solution, adjusting the emphasis on individual capabilities to match a single buyer’s priorities. Companies that focus on buyer personas can readily bring this same level of accuracy and relevance to their marketing efforts. The next time you reach for a template, make sure that it is focused on good questions about your target audience and their concerns.

Topics: Buyer Personas, Positioning & Messaging, Writing

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