Bring Water to Your Horse

On the art of fiction writing, Kurt Vonnegut advised: “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

When a story tries to appeal to everyone, it winds up engaging no one — because it hasn’t said anything personal and relevant to that reader. This guideline has implications not just for fiction, but for communications of all kinds. Like marketing content.

Few marketers are looking to connect with just one person, or even one type of audience segment. Most want to communicate to as large an audience as possible, to sell to anyone and everyone who could benefit from what they have to offer … thus, they gravitate toward broad-appeal messaging. To wit:

Here’s an example of an IT provider’s website home page (name of company and logo have been redacted):

Let’s say you’re in-market for IT services and find this website via Google search. After reading the hero content, here’s what you know about this company:

·    They provide office IT solutions
·    Those solutions are custom-tailored and cost-effective

That’s nice … but it’s also the same story told by tens of thousands of IT providers nationwide. This message gives you no reason to scroll down — or click around — to learn more about this company.

BUT … if you should explore the site content a bit, you’ll find some interesting things:

·    They offer cloud and on-site solutions to support hybrid & WFH staff
·    They have office locations in 9 cities/towns in Illinois & Missouri
·    They have rich expertise working with state agencies and local municipalities (and are, in fact, the preferred vendor in one of the two aforementioned states)

Now those three facts really say something!

If you’re a decision maker at a state agency or local municipality in Illinois or Missouri with IT needs — especially if you’re struggling to support a staff that’s increasingly remote — wouldn’t you want to talk to these guys? So then, why did they go so generic with their home-page hero message?

Because most marketers are inclined to cast as wide a net as possible. To “open a window and make love to the world,” as Vonnegut suggested. If a prospective client is seeing this, they don’t want to say anything that suggests a bad fit.

The problem is — as the above example shows — you risk saying nothing of substance.

And that’s the key issue. Modern audiences have no time for you. They’re bombarded by thousands of promotional messages each day. We, as humans in this time and culture, are wired to filter out — to ignore — the vast majority of what comes across our screens.

A marketer who puts the water out there and waits for the horses to arrive is doomed to fail. You need to bring the water right to your horses’ mouths, and show them why they should drink.

Back to Vonnegut’s advice:

When you create messaging, do so with a single, specific audience in mind. And, craft that message to be as relevant, clear and compelling as possible. (If you have multiple segments you’re trying to reach, create specific messages for each segment.)

The goal is to present each unique individual with the perfect solution for their specific need(s). You should strive for that audience to see your message and think, “Yes, that’s just what I need right now!”

Quench their thirst … one prospect at a time.

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