Infomania: This “can’t-say-no” malady muddles marketing

Recently, one of EMA Group B2B’s managing partners had the honor of serving on a panel of experts at the annual International Business Marketing Association Conference. The panel’s moderator was the lauded Kathy Button Bell, VP and chief marketing officer of Emerson. Before the lights went on, our EMAer had the chance to chat with her about some of the nagging problems with B2B marketing communications.

Kathy recalled reading copy for a sales support document. What was once tight, lively text that would engage the reader with a focused Emerson value message became a piece laden with facts, figures, nuts, bolts, speeds and feeds. Maybe okay for a spec sheet, but out of place for a document designed to connect the audience to brand value.

Kathy knew what happened. One of the reviewers was a very talented design engineer who believed that no marketing or sales material was complete without technical data. She negotiated the required changes with the engineer and all was well. But, the problem was the cost in time and dollars to bring what was originally good and right work back from a specs-stuffed digest inappropriate for the marketing situation and audience.

In the building and construction space, product performance is primo. Performance often plays out in technical data. Our own research tells us that contractors value performance above all else, BUT, our research also supports the value of TRUST in the purchasing equation. Oftentimes, information gets in the way of techniques that build trust and advocacy.

“Infomaniacs” are people who can’t resist adding facts, on top of data, on top of information to ads, brochures or direct mail pieces. These well-intended folks know the product and marketplace intimately, but don’t know enough about communications and persuasion. They can bring on temper flare-ups and spark frustration among skilled writers and designers who make their living communicating. Worse, they cause cost run-ups and precious budget dollars to be spent on marketing and sales materials that don’t get read or deliver the wrong message.

Best Practice: Cure Infomania

Do you want higher performance from your marketing communications? Do you want more clarity, more value delivery? Do you want your contractor audiences to think and act as you’d like them to? Then either keep the work away from the Infomaniacs, or cure the disease.

Here’s the medicine that will do the trick in four doses:

  • Require each member of your review team to approve the project brief.

You’re in for trouble if the review team isn’t on board at this stage. A good brief will outline the whys and wherefores of what’s being created. This is the best time to iron out disagreements about objectives, content and methods. You’ll save a lot of time, money — and angst — right here.

  • Make clear the roles of each reviewer.

You shouldn’t let everyone have the right to change everything. Some of us know the product; some of us know the channel; others walk in the contractor’s shoes. Determine who should focus on technical accuracy, who should concentrate on the audience and their situation, etc., and set the ground rules for review. You might allow everyone to comment, but only green-light certain team members to suggest certain changes.

  • Attach a ROP (Recap of Purpose) to the review materials.

This can be as simple as a Post-it® or one-sheet highlight of the brief. What’s important is having a simple and concise recap of what everyone’s reviewing, why it’s needed, who it’s targeted to, and what it should achieve. It’s a reminder that gets everyone right-minded about what they’re reviewing.

  • Maintain your right of final review.

If you’re the team leader, everyone should know that you have the last call. After all, it’s your gig and your responsibility. And, it’s your experience and expertise that got you there. If everyone knows you listen and think and evaluate, they’ll respect your decision. Remember, smart managers negotiate changes, so no one is surprised with the final result.

Once you cure Infomania, you’ll find that the lust for change will subside and things will get done faster, better and cheaper.