Sick of marketing diagrams? Here are two great ones you’ll actually need

As a journalist, I was trained to appreciate KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). In the journalism world, the extraneous, the flowery, the vague, the imprecise are all enemies of good copy.

I recall a journalism professor chuckling over a friend’s copy and commenting (loudly, for the class to hear): “Three residents perished in the fire? Perished? Were they vegetables? People die — vegetables perish!”

Just as in journalism, in Web marketing there’s a lot of extraneous, imprecise information floating about.

Because our tired little neurons need help picturing concepts, we often find ourselves looking at various diagrams. In our business, the diagram is an attempt to keep it simple when trying to model strategic concepts.

Unfortunately, there are lots of diagrams and models of strategy that only confuse matters and, at worse, lead your thinking down unproductive paths.

There are two diagrams I like, and rely on always. They always help to clarify my thinking on a project or when attacking an issue of strategy. They serve to get rid of the extraneous, the vague, and reinforce concepts with simplicity. The first is from Marketing Experiments, the second is from Brian Solis.

The one shown below comes from Marketing Experiments is called “the inverted funnel,” the term used by Marketing Experiments’ Flint McGlaughlin. I like it for many reasons. First is because, as  McGlaughlin has explained, by inverting the traditional sales funnel it introduces a new concept: gravity isn’t working in your favor. Prospects and customers don’t “fall” through the process or into the process to a “natural” conclusion. Most likely they are always being pushed out by the heavy fields weighing against action: distraction, imprecision, vagueness, etc. (the “gravity” of marketing). See the entire Marketing Experiments webinar here.

Inverted funnel

From marketing experiments “5 Ways to Effective Marketing Content”natural” completion.

Getting prospects up the funnel in this diagram seems intuitively difficult, and indeed, if you’ve ever done any lead generation, then you know that’s true. But what I appreciate more than the inversion/gravity concept is that it maps to the three broad stages of prospect interest: relational, transactional, contractual.

The overlay of these concepts on this model is important. Too often we think of content marketing as the top of the funnel. But in actuality, as the inverse funnel makes clear, it is the base. It’s about forming a relationship with a prospect; a crucial first step but a first step nonetheless. Crucially, it must lead to the transactional step and to specific transactional behavior. Here is where landing pages, email, telemarketing, whatever, leads to a transaction. And finally to a contractual relationship.

As McGlaughlin has mentioned, there are many paths to different points in this inverse funnel. Your marketing efforts and content should map to these key areas of the funnel, and indeed to the transitional zones especially. I’m not saying this is the be-all, end-all of strategy diagrams, but I’ve found in enormously helpful to clarify thinking and strategy.

The next one comes from Brian Solis. This seems very simplistic but it’s form is actually clever because it, too, forces us to think differently about the environment of marketing. This “influence loop” can even be overlaid or correlated to the inverse funnel to some degree, but the shape and idea of a loop is key. Mainly because it shows a complete process, which then self-perpetuates.

Influence Loop

From “The Dim Light at the End of the Funnel” by Brian Solis

I don’t know about you, but once the sale is made, the lead captured, etc., I tend to think “job well done” and mentally file the matter away. The loop shows us that the process continues — or rather should continue — to “advocate” in order to self perpetuate.

I know first hand of cases where the “advocate” did their work without any effort by myself or my coworkers, and it wasn’t until later I would think “Now if we could only get more like him or her!”

I like things that force me to consider looking at the familiar in new ways. So, as a tip of the hat to Marketing Experiments and Brian Solis, here’s Miles Kane … “You rearrange my mind…”


B2B email marketing tip: Write a better value proposition

Email copywriting is hard. Email copywriting for the B2B crowd is even harder.

I’ve worked on many B2B email campaigns (going back more than a decade). One of the hardest things to do in certain types of B2B emails is to write a good value proposition.

The value prop in many B2B communications I see is buried under clichés and tired copy. Is your product/offering “better, faster, best-in-class, superior, industry-leading” etc.? Why don’t you just say it smells “lemony fresh” as well? That’s a cliche, too, but it makes you think of lemons. Either way, a cliche goes right in one ear and out the other, and “industry leading” or “best-in-class” seem like airy hype.

11.01.2012 - Yellow Bubbles

Creative Commons License via Jlhopgood Compfight

When your email copy is about a product, service or offering, frequently the value proposition is defined in terms of the technology, features or enhancements that are genuinely new or noteworthy. These are descriptors.

Don’t mistake description for value.

The product may indeed be “best-in-class” but that alone doesn’t explain anything. It’s just an accolade. Funny thing about an accolade; it’s just like a car. As soon as you take ownership, it starts to lose value.

You need to think first of what the product/service/offering does for the intended audience. To get to a better value proposition, try this copywriting exercise.

  • Write out the value proposition or main important point of your copy.
  • Next, write out, literally “What this means for you” in your copy
  • Imagine yourself as two types of customer or client. The first type is the person ideally suited to be interested in the value proposition. The second is the person is not ideally suited, but may have a potential interest in one or just a few aspects of the product/service.
  • Forget the reader who will not be interested or has only very low interest.
  • Then answer the question, “What this means for you” in depth, at length.
  • Take the main points of “what this means for you” and reinsert into your value proposition.

I guarantee if you try this, you will come up with better value proposition than you wrote in the first step.

On a side note, I’d love it if a tech vendor actually tried to sell technology by saying it smelled like lemons. Mmmmm … lemon-scented data backup.

Web marketing: Take a tip from the maestro

Back in my days as a business reporter I once had the opportunity to interview Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Why should a business paper interview a philharmonic conductor? I’d heard he had a successful business as a colorful speaker.

Zander is a different kind of speaker and he made a good story. By turns entertaining and intellectual, Zander is indeed fascinating (look him up on TED). During our interview, however, one of the things Zander mentioned has always stuck with me. He said that in his orchestra, he made a point of trying to get his musicians to respond to mistakes with as simple phrase … “how interesting.”

Just think about that for a moment. The response he wanted to promote wasn’t “oh damn” or “oops” or “just shoot me” … it was “how interesting.” And he wanted them to say it out loud too. It gives you the freedom to explore why things happen, or how. And that’s how you get to a positive result quicker.

Recently, I just concluded a large, two-year project for a large networking company. The working group I shepherded (as strategic project manager) was very successful. It was by no means easy, with many obstacles to overcome, but in the end we did indeed overcome them.

One of my main client contacts and I had an interesting relationship. Whenever I got an unexpected result that was negative, I usually responded with “how interesting” while, conversely, the client often only responded to an unexpected positive result with “how interesting.”

It made for a good combination. As a team we focused on the “why” of a result, good or bad.

It’s hard to argue with our results. Just remember that lesson, and try to say “how interesting” more often.