I had a wake-up moment during a call with Andrew Deutsch, a marketing expert with an impressive background in both business and technology. His strongest suit might be that he’s a straight shooter.
The first time I met Andrew, I was struck by a business story he shared with me.
He had a client that was selling a special tape for woodworking. In their promotional material, instead of leading with the features of the tape, they focused on the benefits, showing how it could solve the user’s problems and challenges — starting with the product price:
“Make and sell five new pieces of unique furniture with this tape, and you’ve covered the cost.”
I was impressed with how he had positioned the company, so I asked Andrew to look at my company’s website content, and my own LinkedIn bio. “I like all your stuff, but you have to show what’s in it for me,” Andrew said.
He pointed out that I had made the cardinal mistake of copywriters: I didn’t put the benefit to the customer up front. It was a painfully obvious blunder.
Wait a minute, I thought. I’m the expert. What the heck is going on?
Just because you learned Content 101 doesn’t mean you execute it
Suffice it to say that it’s embarrassing when you screw up one of the basics of great content. But that’s what I had done. I was thinking more about myself instead of the customer. Which is why my overly analytical self got up this morning and started asking why.
Why had a seasoned writer (me) overlooked the obvious?
The answer, I realized, is that skill sets require practice. Pro athletes practice, practice, practice to commit techniques to muscle memory. But how do content creators practice, practice, practice? Unfortunately, no one has time for practice in the work world. It’s always game time.
So if you have no time to practice, you must lean in to process.
Bad habits come when you don’t have a framework to check them against
Former University of Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan had a coaching style that I think is relevant here. He was a nut about process. Every practice he ran had the same drills, and the team stuck to the same game plan in basketball games.
Bo’s reliance on process helped his players become fundamentally sound, which helped reduce or eliminate basic mistakes — basic like the one I had made.
If you’re a creative type and love focusing on the big ideas, then you need to lean in to process. It will keep you organized and allow your creativity to flourish because you’re escaping the constraints of worrying about missing things.
In lieu of practice, we lean on checklists. They are a simple way to ensure the little mistakes don’t fall through the cracks. Here’s a short checklist at the bottom of each of our posts, for example, that our production people use.
|Additional photos – Graphics Uploaded?
|Correct dates entered for tweets?
Why not extend that practice to the content in your blog post? For example, you can include the following items:
Was I thinking about how the customer thinks when I wrote this piece?
President Joe Biden tells this to his communications people when they want to share information with the public: “If your mother wouldn’t understand what you wrote, then I don’t want to see it.”
He is trying to get his team to think about communicating to different generations, different education levels. Do the same with your audience.
Did I write benefit-oriented headlines?
Now that you’ve got your customer-centered mindset, execute it by framing your message in terms of benefits. We’re talking about execution here, so go back through the post and make sure you’re talking about benefits where applicable.
Did I share my work with others to get their feedback?
Yes, despite all our experience and expertise, we (I) make mistakes. Hard as it is to admit it, and as embarrassed as you feel when you do it, it’s just part of life.
That’s why you need to put your stuff out there in front of your own team (which I always do), your family and friends, and, perhaps especially, someone like Andrew, a person who doesn’t know you that well and can give you an outside perspective (and happens to be good at what he or she does).
Andrew said it best: “I never had a brilliant idea that someone else couldn’t make better.”
Mistakes are a fact of life, so…
It wasn’t easy to write this post. I don’t like the world to know that the content writer wrote some bad copy. But if I get comments like Andrew’s, I don’t take offense to them, even though my ego might take a hit. It’s not me I’m doing the marketing for anyway — it’s my customers.
The poet Nikki Giovanni put it best: “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”
And that, my friends, is some expert advice.
Andrew Deutsch is a multilingual global marketing and sales consultant who has successfully driven business growth in more than 100 countries. His unique method focuses on converting everyone that a company touches into voracious brand advocates. Check out his company, Fangled Tech.