No business is boring - really
5 common pitfalls of the 'boring' business
So you think your business is boring? Well, you’re wrong.
Even if it is literally – ie, you dig tunnels – that can be fascinating (as anyone who saw the TV documentary on the construction of London's Crossrail knows).
If people buy your services or products, then your business can’t be boring. Because what you’re doing must have value. And value is always of interest to prospective customers.
Unfortunately, what companies say – especially about themselves – often is boring, and so it’s ignored. Amid the clamour of the marketplace, it’s hard enough to get people’s attention. Then you’ve got to get your message over quickly, making sure it’s relevant, useful and yes, interesting.
So why do so many businesses struggle?
The five main ROUTES TO boreDOM
Here are the most common trapdoors to tedium:
1. We’ve got bells and whistles
It’s good to be enthusiastic about what you’re selling, and proud of everything your product can do. But don’t break the cardinal rule of marketing – sell benefits, not features.
You’ve heard it before: Sell the sizzle, not the sausage. The confident smile, not the toothpaste. Customer conversion, not copywriting. (Note to self.) We all need reminding sometimes.
Also, too much technical information is a turn-off, especially in the early stages of the buying cycle. You can still make it available, but don’t shove it in their faces.
2. It’s all about us
You know when you meet people who just want to talk about themselves? They don’t listen, butt in at the first opportunity, and then they're back onto their favourite subject.
Is your business messaging like that (the networking or barroom bore)? How can you tell? One way is to look at your website’s home page: Do you ‘we’ all over it and just trumpet the company’s excellence? Instead, home in on the customer, and their needs, ‘pain' or aims.
What do you think your prospective customers care most about? Themselves, of course. That’s who they’re buying for. So don’t forget who you’re creating content for. It’s all about them.
3. Let’s talk Crapolish
Do you leverage your strategic market position to deliver unique customer-focussed solutions transforming the growth agenda of your valued clients?
Ditch the corporate crapola. If you must talk fluent Marketese or Management Speak, inflict it on your team or play bullshit bingo with the boss. Don’t use that lingo with a would-be (might-have-been) client.
A few prospects might be impressed, or bamboozled into dealing with you. A tiny minority may understand you perfectly. But even they would prefer your message to be clear without the jargon. More will turn off.
It’s possible to keep it plain and simple – and professional – without dumbing down or being dour. Otherwise visitors very quickly press the back button.
4. We’re uniquely awesome!!
Don’t go to the other extreme. Trying to sex up a business brand with breathless superlatives is shallow and phoney. You don't want to be that middle-aged schoolteacher who thinks he’s ‘down with the kids’ but inspires a special kind of loathing.
Hype is hyper-boring and tiresome. We see it and hear it all day and all around. As consumers we consciously or unconsciously filter it out.
No, your service is not ‘awesome’. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the product is not ‘unique’. If every other sentence cries out for an exclamation mark (whether it’s there or not), you’re shooting off at the mouth and yourself in the foot.
5. And us too
‘This is the way companies in our industry present themselves. It’s what clients expect. This formula works for the market leaders, why not us?'
Well there are lots of reasons that trying to copy the competition can be self-defeating. It may be they do it just that bit better. Perhaps they have a superior reputation to trade on, or enjoy some other advantage.
Being just the same as them gives potential buyers little reason to give you a second glance. And it takes away your authenticity. Even if the product or service is very similar, you should differentiate your business and how you convey your offer.
how to banish boredom
You need to undo these mistakes fast if you want to bounce back from oblivion.
If you’re ready to write in a way that’s clear and credible, engaging your audience can still be a challenge, depending on the subject matter. So what else can you do to make the bland bold and gain the attention you deserve?
First, a reality check. Yes, it’s harder to whip up excitement around a widget than an ice cream. It’s sexier being an image consultant than a financial consultant. But emotion comes into the B2B equation too (even if only in our subconscious minds).
Like consumers, professional decision-makers are humans with feelings and busy lives. You can’t afford to bore them either. But to make the right impression you may need to be more creative and subtle about it.
So here are some pointers to simple tactics that can enliven jaded business communications....
Six ways to go from grey to great
(or, at least, seriously good)
Tell your story
Stories draw people in and, when told well, resonate with them. Find your story. It may be why your business exists, a turning point in its journey, or a market breakthrough. Just make sure the telling is authentic and compelling.
Become the story
Launch an award, conduct a survey, lead an industry campaign, mine your organisation for ‘news’ and value that will make people sit up and take notice. If you look in the right place and find the right angle you can catch the eye of the media and your audience.
If you have knowledge, share it. Create content that helps people in your industry solve their problems. Become an authority on an emerging issue. Or create a forum where people in your community can discuss and explore the issues that matter.
Humour can be hard to pull off. But even technical topics can bear a little wit. A light touch on a heavy subject may charm even the most expert audience. Don't be afraid to try the unexpected.
If the MD was not amused, there are other ways to inject some personality into your communications. Showcase the people in the organisation and their skills and expertise – via profiles, interviews, video, or a blog – but make it worth reading (see 10 do’s and don’ts of business blogging). Or you could give prospects a glimpse behind the scenes.
Go as far as you can with words, but you can take them even further with the right pictures. Not the stock photos of gleaming offices and beaming trans-Atlantic smiles you'll see on most websites. Get real. Commission photos of actual employees. A well-shot and scripted video can also bring a faceless company to life. A cartoon or slideshow can animate dry and technical topics.
Talk about your customers instead. You should have case studies and testimonials anyway. But why not put the clients centre stage? What they’re doing may be more interesting than your product or service. So showcase the great things they’re achieving with your help.
This list isn’t exhaustive. And remember, these and other ideas will work best as part of a content strategy.
If your content is a bit tired and down in the mouth, do get in touch. We like a challenge. It’s never boring.