By Keith Flint

Now that spring has arrived and we're in a mindset for rebirth and renewal, take a fresh look at your content to ensure it speaks to your customer's needs instead of your wants. And the best way to make that change is to understand that everyone will benefit from the shift.

The evidence is prolific. Late last year, articles on improved customer engagement appeared in what seemed to be a desperate, year-end push to alert marketers to their mistakes. Then, a high-profile Forrester report appeared that gave failing grades in customer engagement "effectiveness" to marketers of technology, software, investing, medical products, manufacturing, and services. It, combined with our own empirical observations, upholds one definitive observation: Companies talk too much about themselves, to the detriment of communication effectiveness.

You know what it's like trying to sift through promotional content. There's too much superfluous material – information that is of little value and no interest to a potential customer. It's like being cornered at a party by the boor who insists on describing his recent surgery in excruciating detail. No one wants to hear that. But we do listen to what we care about most.

Give 'Em What They Want

The best communicators are excellent listeners. They hear what their audiences say. They listen before responding. Then they deliver value that is based on-fueled by-what they've heard and what they've learned from it.

Your highest-value customers are busy, just like you. They need solutions, but it's difficult for them to allocate the time needed to thoroughly research options. Customers often become frustrated and discouraged when they feel the available content is self-serving. It diminishes effectiveness, reduces sales, and can erode customer confidence in your brand. Instead, be sure to present content your prospects are keen to consume. Remove every barrier that stands between them and the help they need. They'll appreciate that you've taken the time and put forth the effort to offer them something of value. A solution to their challenge. An answer to their question. An idea that resolves a key issue. Make it easy for them-even when it's not easy for you. Do the work so they don't have to. And they'll reward you with their business.


Make Sure You're Getting it Right

Follow these steps:

Listen carefully. These are your customers. Get to know them by digging into all the information you can collect about them and their business. Understand their challenges. Empathize. Your sales force can be a great resource for this. Create real-world solutions. Address their challenges, problems, or questions. Keep it relevant. If you must talk about yourself, keep that relevant, too. Position yourself not just as a thought leader, but also as a "do leader." Clarify the benefit you offer and the value you provide. Be honest about the competitive landscape-it's rare that any product is perfect by every measure. Consumers are smart and understand this, so meet their challenges head-on, and speak to what you can and cannot do, and you'll gain immense respect for it. Follow up. Confirm your prospect received what was needed. Make them as much a priority after the sale as before. They'll remember that you made the effort to ensure their satisfaction. This is a rare step, so it makes a lasting impact. Engage a phone team, or at least send follow-up emails. Make the effort-it won't go unnoticed.

Keith Flint (614-942-0914; Keith@simarketing.net) is Strategy Director of Sudden Impact Marketing, a marketing firm that has utilized phone, direct, traditional, and interactive marketing to serve high-tech B-to-B clients since 1997.