Yesterday, I described the kind of marketing messages that customers ignore, mostly because those messages are either trite, meaningless or both.  Because the point is to help you become successful, here's how to put that knowledge to use.

In this column. I deconstruct a real-life marketing message to show how to turn it into something that gets customers interested.  (See my free weekly newsletter for more example of this.)

Before I get to the critique and rewrite, here's a quick refresher on what makes a great marketing message.  Based upon my years of experience and an absurd amount of real-world tests, a strong marketing message consists of three parts:

  1. Benefit (What's in it for me?)
  2. Differentiator (Why should I buy from you?)
  3. Call-To-Action (What do I do next?)

In this case, I'm not going to address the call-to-action, because unlike the first two elements, the call-to-action varies depending on the medium: email, elevator pitch or website. 

The Original Message

Here's the original message, with the company name edited out:

"Our customers rely on our deep industry expertise and hire us to manage their complex international logistics programs.  What is unique about us is our global, regional, and national account management framework.  Our client-focused team model delivers a high level of quality assurance and continual customer satisfaction."

At first glance this message seems, well, businesslike if perhaps a bit dull. To a buyer or a customer, though, it's not compelling.  Quite the contrary, it's confusing and even counter-productive as a sales tool.

To understand why, I'll tear it apart and look at the pieces.

Critique of Sentence #1

For convenience, here's the first sentence again:

"Our customers rely on our deep industry expertise and hire us to manage their complex international logistics programs."

Structurally, this is solid.  The statement is intended to be a benefit to the buyer, right where you'd want to the benefit.  However, the "benefit" as stated doesn't really get at what the buyer really wants or needs. Here's why:

"deep industry expertise"

This phrase is a claim that the company is making about its employees.  While it may be true in some sense, the buyer has no way of verifying whether it's true, which makes it a very weak claim. 

The claim also leaves it up to the buyer to decide "what's in it for me?"  While it may seem obvious to the seller that "deep industry expertise" is of some benefit to the buyer, the buyer may not see the connection.

More important, the claim itself is the same as the claims being made by everyone--not just the seller's competitors, but pretty much every B2B company in the world.  As such, the claim fades into the woodwork.

"complex international logistics programs"

This phrase attempts to define a need that the buyer has which the seller can presumably satisfy. However, that need is only implied by the word "complex." Otherwise it's just a statement of something the buyer might be doing.

What's needed is an example rather than an abstraction, preferably an example that is meaningful to the buyer.  

Critique of Sentence #2

The second sentence struggles to differentiate the seller but instead raises questions. Here is again:

"What is unique about us is our global, regional, and national account management framework." 

 Let's break it apart:

"global, regional, and national"

These adjectives are literally and figuratively "all over the place."  While the three words are supposed to sound comprehensive, they're actually rather confusing. 

Does "global" mean that there's a centrally-located staff that deals with global issues Does "regional" mean that small countries are handled from a regional office Does "national" mean that there's an office in every country?

"account management framework"

The problem with this phrase is that "account management" sounds like it's referring to the way the seller sells as opposed to how the seller actually delivers it services.

If that's the case (and it may very well be the case), the phrase implies that the main function of the seller's organization is to sell services rather than actually deliver them.  If that's not the case, then it's a big mistake to raise the specter.

Sentence #2 thus fails to differentiate the seller but instead makes the seller seem scattered and perhaps too focused on selling.

Critique of Sentence #3

Here's the final sentence again:

Our client-focused team model delivers a high level of quality assurance and continual customer satisfaction."

This sentence is so vanilla it's almost meaningless, as you can see when we break it up into its component parts:


Since every company claims to be"client-focused" (aka "customer-focused"), the claim is just noise.  Even then, what does the term mean?  It's basically fluff. 

"team model"

The writer could have just as easily said "teams" but instead has elected to add a level of abstraction by adding the term "model." I have no idea what a "team model" is, but it's clearly intended to sound important.  Actually, it just sounds sorta stupid. 

"high level of quality assurance"

The writer could have just said "high quality service" but again that simple concept has been biz-blabbified with the word "assurance."  What does "quality assurance" really mean? I have no idea.

"continual customer satisfaction"

Here's it's almost as if the writer thought "customer satisfaction" was boring (which it is) but thought (wrong) that adding "continual" would make it seem more interesting.  It doesn't.

Translated into simple English, all this sentence says is:

"Our teams are high quality and we have satisfied customers." 

Since every company makes identical claims, the entire sentence is just background noise.  Yawn.

Rewriting the Message

The challenge of rewriting this message is that there's not much content in the original. If I had the time to research the company or, better yet, interview their customers, then it might be possible to write something truly compelling.

However, there is enough information in the original tomake a stab at something that might interest a customer. Here's one way to do it:

  • Benefit: "Our customers hire us to make certain the right materials and assemblies get to the right place at the right time, regardless of where they're sourced or manufactured."
  • Differentiator: "We have 100 years of cumulative experience helping customers like [famous companies] set up and smooth out their global supply chains."

Admittedly, that's not a barn-burner of a marketing message and it does use a bit of jargon at the end, but it's certainly much clearer and tighter than the original.  

More important, the benefit now answers "What's in it for me?" while the differentiator answers "Why buy from you?" Since these are the questions that the buyer implicitly asks, the new message is definitely on the right track.

Please note that there's nothing in that rewrite that you can't do on your own.  It's really just a matter of writing from the viewpoint of what's important to the buyer rather than what's important to you.