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Are Your Communications Inside-Out?

June 14, 2012 | By Erin Provey

One of the most common issues that surface during inquiries (often on totally different topics) is an inside-out approach to corporate and marketing communications. Inside-out communications articulate the value, offer and produce/service/solution portfolio in a way that makes perfect sense for internal audiences, but is really unhelpful in enabling buyers’ top-of-funnel activities, which we know to be largely constituted by independent online research.

As a child, I had a little Greenpeace T-shirt with a whale on it that I loved so much I’d wear it inside-out, the logic being that the whale was really for my enjoyment, not for the enjoyment of others. Relatively reasonable for a 4-year-old in a save-the-whales tee – but sort of unreasonable for an entire field of skilled and intelligent professionals.

One of the most common issues that surface during inquiries (often on totally different topics) is an inside-out approach to corporate and marketing communications. Inside-out communications articulate the value, offer and produce/service/solution portfolio in a way that makes perfect sense for internal audiences, but is really unhelpful in enabling buyers’ top-of-funnel activities, which we know to be largely constituted by independent online research.

Modern demand creation mandates an understanding of demand type and the way that it impacts and dictates the buyer’s journey. Evolved product marketing teams are developing and maintaining dynamic buyer personas, serving as fundamental knowledge resources that guide a customer-centric approach to tactics and messaging requirements. Where is communications in this evolution?

Our research indicates that many CMOs are pondering the future of the marketing and corporate communications functions, which means that there’s both an opportunity and a very real danger at hand for communications professionals – depending on their willingness and ability to use their core competencies as communicators to create a strategic advantage at the top of the funnel. This means aligning with the requirements of demand, using sales as a frontline knowledge resource. It also means collaborating with product and solution marketing, ensuring that the top-of-funnel experience generated by corporate and marketing communications is not just an inside-out articulation of who/what the organization is/does, but rather a narrative driven by customer needs. This prevents the prospect from having to take unnecessary steps to determine whether this is the right solution to the question they’re researching. As in a form-fill, the more hoops you ask someone to jump through, the more likely they are to simply walk away and look elsewhere.

All communications efforts should be aimed at understanding prospects’ fundamental decisionmaking questions, knowing where and how those questions are being asked, and positioning the product as an intuitive, findable and explicit solution to the business issue. Otherwise, you may have an awesome whale T-shirt, but only you can see the design, while everyone else is left looking at the washing instructions tag.

Erin Provey

Erin Provey is a Senior Research Director of Corporate and Executive Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions. She has more than 10 years of experience in brand strategy, including positioning, identity, public relations, digital strategy, copywriting and account management. Follow Erin on Twitter @erinprovey.
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