In March of this year I attended the SMPS Southeastern Regional Conference, Focus Forward where I had the pleasure of meeting wonderful marketing professionals from cities through the southeast. In between enjoying the offerings of our host city, Charleston, South Carolina with my new SPMS friends, from the beauty of the historic downtown to the dozens of incredible restaurants within walking distance from the Francis Marion Hotel where the conference was held (and a few too many margaritas), I attended seminars with industry experts who shared strategic methods to alter our messaging as marketers to improve our communication with clients. Three of my favorite speakers shared a similar theme in their presentations, expressing the importance of engaging clients by framing your marketing materials in a way that promotes the client and the client’s interests ahead of your own.
Jen Hebblethwaite | Focus on Your Clients: Helping vs. Selling Storytelling
Jen Hebblethwaite is the the director of Graceworks, a company that coaches clients to form human connections through their writing and presentations. In her Focus Foward presentation, Jen urged the conference attendees to stop beginning their marketing efforts by sharing the “we-we” show. How many marketers begin to engage their audience with an “About Our Company” overview? Jen’s experience has shown that this “we-we” approach is ineffective. Clients don’t care, and what is important to the client, is the client. Begin instead by telling the “you-you” show; show you understand the client by identifying their wants and needs for their project. Determine the challenges facing the client, offer plausible solutions to the problem, and back yourself up with proof from your past successes. This approach allows you to communicate your experience and achievements, while doing so in a way that puts the client’s interests ahead of your own. You’re not selling your story to the client, you are presenting your client with helpful information to assist in meeting the client’s needs.
Wayne & Holly Paige | Video Storytelling: Marketing in the Digital Age
Wayne and Holly Paige of Wave One Group specialize in creating visual storytelling that inspires audiences through emotional connection. Wayne and Holly identify three questions to answer as the building blocks of a great story: What, How, and Why? When creating a video of your project experience, footage of end-users enjoying the space your firm created is a strong way to answer the question of “Why” your company does the work they do, while creating an emotional connection that engages your client in your work experience. Allow your project team to speak with passion about the work they do day in and day out. Use testimonials from previous clients to appeal to prospective clients, or employ corporate responsibility videos to give your audience an appreciation for the work you do to better the local community. The intent of your visual storytelling should never be to boast about your experience and capabilities. To engage your audience and earn the trust of your client, brainstorm ways to tell your story while creating an emotional connection to your viewers.
Rachael Frohardt | Elevating the Proposal Process
Rachael Frohardt is Orlando’s marketing manager for PCL Construction, the 6th largest general contracting firm in the United States. In her conference presentation, Rachael spoke from her experience managing proposals for high-profile clients like Disney and Ritz-Carlton, in what was my favorite presentation of the conference (Rachael is also my manager and my review is coming up). In a competitive construction market, proposals are a key way to differentiate yourself from your competition. Elevating the proposal process means taking the time to research and understand your client and customizing your proposal response to suit their needs. Read every word of the RFP to understand what information your client is asking for, and read between the lines to discover the concerns your client has. Engage your coworkers to determine who has worked for this client before and what their experience was like. What you uncover in your research will inform your approach to your proposal response, from the use of color and graphics to the project and personnel experience you present to the client. Standing out from the competition is a matter of demonstrating that your understanding of the client’s goals exceeds that of your competition.
Whether planning a presentation, producing a video, or creating a proposal, your job as a marketer is to put yourself in the shoes of your client. Understanding a project from the client’s perspective allows you to form your marketing materials in a way that puts the client in the spotlight. In doing so, you are able to communicate your story with finesse. Your client will listen to what you have to say because they recognize your understanding and desire to help them overcome challenges. Ultimately your client will view you as someone who they want to work with, and you will achieve more success in your pursuits.
-Michael Porter, Marketing/Communications Coordinator
PCL Construction Services, Inc.