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We all know the value of learning a new language. I was never very good in my high school classes, but my first job, at Vaddio, was an immersion class in AV. And as an industry marketing consultant, I spend quite a bit of time working as a translator, helping manufacturers and integrators communicate to customers in a way they’ll understand and act on.

Matt Abrahams, host of the Standard Graduate School of Business podcast, Think Fast, Talk Smart, refers to “connection before complexity” ­– the importance of being “in service of the audience rather than just focusing on content.” In a conversation about this, Stanford strategic communications lecturer Lauren Weinstein gives an example of Apple’s introduction of the original iPod. The engineers were excited to have devised a way to store 5 gigabytes of data. That was a big damn deal – the heart of the iPod – but it would have been crazy to make that the headline of the marketing campaign. Instead, the company went to market with “1,000 songs in your pocket.” What, a thousand tracks? That headline stopped people in their tracks!

Instead of focusing on specific information, Apple highlighted the benefits of the product, zeroing in on what was relevant to the audience. Once the buyers are hooked, you can impress them with the details and provide your various proof points.

Another thing Weinstein brought up in the conversation was the idea of “chunking.” Say there are 10 important things to communicate. You’re asking a lot of your audience to be able to understand, prioritize and remember those ten items. Instead, remember “the rule of three,” which is that audiences are usually very adept at absorbing three discrete buckets of information. So you either lead with the top three benefits, or you cluster, or chunk, the ten benefits into three categories and lead with THEM.

Sticking with the number three, here are three questions to ask yourself before you attempt to sell anything:

  1. Who’s my audience?
  2. What’s my message?
  3. How can I bring that message to life through stories and analogies?

Going into detail about tech specifications won’t bring your message to life for most decision-makers, even the CTOs and IT directors – not at the outset, anyway. Your job is to tell them, as directly and compellingly as possible, how your product will help them and why they need it NOW. The point here is to be as clear and simple as possible. You might think it’s obvious how cool and compelling your new product is; but don’t make that assumption. Tell them how cool it is. Show them how cool it is. And tell them again.

Marketing and branding are the translators between the technical functions and the actual benefits of the product or service. My job, as a marketer is first to understand the tech-nerdy content, and then to figure out how to make sure the customers get the message. Sometimes that involves simplifying complex data; other times I figure out how to condense it in a way that leaves many of the details for later so that we can focus on the real core of the message.

Back to Apple. There’s a reason they called their version of PowerPoint “Keynote” – because, if you think about it, keynote presentations provide a great model for how marketers should communicate. When the CEO gets up there to talk about a new product, he or she isn’t delving into the arcane coding details of root code; they’re telling you, “Check this out! It’s awesome.”

Branding and storytelling are extremely important in my work as a translator. They make the messaging memorable, consistent, and emotionally resonant.