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16 Deadly Mistakes that IT Professionals Make with Their Marketing Collateral

By Andrew Neitlich
Posted Thursday, September 2, 2004

In fact, most marketing materials that IT consultants and service professionals create simply DON'T WORK, for a variety of reasons:

- Nothing compels the prospect to look at your materials, and so they are as good as invisible.

- Your headlines do not create a sense of curiosity, and so the prospect does not read the copy.

- Your copy is not interesting, and so your prospects do not respond.

- Your materials make claims without proving them, causing prospects to be suspicious.

- Your materials fail to make a clear call to action, so that the prospect does nothing (except throw out whatever you sent them).

- Your materials fail to create a sense of urgency, a reason to act now, and so they move to other priorities and forget about you.

- Your materials focus primarily on your know-how and what you do, instead of on addressing the prospect's top problems and priorities, and so the prospect gets bored and stops reading.

Here are 16 mistakes to avoid in order to create marketing collateral that attracts clients:

MISTAKE #1: Not having a clear goal about what you want the prospect to do after reading your marketing material. Should they call you? Go to your web site? Request a free informational brochure? RSVP for a seminar? Your collateral should achieve its goal by telling the prospect what you want him or her to do, giving compelling reasons why they should respond, and making it easy for them to reach you.

MISTAKE #2: Providing an incomplete marketing message. A complete marketing message gets the prospect's attention, identifies the problem you solve and how you solve it, sets you apart from the competition, creates a sense of urgency, and causes the prospect to take action to contact you.

MISTAKE #3: Failing to include a description of the results you get and benefits your services, or your offer brings - and instead discussing the features. The old marketing truism is that people don't buy a quarter-inch drill; they buy a quarter-inch hole. Focus on the benefits and results.

MISTAKE #4: Not including testimonials from clients, case studies, and other data to prove your results. Your marketing collateral should be filled with client quotes and case studies detailing the problem you solved and the results you achieved for them.

MISTAKE #5: Failing to differentiate your firm or business from the competition - in compelling ways that hit the prospect's hot buttons.

MISTAKE #6: Not creating a sense of urgency or potential loss. Psychology 101 teaches that the pain of loss has greater pull than the potential for gain. Yes, you need to include a description of results, benefits and gain. But to really set your collateral apart, describe what the prospect could lose. For instance, "By not automating your payroll systems, your company is throwing away $1,000 per payroll. If you pay your employees twice a month, your company is losing $2,000 per month. That translates to $24,000 that your company is losing, year after year after year."

MISTAKE #7: Using technical language that your client might not understand. Write in ordinary, conversational English.

MISTAKE #8: Failing to include compelling, safe reasons for the prospect to get in touch with you - without feeling like they are going to be subject to a sales pitch. By providing offers for free valuable information and education, you can attract prospects more effectively than if you promote your services alone.

MISTAKE #9: Failing to include advice and valuable information. Prospects will only remember and keep your marketing materials if it contains helpful information and education. Otherwise they will throw it away like other advertisements and junk mail.

MISTAKE #10: Not offering a service guarantee or promise. For no good reason, few professionals in the IT industry are willing to offer a promise. By offering a promise or guarantee that you are willing and able to back up, you show the prospect that you are committed to helping them, and take away their risk in calling you.

MISTAKE #11: Using graphics that do not grab the prospect's attention. Marketing collateral works best when it has a large element at the top, such as a headline or illustration. Headlines should be large and bold. The layout should be simple, and avoid making your piece too busy and confusing. Artwork should not get in the way of your copy.

MISTAKE #12: Failing to use headlines that capture the curiosity and attention of the reader, and set you apart from the competition. Oracle Corp. is brilliant at creating headlines that grab the reader's attention, in fact so brilliant that many companies have copied their style. They achieve that success by using the "1 second test." Their marketing executives flash a series of headlines to a sample audience. Then, they choose the headline that the audience remembers best.

MISTAKE #13: Failing to use facts. Facts represent a powerful way to make a point. You should provide facts that answer all of the prospect's pertinent questions about you and your services. Provide facts that demonstrate the problem that you solve - in terms of hard-hitting costs and benefits. For instance, "IT professionals who invest in a consistent marketing plan make on average $175,000 per year while IT professionals who rely only on referrals make $50,000" is more powerful than "IT professionals who invest in marketing make more than those who don't."

MISTAKE #14: Beating around the bush. Get to the point fast by telling the prospect what they get by reading your material and contacting you. As in newspaper writing, make your biggest points first.

MISTAKE #15: Not having a system in place to respond to the prospect when they call. Include an easy to read, easy to find telephone number - and manage the prospect's expectations about whether they will get a live person or a recording.

MISTAKE #16: Not using your marketing collateral. I worked with a Peoplesoft implementation firm whose revenue numbers were sagging. When I asked the owner about his marketing collateral, he showed me a closet full of thousands of brochures. Sure enough, he stopped mailing these brochures to his target market when his pipeline was full, and hadn't done a similar mailing for months. While this was not his only problem, it was one factor that contributed. If you develop marketing collateral, use it!

About the Author
Andrew Neitlich is the Senior Editor of The IT Accelerator, the newsletter that helps information technology professionals and consultants to attract more clients and projects. Subscribe at (


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