As a go-to-market professional of a certain age, I have witnessed marketing’s transition from the “art department” to something much different. Whether viewed as the data-driven tip of the spear, a go-to-market co-parent, or (in the worst case) a costly but necessary evil, marketing has changed dramatically in the last two decades.
For some (outside of marketing), this transition has elevated the perceived value of the function. For others (inside the department), the transition has increased the burden to prove contribution more than ever. Thanks to the ubiquity of data, attribution and return on investment are easier to demonstrate, and more important to show, than ever before.
As a result of this transition, marketing is now more of a science than an art. “If you can’t measure it, it does not exist” is today’s mantra and with good reason. Marketing is costly, and absent proof of value, marketing can be wasteful in very significant ways. At upwards of 30% of operational spend for growing businesses, marketing programs and overhead together can equate to over a quarter’s worth of runway.
Alas, today’s discussion is not about marketing ROI, about measurement, or about changing perceptions over time.
It’s about details; the devilish kind.
When I was a student in high school, my favorite teachers were those in the Department of English. Without exception, every member of the staff was well-educated, inspiring, and skilled at their craft. They taught me the value of reading prose and poetry, how to compose, and the importance of details. These teachers did not teach grammar through rules but through observation and use. They taught that the atomic units of speech and writing are important not because they are correct, but because they make comprehension and communication effective and meaningful.
These lessons were not necessarily meant to create the next crop of Hemingways or Angelous; they were designed to create a batch of capable thinkers and doers. What we chose to do with our skills was up to us.
Language and customs change. Politics aside, anyone who has heard President Kennedy’s famous “Ask Not…” inaugural address can attest that the lexicon has altered in the last half-century. Text messages have shortened words; Twitter (X) cut the length of sentences; the desire for perceived authenticity altered the style many people use.
But here’s the thing:
- Most everyone understands what “LOL” means, but if I mistype the word and write “LPL” instead, effectiveness and meaning are lost.
- The sentences “we value your business!” and “we value your business?” are virtually the same but communicate very different meanings.
Both examples are easy errors made in the real world, and in most cases, with little impact. The stakes increase when they are part of an email, an advertisement, or a website. The truth is, a customer reading an email from your business may assume you meant to say “we value your business.” On the other hand, they may just assume you sort of value it. In either case, they’re left knowing you didn’t proofread your communications before sending them out.
A natural next question for the curious could be: “What else aren’t they checking?”
Measuring the Unmeasurable
The visible elements of your business – the tip of the spear – may seem costly and often difficult to measure. Unlike an event or demo, it’s difficult to assign ROI to attention to detail. I expect a common refrain to this question to follow: “That’s standard operating procedure” or “We expect that of our team,” but the truth is it isn’t happening.
Errors are everywhere. When I started this paragraph, I set a timer for five minutes and went looking for errors on LinkedIn. My wholly unscientific research returned multiple errors ranging from small to shocking, here are two:
- Design: $20M+ VC-funded SaaS company with their logo incorrectly cropped, showing a white line where the vector should be transparent.
- Copy: Job announcement posted without personalization (“We are looking for a seasoned [insert role] to join us as [insert title]”
Both real examples are sloppy and unnecessary and should be just part of doing the job, but in both cases, it’s clearly not. There are countless examples of instances when attention to detail impacts business. I don’t often drink soda, but when I do, I order a Coke and not a Pepsi – not just because they’re better at spelling. But it doesn’t hurt to be good at what you do.
The devil is in the details because they matter. If your business persona is sloppy, customers may still choose you but only if your product is unquestionably superior to a competitor who uses spellcheck. Avoiding details is an unforced error and begs the question: if marketing and sales are bad at what they do, what about customer success, support, engineering, or QA?
Building a business is complex, costly, and time-consuming. There are so many moving pieces, and it’s easy to decide to cut from one area to focus elsewhere, but there’s always a cost.
When you do things right and focus on the details, the big parts work better. Those who adopt a details-first philosophy and invest in the tools and best practices to accomplish their goals do well. For the public-facing team, here are three ideas that will help make this possible and part of the culture and the job, at little incremental expense.
- Software: Purchase and make Grammarly mandatory for all those responsible for creating content. That includes copywriters, business development reps, customer success, and everyone in between. Grammarly allows you to track mistakes by team and report on performance.
- AI: Use AI as a final line of defense in the editorial process. ChatGPT does decent research, ok writing, and edits quite well. In fact, these platforms are incredibly helpful for prospecting and can both check for things like errors and style while customizing and refreshing content for reuse.
- Agencies: Hiring a full-time copywriter or social media team can be costly, especially when a business is at an early stage. Hiring an agency for the equivalent of several hours or days per week may be enough for you to execute professionally and consistently at a price and pace appropriate for your stage.
As a metrics-driven marketer, focusing on the “color palette” is not what comes first or naturally, but delivering a marketing strategy for growing businesses requires it all. The marketing “unicorn” or “utility player” or “jack of all trades” needs to understand operations, pipeline generation, awareness, content, messaging, communications – and brand. The world may have moved to acronyms and pithy, familiar soundbites, but businesses still need to focus on the details.
Get in touch to learn how you can get the details right.