Is Deep Product Knowledge Creating Higher Barriers to Your Messaging?

How to make your marketing voice and messaging more transparent and effective

Has the following happened to you recently? You’re watching a TV commercial. As the spot plays, you see and hear things that make little or no sense to you at all. By the end of the spot, you have absolutely no idea of how the execution or messaging of the spot had any connection to the featured product or service. What just happened? Are you becoming that out of touch with the world around you?

Don’t worry, you’re not. While some instances of this confusion can be attributed to the spot being aimed at a different demographic than yours, there is also the likelihood that the client and makers of the spot might have been afflicted or distracted with too much knowledge of their product. Huh?

The trap of too much knowledge

How can in-depth knowledge ever be considered a negative? Here’s how—when you know a subject, product, or discipline so thoroughly that you fail to imagine anyone not having at least some familiarity with it. Your comprehensive understanding can actually get in the way of communicating the most basic information, or prioritizing the most important information that people need to know.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that you can’t sell anything to anyone by talking above them. The problem, however, is recognizing when you’re doing this. Call it arrogance or ironic ignorance but for decades marketers have been fighting the assumption that their campaigns will automatically be understood and embraced by most anyone.

Don’t believe this? Here’s an Infiniti spot from 1989 that accompanied the initial launch of the brand, which also coincided with the launch of Lexus in the U.S. the same year. While both brands were considered by the industry and auto reviewers as equal in terms of performance, prestige, and quality, is it any wonder that Lexus outsold Infiniti by a 3-to-1 margin the first year, and has continued to dominate Infiniti ever since? With the ad agency deciding that it didn’t even need to show the car in the spot, and relying on a voiceover that sounded like it was recorded at a zen retreat, initial viewers had no idea what an Infiniti was. Was it a boat? A beachfront condo? Suntan oil?

Stress engaging with audiences over impressing them

You can avoid this kind of disconnect between you and your audiences by taking on the mindset of having a one-on-one conversation with them. When you’re talking face-to-face with someone, you naturally adjust the tone, complexity, and word choices of what you’re saying to the knowledge level and body language of the person you’re speaking with. The whole point is to interest your prospects and customers in what you’re saying by presenting understandable, relevant information—not bowl them over with esoteric facts and figures that may or may not increase their interest, or assume that they already know so much about you that you don’t need to relay key information.

As simple as this sounds, it obviously becomes more of a challenge when you’re trying to communicate through online ads, print materials, TV and radio spots, etc. You have a less clear idea of exactly who you’re talking to, and thus have to make some assumptions. To prevent your product knowledge from overwhelming or shortchanging your message, here are a few tips.

1. Know who you’re talking to

Anyone can Google a brand or product that they’re not familiar with. But it’s a stretch for marketers to think that something people don’t understand right away will automatically intrigue them enough to do a search online. One of the first things any marketer should do is create a thorough prospect/customer profile in order to have a firm grasp of your audience’s knowledge base. An understanding of what your audience knows and doesn’t know about you will help sharpen your messaging considerably.

2. Avoid jargon

When people talk to you using terms and phrases you don’t get, you feel like an outsider. When you try to impress prospects with fancy language in your communications, you run the risk of driving them away. Tone down the jargon and insider talk, and you’ll be more inviting to potential customers.

3. Show an example

Sometimes the best way to establish interest in and preference for your product or service is through an example, analogy, or an anecdote. Telling your story in a different way, in more relatable terms, can help audiences make sense of your offering more quickly and make your overall message resonate more effectively.

4. Get a second opinion

When creating content, it’s natural to want to work on it, edit it, expand it, reorganize it, and tweak it all on your own. However, if your perspective is the only one represented in the development of the content, there can be a risk of molding the messaging so much to your individual view that others may have trouble connecting with it. Have your work reviewed by at least one other person. Even if they aren’t the intended target, you’ll at least get a reality check on the coherence of what you’re trying to convey.

You can find other great tips to making your messaging as engaging and accessible as possible in this Hubspot article. We all want to be perceived as extremely hip, smart, and sophisticated when talking to prospects and customers. But that won’t always work in your favor when it comes to engaging new audiences. Just ask Infiniti.