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Marketing IT In-House: Good News Is Not Enough

Spreading the good news of BI requires marketing language. Good news by itself is rarely enough to move people to action.

By Max T. Russell, Max and Max Communications

Good news needs to be packaged with a kick in the pants because people have to be motivated to action even when news is good. Not only does a BI proposal face formidable budget restrictions, but most users are scared to death of the damage the latest "advancements" can do to productivity and work flow.

To get users on board, they must know that you care about them and that you understand their unique needs. When you do, it's a sign that you understand the business side of the business, which is the only side that matters.

To build maximum rapport with users, you need what is called marketing language. It enables you to get "on their frequency" to motivate them. Knowing the difference between good news and marketing language is priceless. I'll demonstrate the difference with a series of examples that illustrate the endless ways marketing language can be used to properly frame your product messages and motivate users.

No Mere Dashboard

Imagine that we have to sell a dashboard that our BI director insists is absolutely amazing. We need some good news. Let's define good news as what BI has done for others and what it can do for your in-house customer. While we're at it, let's define marketing as everything you do up to the point of sale, and the next sale, and the next.

Before we approach our customer, we must determine what's so good about the dashboard in terms of the customer's need.

The following example shows how the good news is strengthened by infusing it with marketing language that highlights benefits of efficiency and pride to the primary in-house customer, the head of the maintenance department. Call him Bob.

Good news. The shipping and receiving department used this dashboard and cut their down time by 20 percent. They can't say enough about how happy they are with the results.

The same news using marketing language. Based on the results we saw in the shipping and receiving departments, maintenance could use this dashboard to become the most efficient department in the company.

This marketing language sticks with the facts and increases the possibility in Bob's mind that he could get a promotion or a big raise, along with his photo on a full-page feature of the company's newsletter. This is good news juiced up with the right marketing language. We are talking his language, we're singing his song, we are tempting Bob to learn more about what we can do for his department.

Appealing to the Assistant Department Head

Next, notice what happens when we insert marketing language that reminds the customer of a stated goal -- being a reliable resource -- while the language also provides a believable way to achieve that goal.

Friendly conversations earlier in the year with Bob revealed that his assistant, Sarah, wants his job whenever Bob gets a promotion. He said she's better suited than he is to lead the department.

Now we need marketing language that connects with Sarah. She is the more capable of the two at evaluating the impact your BI initiative will have on departmental goals and the employees' work day. She also has a clear vision for the role of a dashboard like this one in increasing BI adoption in your company.

Good news. This dashboard will be really easy to use after your staff has a few weeks of practice. You will be so pleased with the way it displays all the data categories you need. It will give you amazing control over the organization and quality of your reports.

Marketing. In two short weeks, your department's employees will find themselves on the way to becoming the most reliable resources in the division because this dashboard will finally give them the speedy, high-quality information they always knew they needed but couldn't get.

This doesn't sell the dashboard. It sells the idea that you have good news worth hearing. Don't get ahead of yourself and ruin the dashboard sale while you are so far from it. Prepare for one stage of victory at a time. In this case, you may have sold the assistant head on scheduling a meeting to conduct a preliminary evaluation of the dashboard from her perspective. Pat yourself on the back!

Improved Instructions for the User

Suppose we upgrade instructions for using the dashboard. We need to be sure that Sarah understands the importance of the new directions. Marketing language again makes good news better.

Good news. We've added instructions that are so much better than what we had before, and you can get to them just by clicking on this icon at the top right. If you follow them and don't skip any steps, you can be absolutely certain that your reports will be more accurate than ever.

Marketing. We believe you'll agree that the new instructions are far more helpful and more accessible. Better yet, when your employees follow them, the reports you create will keep your customers begging for more and give you the advantage of delighting even the pickiest ones.

Bob Has to Like It

As the head of maintenance looks ahead and imagines himself moving higher up the corporate ladder, he worries that an investment in bad BI could come back to haunt him. We have to use our imagination to think Bob's thoughts and to protect him. It's time to give Bob more good news.

Good news. We are working to get executive management on board with this initiative. They have to be behind it or it won't work. It won't get adequate funding. Our message to them is that this is the best way to expand BI throughout the organization.

Marketing. As important as your support is, this initiative requires the clear blessing of the top brass -- and additional funding, which will make it possible for your department to lead the charge in a BI revolution now and when you've moved up.

If "revolution" sounds like hype, we can say "which will allow your department to model the BI expansion that executive management wants."

Being the BI proponent might make Bob too nervous. That deserves some good news.

Good news. Don't worry about blame. This process involves making some mistakes and then getting back up and getting the job done right. Your bosses will know exactly what to expect in terms of normal BI development. This is a group effort from the top down. We'll stay in close touch with your people.

Marketing. We'll make sure your bosses and their bosses understand how to support the development process with very specific protocols we'll work out with them in advance. We'll ask them to agree in writing that your role is to inspire employees to cooperate while we move toward upper management's goals.

Don't be bothered with any of my wording. These are only examples. I could rewrite them a thousand ways, and I could write a thousand examples to be used for the entire distance of the in-house marketing campaign. The important point is that you should be spreading the good news of BI no matter what your role on the BI team. It's what effective BI evangelists do every day.

You can do this. You can learn to write marketing language for many different purposes. The sky's the limit. Give careful thought to your product, get to know your customer, and always tell the truth. That way the news will be as good as possible.

Max T. Russell invites your suggestions about future article topics. As owner of Max and Max Communications, he works behind the scenes to promote individuals and projects in a variety of industries. He and his identical twin, Max S., are heavy technology users who have been discussing and dissecting the challenges of IT in the workplace for the past 18 years. You can contact the author at

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