Updated: Sep 20, 2018
Wielding the power of the paintbrush, Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most prolific and influential artists in the history of Western art. Using bold colors and dramatic, impulsive, and expressive brushwork, he used his paintbrush to voice his inspirational vision for Modern Art.
At the time, few understood how Van Gogh’s work would change the art world. Many company visions have suffered a similar fate: An inspirational vision is disruptive only when the market understands how it is shaping the future.
Marketing is today’s canvas for painting an inspirational vision of how your prospect can use your product to shape a new future. Beyond shaping your vision, your strategy and your product roadmap, marketing’s role is to give that vision voice. The voice framework has three steps.
Step 1: Gather data for market insights. The research you used to help connect your company's WHY to an inspirational product vision (see Unlocking Marketing’s Secret; Features Don’t Sell Products) translates to the insights you use to build your case. How you choose and use your data points will dictate your ability to change the hearts and minds of your readers.
In 2015, our country’s healthcare system completed a technology transition that expanded the number of codes physicians used to document a medical condition and bill for services. At the time, I was working for a large technology company. Our ability to show the impact of that technology change was key to positioning the company for future product and services sales. I led a team that launched five market research studies over 18 months to trend the industry’s progress and readiness for these ICD-10 codes across multiple operational areas. The answers gave us extraordinary insights across the market’s technology and emotional pain points, and helped us develop our WHY. We used that data to guide product and service releases. We took the same data points, turned them into market insights and leveraged them across multiple content pieces and media.
Step 2: Build a story that challenges the reader’s perception. How many times have you seen amazing research presented as a series of stats with no connecting story? If you want to truly connect with the audience, you need to challenge the reader’s current thinking and then show your inspirational vision. The stats don’t make the story, they make the story pop.
While the ICD-10 research studies averaged 10 questions each, the reports highlighted three major findings and their implications. We used the findings to demonstrate a position, and the implications emphasized the importance of acting quickly. That position challenged the reader’s current thinking, and presented a vision of a new way to think about the problem. The goal was to create a sense of urgency in the readers’ minds, to make them think that they were falling behind. By respectfully challenging the reader’s perception with new information and educating them about a new possibility, we successfully provoked the reaction we wanted: an inquiry about our products and services.
Step 3: Map insights to audience. The last step in creating your voice is delivering the information in a format that is digestible and believable to the audience. Map the story to the audience personas and pain points. Then identify the data, the medium and the byline author who will speak to your audience. Don’t underestimate the power of shared information from peers.
In our ICD-10 story, a Chief Medical Officer needed to know how ICD-10 data would impact her ability to capture patient-specific information and create an individual care plan. She received a white paper from our own Chief Medical Officer that used infographics to highlight the technology capabilities her peers were implementing and the speed of those changes. It also showcased the implications to the providers or companies that were falling behind the technology curve.
A Chief Information Officer needed more detailed information about how his peers were implementing technology systems without disrupting the current workflow. One of our company IT executives sent him reports with infographics that highlighted the operational capabilities his peers were updating, the order of those updates, and the cost of those changes.
An industry analyst wanted to see if companies across the industry were replacing or remediating their technologies in preparation for the transition. She received regular briefings from the product management team that highlighted technology replacement trends with graphics.
In total, the 18-month program net more than 50 different content pieces (white papers, research reports, press releases, infographics, emails, presentations) strategically shared with target audiences at the right time. More importantly, the content catapulted the company to a leadership position in ICD-10 and generated a very measurable pipeline.
Putting it all together. Not every voice program is as extensive as this ICD-10 program. Your vision, audience and goals should dictate the marketing strategy and tactics you use to give your vision a voice. When creating your own program, remember that your goal is to use the vision to differentiate your company and your product. Use data to challenge the reader’s perception and elevate the company’s voice from opinion to expert.
Next, we’ll take about value.