Meeting Problems Head-On

In the past 48 hours, people from three separate companies have complained to me about their aggravation with wasted time getting a conference room projector set up in between meetings. One guy had a Homeric adventure that lasted fully one-third of the meeting time. First, he fruitlessly hunted down IT to provide the right cables for his laptop, because someone in the meeting before his seemed to have left with the adapter. Then he sheepishly interrupted a different meeting to find out if the presenter had any spares. Finally, he accidentally barged in on the CEO and chairman of the board to borrow someone else’s display dongle. “Every meeting starts like this,” he grumbled. “It’s gotten so everyone expects it.” Who among us in B2B, just before the start of a presentation or meeting, hasn’t dealt with some minor technology issue during setup? It starts out small while you fumble around with different connections for a few minutes. But it ends up registering on people’s patience spectrum: first, with a joke about technology making our lives easier; then, landing somewhere between a few exasperated sighs and a noticeable mood change. Even solo workers, virtual staff, and freelancers have to contend with technology delays, either as the meeting host, while presenting at a client’s office, or as an online attendee who is never going to get those minutes back.

I Feel Your Pain

Turns out there’s someone else who clearly could relate: the product marketing managers who wrote the Denon Pro press release messaging for a new product introduction during this year’s CES conference.  
Denon Professional announces Kudo: the end of unproductive meetings Presentation hub enhances productivity, eliminates excuses for missing display adapters
Sure, the headline is a little grand – but talk about solving a problem that just about anyone reading it has experienced. It goes on:
Kudo eliminates the frustrations that plague meetings: finding the right display adapters, awkward transitions between presenters, endless knots of cables, and minimal support for mobile devices.
Even its standard press-release bullet points avoid too much feature-itis:
  • Connects mobile devices and laptops to a projector or video monitor
  • Saves time by reducing “transitional” moments during meetings
  • Enables simple source switching for engaging presentations
This isn’t a story about projectors, or even about meetings. It’s a story about pain. How demonstrating complete understanding of that pain is so much more powerful and compelling than explaining the technical characteristics of the solution. It’s about translating features into real benefits, not “feature-like” benefits.

How may I trick you today?

Feature-like benefits are the ones that dress up a spec in a hyped-up costume to disguise the fact that the writing is really, you know, about the product — the faux-benefit (benefaux?) writing that’s so common in complex B2B technology marketing.
  • Dressing up the feature of four kinds of cable adapters as “versatile connectivity.”
  • Disguising a spec with an impressive-sounding comparative adjective — a “lightweight” 38 pounds.
  • Faux-benefiting a mechanism as “the only one to offer” a proprietary, trademarked technology.
These examples are rampant in the marketing of technology products — valueless filler words that puff up importance; jargon that substitutes for clear explanation; comparative words without any other context; artificial positioning because boy, do we love to be the “only” something! …even if we just made that something up. All of it adds up to putting the burden on the reader to do the work of finding out what this could mean for their business. And everything wrong with it can be remedied with good business copy.

Show the problem. Then solve it

For my part, I’m not sure what’s more striking about the Denon Pro Kudo release: the product itself with its spot-on relevance to the real-world, business problems of efficiency and productivity; or the lively, relatable, nerve-touching language in the PR copy that makes the product and the brand stand out further. After all, a solution that alleviated “panicked moments of frustration that kill the collaborative buzz” would have certainly saved my friend from his embarrassing encounter with the CEO. Now, it’s not practical nor advisable for all — or even most — B2B writing to be as exuberantly expressive or panacea-evoking as this example. (Read the original press release in its entirety, and you can judge for yourself.) But it’s a refreshing original example of knowing the target audience and our everyday pains, speaking to us using words we use, and offering a lifeline to rescue us from cringe-worthy moments of unwanted attention. And that makes this one stand out from every other tech appliance. So congratulations (or should I say… er, never mind) to the Kudo product marketing crew at Denon for some of the most relatable, benefit-oriented writing we’ve seen in business-to-business marketing. May all your messaging meetings be productive and excuse-free.