The One Tone That Won't Convert Cynics Into Customers

How the language you use can win (or lose) your customers

In a world where we carry mini-computers around in our back pockets, a new feature seems to miss the mark more often than not. I mean, has anyone ever been as excited about a new gadget as we all were when the iPad first came out?  

These days, a lackluster launch is something that we’ve all but come to expect. Sure, a new feature is nice to have, but often it’s not enough to make us run out and buy the new thing. We do file it away for future reference when it IS time to buy a new device, so there’s that.  

Create the right tone in your technology marketing.

From a marketing perspective, how do we approach the challenge of lauding an app’s update or a software’s new feature without sounding like we’re just repeating ourselves? 

They say that bad press is better than no press and that seems to be the case across the board. No company can control the narrative too much – although Google is pretty damn close to perfect on this account – so there’s always going to be the dissent among a chorus of approving voices. 

To dive into some of the challenges of marketing, let’s look at Google Assistant. Now, there’s little argument that Google Assistant isn’t a really great feature, but if you’re like me, you might be dubious over whether you need to invest in the app and its associated devices fully. You might even know some tinfoil hat-wearing types who don’t want to have such a high-touch experience with a giant like Google.  

I’m using this app just as an example, and I’d like for you to shift your perspective a bit and imagine all three messages I discuss are from the same source for the same product family. I’ve seen far too many companies who take the approaches presented below and give their potential customers a mixed bag of messages. Let’s see what each message did right and where there could be some improvement. 

Let’s look at a 100-percent positive article first. 

“Google Assistant just got better.” 

This headline is part of one written by Megan Wollerton of CNet. Wollerton’s article is titled “7 ways Google Assistant just got better,” and jumped out at me on page two of my Google search. (Unsurprisingly, most of page one was directly from Google itself.) In researching this article, it caught my eye, so I clicked on it. Score one point for a good headline! 

(Not Google Assistant, BTW.)

(Not Google Assistant, BTW.)

Okay, so the first thing I notice is that it’s written in a friendly tone – a must-have for any internet article because our attention span is SO SHORT these days. In reading along, I learn that Google Assistant will be able to make phone calls for me and arrange a hair appointment or refill a prescription (I’m assuming about the second one). Google Assistant will also teach my kid some manners, requiring “please” and “thank you” and if it doesn’t hear either, the Assistant will ask for “the magic word.” 

Sure, sure. Honestly, these are features I don’t personally want, but I can see the value in them. Google Assistant can also handle custom commands, is more conversational, can use different voices, order food for you, and improves the Home app. Groovy. 

Wollerton’s article is well-written, easy-to-read, and informational. Honestly, I do like that the AI will remember what I order from my favorite Asian takeout restaurant because, when it comes to food, I’m a creature of habit. Plus, the Home app hasn’t been one of my favorites, even though we have a Chromecast on three TVs in the house and a Google Home Speaker to boot. So, okay, good stuff.  

The article does well to make me think about new ways I can relate to the app, which is a bonus, and the author doesn’t seem to be trying to convince me to come over to her side of thinking. These types of articles are incredibly valuable because they look at a product in a positive light, without coming off as shlocky or pushy. 

Let’s look at it from a more cynical point of view.

“Is it actually useful?” 

I found a 2016 review from Android Police on YouTube titled, “Google Assistant review: Is it actually useful.” While it’s a bit strange to compare a written piece of marketing with a video, in this case, I think it works well. After all, video is climbing in popularity with no hint of slowing down.  

After the reviewer shows us all the fun things about Google Assistant, he does note that many users won’t find it much different than Google Now. As a former Google Now user, I can confirm that this is my experience. But this video does a great job of showing the good and the meh of Google Assistant. 

Is it all that convincing either way? No, but it does do a really good job of serving as a demo for customers with questions.  

Let’s keep exploring. 

A lot of companies believe they can prevent a lackluster launch by posing these controversial questions at the start, but what does it really do for the readers? Not much if they’re not already evangelists for the product. Check this out: 

Another review, this time for a Google Assistant device, the Lenovo Smart Display begins its video segment with the question: “Why in the hell would you possibly want to spend $250 on the Lenovo Smart Display?”  CNet’s “Lenovo Smart Display 10 review: Google Assistant is your sous chef in Lenovo’s take on the Echo Show,”  review does draw on the big questions I personally have been asking. Why would I want another screen when I have my Android phone (and my iPad)? Why would I want something that I can’t download apps onto? I already have a Google Home speaker, why would I want this for $200 more? 

We all have phones in our pocket. Sell us something new (but be positive about it!).

We all have phones in our pocket. Sell us something new (but be positive about it!).

I chuckled at reviewer Andrew Gebhart’s warning that the voice commands on the video might trigger my own Google Home system too. One of my favorite podcasts has found this to be true with their Alexa ads.  

Gebhart goes on to demonstrate how to use the Smart Display device and points out the very positive aspects of cooking a recipe with Google Assistant’s assistance. Later in the video, Gebhart reviews the Lenovo device as better than the Amazon Echo Show, and overall the tone is positive by the end.  

The important thing to point out here is my dubious outlook on the usefulness of a Google Assistant device was triggered by the first sentence: “Why in the hell would you possibly want to spend $250 on the Lenovo Smart Display?” Well, I wouldn’t, and the video with accompanying article didn’t do anything to convince me otherwise. 

So, marketer beware: If you start off asking a question like this, you may lose part of your audience. However, if you spin your narrative in just the right way, you can leave your audience with a positive impression of a device, app, or feature. 

Let’s review the good and bad points:

Article and Review Wins:

  • Conversational language

  • Highlighting positive aspects

  • Taking a tone that’s not focused on selling (instead, it’s focused on serving)

  • Acknowledging downsides or concerns

Loses:

  • Starting with a negative tone, even when you plan to counter that with examples or facts

  • Confirming suspicions held by they cynics

You may be wondering why it matters at all to try and convert people to your company’s way of thinking. If they’re skeptical, they might not present as your type of customer anyway. But a company should always be in the business of customer acquisition and reaching “across the aisle” so to speak, can convert more onlookers to buying customers. So, don’t alienate them from the get-go.  

Want some help developing a content strategy that will blow people’s minds and create new customers? Contact me today to chat!