In Marketing, The Packaging Matters

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Today, I stumbled across a marketing lesson that made me take a hard look at my own work habits.

I was reminded that we do judge books by their covers.

Then we judge them again by their contents.

The packaging and the presentation of an idea matter just as much as the idea itself:

Your expertise means nothing if you can’t communicate it in a way that the audience understands.

I love reading, and my friends often give me novels and self-help books as gifts.

Which is awesome, by the way.

I’m totally into book gifts.

It’s such a thoughtful gesture, and when a friend recommends a book to me, I make a point to read it…

Both for my own enjoyment, and because it’s a little way that I can show respect for the opinions of people I care about.

Some of my closest personal friends recently gave me a very appropriate gift:

It’s a signed copy of a book about the importance and impact of friendship in your personal and professional life.

I was touched, both by the gift itself and by the thought behind it.

As I started reading, though, it was difficult for me to remain focused on the message.

Despite all of the superior knowledge, the clear expertise of the author, the book itself is so poorly written that it’s frustrating to read.

To be fair, I’m a bit of a grammar snob sometimes, so I might be more sensitive about typos and punctuation than most.

But still:

I feel a little guilty for setting the book aside before I finished reading it.

The information it contains really is valuable, and my friends were so kind and thoughtful in giving it to me.

But after reading some paragraphs 2 and 3 times in an attempt to determine just what the author is trying to say, I found it too exhausting and time consuming to continue.

Judge a Book by its Cover

We’ve all been warned not to judge a book by its cover, haven’t we?

That’s terrible advice.

Especially in marketing.

Perhaps you don’t judge a book by its cover, but isn’t that how we decide whether or not to read it?

Imagine that you’re in a bookstore, browsing the shelves with the intention of picking up something new to read before bed each night.

Not all information is useful
This picture is from Wonder Book, a personal favorite.

You want something that is entertaining enough to hold your interest.

Not too frivolous, of course.

It should be something educational that will better your mind.

But at the same time, not something too stuffy and academic.

Essentially, you’re looking for the perfect bedtime book.

How do you find it?

If you’re like most smart people who read books, you start by narrowing down the topic, then you browse titles.

When the bold title emblazoned along the spine of one book catches your eye, you pull it off the shelf and glance at the front cover.

You might recognize the name of the author, or perhaps you see a snippet of praise from a reputable source like the Harvard Business Review.

If the front cover looks promising, what do you do next?

You flip the book around and read the copy on the back, hoping for at least a quick summary, right?

There are probably a few more positive reviews or testimonials, and you start to get a feel for the overall tone and the author’s style.

Now, you’ve gotten all the information you’re going to get from the cover.

You either put the book down and keep browsing for something better, or you decide to glance at the Table of Contents before making your final decision.

Maybe the cover doesn’t have enough information to tell you definitively that this is a great book…

But the cover is enough to make a judgement of whether or not it’s worth your time to look deeper.

When you put forth the time and effort to share your own knowledge and wisdom, the “cover” matters.

[bctt tweet=”We might not judge books by their covers, but cover copy is how we decide to read more or not.” username=”kitty_lusby”]

Maybe you’re not literally writing a book.

That’s fine.

Even if you’re only sharing a blog post like this one, the title, featured image, and headlines all help readers determine whether or not they’re going to spend 10 minutes reading your article.

You might have written the world’s best carrot muffin recipe, guaranteed to win awards and make men fall in love with you…

But if your title sucks, and your pictures are unappealing, nobody is going to read it.

A bad cover has the power to ruin a good book.

Judge a Book by its Grammar

In the example of the book my friends gave me, the cover design was actually pretty good.

It wasn’t a bad cover that ruined a great message – it was unclear writing and an apparent lack of editing.

Let’s go back to your imaginary book purchasing experience.

Picture this:

You’ve chosen a book with a great title, a beautiful and inspirational picture on the front, and an impressive summary and rave reviews on the back.

You’ve read the Table of Contents and you’re enthralled with the topics that are about to be covered.

You’re so excited, you’re tempted to pull over just to read the first chapter right now.

You can’t wait to get home and curl up with a hot cup of tea, a little soft music in the background, and your brand new book.

When you finally hear the gravel of your driveway crunching beneath your wheels, you’re ready to spring out of your car and rush inside.

You rush through dinner, speed walk your dog, and finally have a moment to yourself.

So you grab your new book, take a sip of chamomile tea, and open to Chapter 1.

presentation matters in marketing

And there’s a typo.

Okay, no big deal, a typo in the first paragraph doesn’t mean that the book is bad, right?

Sure, you’d prefer that there weren’t any errors in a book you paid more than $20.00 for, but we all slip up occasionally.

Then, at the bottom of the first page, there’s another one.

Before the end of the chapter, you’ve noticed 4 typographical errors.

And the author has a tendency to ask rhetorical questions without using question marks. You also suspect that his vocabulary is not as extensive as he seems to think, since a couple of words have been used incorrectly.

How do you feel about your purchase now?

Having these kinds of errors doesn’t bode well for the professionalism of the author, or for the soundness of his methodology.

Even if the ideas are communicated fairly clearly, and they’re phenomenal suggestions that have the power to change your life forever, you as the reader might have some doubts.

Small errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation make the writer look lazy, especially when you’ve paid for that book that hasn’t been properly edited.

In Marketing, the Packaging Matters

A lot of bloggers, myself included, are in what has been called the Experts Industry.

Here’ a truth bomb for people like us:

Expertise isn’t enough.

Just like the person who has the next million dollar idea, we still need great execution and marketing to make the contents of our brains actually worth money.

That’s why books have cover copy.

And Amazon puts their logo on their shipping boxes.

And Nespresso makes their coffee pods beautiful, their boxes elegant, and their machines stylish looking.

The product, the idea, the expertise, is not enough by itself.

It’s up to us as bloggers, business owners, and marketers to make sure that the packaging matches the message.

Time for homework!

Go back to your most recent blog post.

Did you proofread it before you posted it?

Even if you did, proofread it again now. Sometimes, I discover mistakes in my own posts after they’ve been edited and proofed TWICE.

Right now, go back and complete a quick readthrough to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct and appropriate, your images make sense, and your point is clear.

If you need to make corrections, do it!

If your post is perfect, give yourself a pat on the back, because I do this for a living and I haven’t achieved perfection yet.

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