Jony Ive, Apple’s head of product design, and now in charge of their UI design (hello iOS 7!) gave an answer to a related question that puts a new clarity to the answer I’m about to give you.  “How do you know when a design is right?” was the question. “When you can’t imagine the product any other way” was his answer.  Stripping away everything that isn’t “the product.”  Expressing the essence of the product.

He also describes a ton of process that informs that imagining in the same article he answered this question.  Worth the read.

Of course the ultimate answer is the marketing’s right when people respond, when people take action, when people buy.

But how about before that?

As a Small Business Marketing Consultant this is a question central to my life.  Instinct — I just know when it’s right.  That’s a rather romantic notion, and one that may work for 30-year veterans like me.  But, actually, I don’t rely on it and don’t recommend you do either.

How do I know when the marketing’s right?

I talk with a small group of people who recently bought the product I’ve been retained to help.  I go to school on their perspectives and motivations by starting a simple conversation, listening and asking follow up questions.

I learn the product.  I do my best to experience it as a user does.  And to understand what the owner wants her product to be (not always the same as how customer perceive it).

The marketing’s right when it presents an authentic, clear story about how the product relates to what is important to the people interested in buying it.

I’ll say it again because I’ve spent 30+ years getting here-

The marketing’s right when it presents an authentic, clear story about how the product relates to what is important to the people interested in buying it.

Authentic: Your marketing can’t just create a facade.  It can’t create unrealistic expectations.  It must present an authentic, clear story about how the product relates to what is important to the people interested in buying it.

Clear: It needs to ACTUALLY COMMUNICATE.  That is, the meaning you ascribe to your message ends up in the heads of your customers.  The annals of marketing are littered with clever sales copy that sounds great, but doesn’t communicate anything.

Story: Don’t explain.  Don’t spew features and benefits.  Tell me a story.

What is important: There are many good reasons why people should  buy your product.  However, given your customer’s world as it stands today, only some of those reasons are important.  Lead with what is important, now.

Then you iterate like hell when your marketing goes live to fix what isn’t resonating and amplifying what is.

And. . .phew. . .when you’re getting response, that’s when you know your marketing’s right.