The Hidden Problems In Your Marketing Materials


Screwdrivers (Photo credit: Emilio_13)

It is generally considered bad form to suggest you want to stick a rusty screwdriver in the eyeballs of whatever marketing hack wrote the easy to understand instructions for using product/service XYZ, so I’ll pretend I didn’t say it.

Scratch that, I am not pretending. I wrote it and I’ll own it but I’ll cover my butt by saying I don’t really want to stick a rusty screwdriver in anyone’s eyes but I would like to scream at someone.


Because the aforementioned easy to understand instructions are not always easy to understand. I am guessing that I don’t have to spell out what has gotten me so frustrated because most of us have experiences trying to follow along those easy to understand instructions and discovered they weren’t nearly as easy to understand as we were led to believe.

There are a host of reasons why this can happen ranging from the directions being written by someone who is a poor writer to someone being so familiar with their product/service they don’t recognize that not everyone is so familiar.

And let me assure you, lack of familiarity is a bigger problem than many marketers realize.


YouTube has several videos circulating in which adults show children ancient technology and ask them how to use it.

In one of them a man shows children a rotary phone and asks them how to use it. Several of the children recognize it as a phone but none of them have a clue as to how it works.

To those of us who grew up using such a phone it wouldn’t occur to us to tell the kids that before dialing they need to check for a dial tone because it is so basic we have forgotten it is crucial step.

Without that dial tone you cannot make a call so instructing people to look for it is crucial.

Many years ago I worked in a customer service position for an equipment manufacturer. Every day we’d get calls from customers who had questions about their equipment.

Sometimes they would call to say the engine on their saw didn’t work. Our first response was to let them know that federal law prevented us from shipping them with gas in the tank.

Many of those calls could have been avoided by placing a tag/note on the equipment to remind the user they had to fill the tank before they would start.

But we missed it because it was so obvious to us we didn’t realize that some people wouldn’t be aware that we couldn’t ship with full tanks.

What Is Missing In Your Marketing Materials?

So the question, dear reader, is what is missing in your marketing materials? What is obvious to you may not be obvious to your customer.

If you want to save yourself some grief it might be worth figuring out if there are places you can elaborate upon so that your customers don’t feel like they want to stick a rusty screwdriver in your eyes. 😉

What do you think? Please leave a comment below or in the sidenotes.

(A version of this post originally ran on inNetwork.)

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  1. Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes April 25, 2014 at 8:06 am

    KDillabough Yeah that video cracks me up. How far have we come. 😉

  2. KDillabough April 25, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I love the “loading or searching” answer to the busy signal. Shows how far we’ve come…or have we? Cheers! Kaarina

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