During my time at the Canadian Embassy, I was often asked to comment on my clients‘ marketing materials. These were mainly sales presentations (slide decks), two-pagers and brochures that my clients were planning to use for their German market entry. By German standards, many of these materials were too long, too confusing or too vague, or any combination thereof. Many were also poorly structured and/ or formatted.
Why does that even matter?
It matters because your marketing materials may well be the first thing a prospective customer sees of your product and company. They may also be the last thing – no one will even talk to you if your materials are boring, messy or simply exhausting to read.
Let this 7-step guide help you in your drafting process. It focuses on a „sales presentation“, i.e. typically a slide deck targeted at B2B buyers, but you can also apply it to other materials such as brochures. I use the word „copy“ to refer to the text you are writing for these materials.
1. Consider Your Audience
Before you even start drafting, take some time to consider your target audience. Many sales presentations and brochures I saw failed to do precisely that.
If you write purely from your own perspective, you are writing for an audience of one. To prepare a truly compelling sales presentation – one that will sell! – you have to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. For whom are you writing? What are they looking for? What do they need to know? Your copy must reflect these questions.
When you prepare copy for a foreign market, you probably have to do some research to find out what information may be relevant in that market. It can be quite different from what is relevant in your home market.
2. Collect and Sort Information for Your Presentation
As a first step in the drafting process, collect and write down all the available facts and messages about your product, about your company etc. – anything you might want to include in your presentation. I personally find it is easier to cut than to add once you have started the drafting process, so really just jot down anything that comes to mind.
The next step is harder. You will have to sort your information by topic, i.e. product, company, etc., to create a structure for your sales presentation. Remember you’re not just cooking alphabet soup. If you jump back and forth between topics, you will only confuse your readers. A confused reader will probably not turn into a paying customer.
Next, consider your medium. Are you preparing a classic Powerpoint presentation? Think about how much of the information you will be able to include in your slides.
By this point, you will start to prioritize some information over other. Look at everything and decide: Is it relevant? Is it perhaps a repetition? Can you delete it?
3. Consider Your Audience, Again
Go back to point 1. Consider your audience again. What do they want to know?
I’ve seen many sales presentations or brochures that elaborate on minute company details. 15 pages in, I knew about their founders‘ backgrounds and their warehouse, but I still didn’t know what their actual product was. I got paid to review and comment so I persevered, but would a prospective customer hang on? Probably not.
And this is really crucial. People do not have time. And they have a very short attention span.
No B2B buyer, no end customer is going to click through 40 Powerpoint slides in the hopes of finding information about your product. You have to tell them right away: what is your product, and why should they buy from you rather than from your competitor? If they want to know about your educational background, they can (and will) click through to slide 35 later.
4. Start Drafting Your Sales Presentation
In my experience, the first slide or sentence is always the most difficult. If you can’t think of anything, just write down something. „First bullet point.“ Whatever. You can always change it later. Often our writing gets better as we progress through a writing project.
Remember what I said about people having a very short attention span but no time? Hook your audience at once so they will want to know more. As quickly as possible, provide an answer to these questions:
- What is your product? What problem does it solve? What is special about it?
- Why is your product better than your competitors‘?
The second question is especially important in a competitive market such as Germany, where your prospective customer may be considering you and several of your competitors simultaneously.
Once you have answered these questions, present yourself as a reliable business partner: it’s time for company facts. Again, consider what information your audience will be interested in. The number of meeting rooms on your premises? The fact that your staff can bring their dogs to work? (If you’re in the dog industry, then yes, of course!) Or perhaps do they want to know your manufacturing is well-organized?
Include any information that is relevant. Relevant for the sales process, that is. Remember, while you may think the best thing about your company is that you can bring your dog to work, your prospective customers may prefer to know how quickly you can turn around their orders.
5. Review & Revise Your Sales Presentation
First draft completed? Congratulations! Take a deep breath. Then review it.
Run your company presentation as a slide show and pretend you’re an outsider. Or better still, show it to someone who actually is an outsider. Maybe even a German!
- How many slides have you got? Too many? Start thinking about what could be cut.
- Can you read the slides properly? Or have your squeezed too much information onto individual slides? Either delete information or create additional slides.
- Does the order in which you present your information make sense?
Putting yourself into your reader’s shoes, ask yourself, What am I learning? Is the information useful? Does it make me want to buy the product?
You will probably go through a few rounds of reviewing and revising your presentation.
6. Include Your Contact Details
It may sound obvious but I’m mentioning it for a reason… Remember to include your contact details. For the German market, this means:
- Your company’s full postal address (including the name of your country);
- Your company’s full physical address, if different from postal address (including the name of your country);
- Ideally, contact name and email address;
- General email address and website;
- If you include your phone number, make sure to indicate the international telephone access code (that’s +1 for the US and Canada, for instance, or +49 for Germany).
7. Check Your Formatting
Content is king, but the formatting of your sales presentation is super important, too.
Is the slide formatting coherent? Are you using the same margins, font sizes, colors etc. on each slide? If you have inserted slides from another presentation, they might have different formatting.
Yes, that is important. Make sure it’s coherent, anything else will look sloppy. And while you’re at it, check your syntax, spelling and punctuation as well.
Remember – Germans are people who correct typos in their emails! Spelling is really important to us. Also remember – English is not our first language. Incorrect spelling and punctuation will make it harder for us to understand your presentation.
Another important thing to consider is whether your sales presentation is easy to read – whether on a computer screen or from the back of a room. Use a font type, size and color that are eye-friendly.
Generally speaking, if you are targeting the German B2B market, I would recommend keeping your sales presentation nice and clean with just a few, if any, „special effects“. (This depends on your corporate identity and industry, of course. You will obviously use more sparkle for kids‘ toys or party gear than for agricultural machinery.) If you construct a „visual circus“, Germans will wonder what you are trying to distract from. This will make you look less professional rather than more creative.
Bonus: Translations, Yes or No?
Before you take your marketing materials – company presentations, brochures, leaflets – international, decide if you will keep them in their original language, or if you will have them translated.
A slide deck that you are planning to present should always be in a language you actually speak – that’s obvious.
If you keep materials in their original language, I suggest checking the copy for any cultural references that a foreign audience might not understand. Also be sure to eliminate anything that could be controversial, offensive or even illegal in your target market.
If you prepare translations (whether through a human translator or an online translation service such as Deepl), I suggest you have them checked by a native speaker living in the country. This might sound like a waste of time and money, but trust me, I have seen many translations, even by native speakers, that were less than perfect, to put it mildly. Germans will consider a faulty translation into German not cute, but unprofessional.
In case you are exhibiting at an international trade show, you might want to have a few brochures on hand in English and the language of your main target market (assuming there will be much attendance from that country at the trade show). I would suggest preparing translations in other languages as well, depending on your market strategy, but having these available for download via QR code. People enjoy flipping through a paper brochure while at a booth, but nobody wants to lug around the dead weight of brochures.
For additional information, see my article on language as a market access pitfall.