In case you weren’t aware, a communication revolution has been going on.
To quote Clay Shirky, “A revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts new tools. It happens when society adopts new behaviors…”
And that’s exactly what’s happening. Consumer behavior has changed. The way that people buy things has evolved. Today, your customers already know who you are and what you do. What’s more, they know more about your competition than you do.
Customers today are more demanding than ever before. They’re smarter than ever before. Because they have more knowledge – and therefore more POWER, than they have ever had. So why should they buy from you, as opposed to the company down the street, or the next town – or half way across the world?
Word Of Mouse
What’s key today is word of mouth – or, as I prefer to call it: WORD OF MOUSE. And it’s not just personal recommendations, but impersonal ones too. I don’t know about you, but today when I want to buy something – a computer, a washing machine, a car, whatever – I look on the internet for reviews. I am influenced as much by “official reviewers” as I am by ordinary people who have taken the time to give their opinion.
Today, your brand isn’t what YOU say it is. It’s what Google says it is.
Then there is what the brand is telling me. More and more, consumers are ignoring the same-old clichéd, tired corporate gibberish because they have hear it all before – and have had their fingers burned because of it.
The internet has meant that it now costs just as much to say a lot as it does to say a little. As a result, many content creators feel that they can write at extravagant length, not only waffling on about their key idea – but adding all the fine detail they think is important. After all, it’s not like it has to be squeezed into a magazine page or brochure, right?
What they forget is that the content recipient is making a snap, two-second decision about what to look at and what to ignore, based on viewing about 20 words of that content! Even if they do bother to read it, they’re skimming the text rather than digesting it.
End result? You think you’ve written a short snappy piece – they think it’s ‘War and Peace’. You’re writing 1000 words, they’re reading 10. And that’s on a good day.
We’re still trying to bamboozle, hoodwink and trick our customers into buying our products or services. We feel that we have to COMPLICATE the sale. That we talk in riddles, with nonsensical mission statements and technobabble. I went to see a US-based company last year and when I arrived the receptionist had a small nameplate in front of her desk. Do you know what her job title was? “Director Of First Impressions.”
Simple, Not Simplistic
Simple, direct language understood by your customers – using their vocabulary, not yours – keeps them focused on your business value communication, instead of your verbiage. Simple communication doesn’t come from a simple mind – quite the contrary, in fact. Clear and simple communication comes from tough-minded clarity of thought.
Today, we have an increasingly sophisticated customer base. People are no longer blaming themselves when they can’t work out how to program the TiVO, or change the time on the microwave. Instead, they place the blame where it really lies – bad, technology-driven design that doesn’t pay attention to the people who actually use the product or service.
And it’s the same with your organization’s communication. Prospective customers are no longer prepared to fight through hyperbole, corporate rhetoric and industry jargon to understand what you do. Why? Because there are 101 other guys down the street that are making it easier for the customer to do business with them.
Yes, I’m talking about simplifying the way that your customers engage, interact and buy from you. But that doesn’t mean dumbing-down your value offering. It doesn’t mean talking down to your customers – in fact, it means the exact opposite. It means to act and communicate as a peer, not a supplier. It means less advertising, and more marketing.
It means less shouting and more talking. By shouting, I mean saying things like “we’re the best”. Firstly, customers don’t believe that stuff. I don’t think they’ve EVER believed that stuff.
Like it or not, whatever you’re selling – no matter how good it is – the customer can always go get something similar, someplace else. If your product or service really WAS the best, then you wouldn’t have to shout about it, would you?
So it’s about less shouting, and more talking. But it’s also about talking WITH them, instead of TO them. It’s about engaging and nurturing conversations. Humanizing the company, if you like. It’s about big companies getting to act like small companies again.
Most of all, it’s about communicating your business value in the vocabulary of your customers, not of your company.