Take a moment and think about all the words you send to your prospects and clients - all the content of your website, brochures, e-mails, letters, fliers, blogs, etc., etc., etc. Imagine all the vowels and consonants you've used to describe what you do piled high into an ever growing heap of words. Mind-boggling, isn't it? In business, we communicate...a lot.
The ability to clearly describe what you do, how it is different from everyone else and why your prospects should buy from you is an essential part of the success of any business. From the smallest e-mail to the most expensive advertisement every piece of communication is an opportunity to form an impression in your customer's mind (A.K.A. your "brand").
But are we really clear when we write our business communications? Do we accurately convey the points we are trying to make so our prospects and clients can “get” our message? Take these 5 common myths of business communications and test your CQ (communication quotient).
Myth #1 - The more information I can cram in, the better. Have you ever tried to find a needle in a haystack? It takes a lot of patience. Unfortunately, patience is not something readers of your business communications will have. Simply put, if your message is buried in mounds of text no one will take the time to search for it. Effective business communications focus on a singular message and eliminate everything else.
Do you pass the test? Show your business communication piece to a stranger and give them only 5 seconds to look at it. Can they tell you the main message?
Myth #2 - If I use big words, people will think I'm smarter. Prodigious colloquy induces an antipodal consequence. Using big words is like a guy with an expensive sports car – it can be perceived that you are trying to compensate for something. Instead, go for short, clear, easy-to-understand words that you would use in everyday conversation. Your tone will be friendlier and your readers will be more receptive to your message.
Do you pass the test? Give your business communication piece to a 4th grader. Do they understand every word?
Myth #3 – By using buzzwords, jargon and acronyms I’ll prove my industry knowledge. You might as well write in Ancient Greek because that’s about how many people will actually understand what you’re trying to say. Acronyms are especially deadly, so if they’re necessary – take the time to spell them out. As for buzzwords and jargon – save them for the water cooler.
Do you pass the test? Have a friend from an opposite industry read your marketing material. Do they understand it?
Myth #4 - I'll use adjectives like "best”, “excellent” or “outstanding” to set myself apart. Have you ever been stuck at a party with a person who just won’t shut up about how great they are? Not only is it annoying – it actually turns you off. Instead of bragging about yourself, gather testimonials and allow your customers to boast on your behalf. You’ll find prospects intrigued and eager to learn more.
Do you pass the test? Ask your best clients to give you a quote about their experience working with you. Did you replace your boastful comments with their testimonials?
Myth #5 - I'll write in first person so it won't be boring. Most of your readers will have one question in their mind when reading your document – “What’s in it for ME?” That means, using the Y-O-U word – not the I (or W-E) word. Yes, there are times that a compelling narrative story can make an impact. But in general, business communications should be about the client – not about you.
Do you pass the test? Take a piece of business communication and change “I” and “we” to “you” (also, change the tense of the verbs, etc.). Give both versions to a friend and ask them which is more compelling.
Hopefully by now your pile is a little lighter and your message a bit clearer. By taking the time to crystallize a clear and conversational message you engage your audience with your message. This can lead to longer loyalty, more referrals and ultimately increased revenue – and who couldn’t use that?