My daughter was listening to the song Firework by Katy Perry the other day.
The first line says: "Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?"
And I thought: "No, I don't actually". So I stopped listening.
Then, I received a marketing email with the title: "Are you a new author living near Croydon?"
I said to myself: "No. But I'm a best-selling author living near Liverpool." (Sorry if that sounds a bit big-headed but it's true; my books have sold pretty well.)
And perhaps my favourite of all…
I once received an email called "Looking for a hair makeover for the weekend?". One quick glance at my photo will show why I didn't think this email was meant for me.
The fact is, many communications start like this - with something irrelevant, or dull or both. But, if you want people to engage with you immediately, you have to start well.
When you do, you both feel better. Your recipient knows why they should listen. So they do. And this improves your confidence as you deliver it.
Everyone knows the importance of first impressions. I guess that's why, when I share this idea with people, they normally say "but my first impressions are always good."
But are they? Or do you sometimes use:
Hardly riveting, are they?
Fortunately, it is pretty easy to do it better; and engage people better as a result.
In fact there are only two steps:
For example, let's re-write the above three, assuming you're talking to someone whose #1 thing is to improve their competitive advantage:
A great start doesn't guarantee a great outcome, of course. The rest of your communication must be good too. But start badly, and you might well never recover.
My tennis coach's says I should improve my serve because, when I get it right, it enables me to dictate the point more than any other shot. In his words: "your serve is the only shot where you aren't reacting to your opponent. So it's the only shot you have 100% control over. Do it well, and they have to react to you. So it sets the tone for everything that follows."
When you communicate, is your first serve - your title and intro - impressive enough? Or do you sometimes feel like you're a plastic bag?
Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.
A company recently asked me to review one of their proposals.
I quickly realised they had made the common mistake of talking too much about themselves and their proposition, and too little about its impact on the beneficiary.
So, I used the “find” function in word, and discovered that their 22-page document contained:
Not customer-focused… in what was supposed to be a customer-focused document.
It took me under 20 seconds to find this out. Their response: “We’re devastated. We had no idea. We’ll never write like this again.”
And they haven’t.
How many techniques are there that can change you forever and in only 20 seconds?
Here are examples of what you can search for using “find”:
If your searches uncover things you don’t like, the solutions are straight-forward:
This is one of those tips that you might feel you don’t need. But my customer didn’t think they needed it either. And since it only takes 20 seconds to do, it’s worth trying. You never know what you’ll find.
Choose a document that is complete/near completion. Search for the words that will show you what you need to know about your content. Make the changes you need to transform its impact.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
How do you talk to your customers? The choices are many — by email, by letter, on the phone, by text, via Twitter, Facebook or any number of social media sites — or even, shock horror — in person.
What works best for you? If you are like one in four British adults, you may avoid picking up the phone at all costs — preferring to text rather than actually speak to someone (Daisy Group survey).
Perhaps you prefer emailing. Or are you one of the 6% of people that have totally lost control of their inboxes? (research by Varonis).
If you like your communication informal and online, you may prefer building relationships on social media sites.
But enough about your needs — the real question is, how do your customers like be approached? Let’s face it. You might be mad about Twitter but if your target market doesn’t tweet, you need to find a way to reach them that works on their terms.
New research by Ofcom could help you to understand your target market a little better, thanks to its investigations into the different communication habits of British people.
It has highlighted five types, from the “always on” to the “detached”. Now this may seem simplistic but if your marketing is totally excluding one or more of these groups, you could be missing out on a lot of business.
What it makes clear is that in a multi-channel world, everyone has their favourite ways to keep in touch — and no business can afford to take a one-size-fits-all approach.
Here are the five groups:
Always on (22% of adults)
Enlightened (19% of adults)
Middle-of-the-road (22% of adults)
Conventional (21% of adults)
Detached (16% of adults)
Isn’t it time you found out more about the communication preferences of your customers?
Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath — these are what we commonly think of as the seven deadly sins. However, in marketing today, there is another sin being committed by companies the world over. This offence creates so much dissatisfaction for prospects and customers alike, the punishment for committing such a crime is becoming increasingly severe.
This deadliest of marketing sins is — irrelevance.
There was a time when we all regularly received irrelevant communications. This is because there were very few companies who knew the timing of a purchase. For example, a car insurance company may be able to ascertain when your car insurance was due for renewal based on an enquiry from the previous year. However, how would a training provider know you were looking for training, an accountant know you were looking for a change or a watch manufacturer appreciate that you were currently saving for this luxury purchase?
Most companies would have no reasonable way of knowing who was interested in their products or services. It is because of this that companies focused very much on the demography of their clientele. If you had no idea who was specifically interested in buying your product or service, at least you could target the “most likely” group of people. The result of this is “business owners” would receive messages about an accountancy service even though they were delighted with their current supplier. Meanwhile, HR directors would receive training catalogues even though they were not currently purchasing training, and people living in affluent areas would receive communications about a new luxury watch although they had no current desire to make a purchase.
However, we all put up with these irrelevant communications for one good reason. In a world before the internet, where we had relatively little access to information, it was often marketing that informed us of what was going on in the world. The value exchange was clear. We would often find out about interesting developments in products and services that we may have not discovered in any other way. In turn, however, we would have to put up with irrelevant messages which we could ignore if we wished. For most, the exchange was worthwhile.
Widespread access to information
Today, however, the value of being interrupted by these marketing messages has all but disappeared. The internet, combined with the ubiquity of modern communication devices, means that we can now access all the information we require wherever we are in the world. Consequently, we no longer want to be interrupted by communications when a company feels like shouting at us. Today, we will go and find the information we require at our time of choosing.
Of course, if a company were to send a direct mail about their new carpet cleaning service at the very moment we were thinking of having our carpets cleaned, then we may appreciate the communication. The problem for most companies is, in order to get the timing right for one customer, they have to send a mass mail out which annoys another 5,000 potential clients. Of course, when we do require a carpet cleaning service, between our networks and the web we are assured that we will be able to access all the information we require to make an informed buying decision.
The point of many digital platforms such as websites, blogs and social networks is not that companies can shout at individuals in lots of new irritating ways. Rather, it is that when people are interested in what you do, they can access your marketing at any time of the day or night. This is when it is both convenient and more importantly relevant for them.
Customers have been empowered. The most effective companies are the ones that understand this new paradigm and leverage it to involve customers in what they do. The cardinal sin committed by the businesses that don’t understand this, is to shout at prospects with irrelevant messages.
For customers and prospects alike, receiving irrelevant communications from any quarter is irritating and will leave a bad taste in the mouth. Consequently this sin is one that will be increasingly unforgiven by consumers who will vote with their wallets and no longer engage with that business.