Friday, February 24, 2012

Communication Illusion

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George Bernard Shaw once said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Man, how often have I experienced this one! I certainly won't pretend I've never missed the communication boat with my wife—completely failing to read beneath the waters of her words.

We human beings sure do talk a lot (and few more than me) but we often leave our true thoughts just below the surface of our words, hoping our audience will read between the lines, pick up our non-verbal cues, and get what we 'really mean.'

And we do the same thing in marketing. We think we need to beat around the bush and shy away from directness. Throw out some catchy phrases and the ubiquitous 'offer' (and make sure to add an asterisk!).

But most-times being direct and up-front is exactly what our audience needs to take the next step. They want to know we're not pulling a fast one or throwing a curveball. And they certainly want to understand what  the heck we're yammering on about.

So give it to them straight. Don't hide behind fancy technical terms and industry mumbo-jumbo. Don't dig a moat around your business, filling it with legal fine-print.

Honestly, just be yourself. Your clients and customers will love you all the more for it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Put some soul into your brand

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People rarely buy because of WHAT we do—they invest in the WHY of what we do.

Yes, people will buy from WHY-less brands (just look at Walmart). But no one LOVES them either.

No one is wearing a their t-shirts proudly. No one is begging to work for them. No one is telling all their friends to buy that brand because 'they're the best. Period.' No one is excited to be mayor on Foursquare of their establishment (looking at you McDonalds). And certainly no one is coming back again and again and again, ever satisfied and excited by the experience.

People will just put up with these soul-less giants because they fulfill the need in the moment. But nothing more.

There's a reason why local, independent coffee houses are doing alright, despite (or maybe because of) the giant across the street (starbuckssssss). Here's why: there are coffee drinkers out there who want something more than a corporate sheen floating on top of their morning brew. They want intimacy, and passion, and creativity. They want soul. And they'll live and die with their local coffee house as long as they get at least a little of that every day.

[Sidenote: yes, Starbucks is the big bad wolf of coffee...but if you're looking at global brand building they're near the top of the game. There are a million other coffee drinkers who live and die by their Starbucks because they too provide some soul to the chaos of corporate suburbia. So don't discount absolutely everything they do.]

Look at any inspiring, influential, and iconic brand and I guarantee that behind it is a purposeful movement to communicate WHY (rather than WHAT) in every decision, both within the organization and to the outside world.

Now the question becomes: why are you doing what you do? Put some soul into it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Write for the reader first, then for the robot.

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This is some pretty insightful thoughts from web developer, Christopher Butler, on planning and writing website content:

"Only by clearly identifying your prospects can you go about creating content that is truly valuable. Oh, and despite the obvious importance of search engine optimization, please don't misidentify search engines as your prospects. Robots don't read, people do."
In retrospect, this is like, 'Duh. Of course content that is written directly for your audience will work.' If you're reading this post right now, I'd put money on you being a real person—not a Google crawler bot. And if your content is compelling—full of the passion you feel for your craft—it's sure to get some people interested.

This is exactly what Mr. Butler discovered when he took a look at the analytics on his company's website. While some visitors to his site that came from a search on Google or another search engine did convert into leads, it was the visitors who came as referrals from other sites that were a higher conversion number. And not only that, but converted at a much higher rate.

Once again, I smack my head and say 'Duh!'

When we make decisions we rarely do so in a vacuum. Do you remember the last time you made a big purchase? Did you just up and decide to buy based on some rhetorical logic in your head? Probably not. Like me, you probably asked around to your friends and family, browsed for information online, sought critical reviews from industry leaders, even asked your Facebook or Twitter network what they thought.

We are social creatures. We love to know what others think (maybe even too much) and our decisions usually come when we feel we've got the right people on our side telling us it's a good idea.

So when our favorite tech blogger posts a link and recommends a new product from this crazy start-up site, we usually jump on it. And we're much more likely to sign up for their newsletter, or their free trial, or even just go ahead and buy the product than if we had just Googled 'new techy do-hickey' and they popped up in the first couple results. We want to trust we're doing the right thing, and what better way to know that than to get there via a recommendation from someone else.

So I suggest taking Christopher's advice: figure out your audience and write for them. You can worry about the robots later.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Interview on the Don't Sell Me Bro Podcast

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I recently had the great pleasure of talking with Chris Conrey and Dave Cooke on their sales-coaching podcast, 'Don't Sell Me Bro.'

We had a great discussion about my blog post about how business-to-business is dead as well as  general thoughts on branding, marketing, and sales.

If you want to give the episode a listen, it's up on the 'Don't Sell Me Bro' site (and in the iTunes podcast library). It's pretty short—maybe 16 minutes—and I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have. Feel free to leave those in the comments section below.