Our ideas lose imagination when our conversations lose power.
And, we bear the burden of an untold story.
And every business, which starts with an idea, has the task of resolving the inner chaos of message and ambition while guiding the vehicle of transformation; effective communication.
The way we talk about our ideas has everything to do with our ability to make an impact.
It could be the fluidity of digital marketing making our impact more difficult because vital principles like purpose and intention are increasingly unclear for both brands and consumers.
Not only is it changing the dialogue so completely but relevant conversations are becoming more difficult to achieve and more relevant to progress.
It’s not simply enough to recognize change and following up-and-coming-tactics, but in order to harvest insight significant enough to make a difference with your audience, it requires conversations on purpose.
Not just intentional cooperation, but meaningful and satisfying interactions between giver and receiver.
When you expose the real transaction, you empower your message.
And it starts with transparency and personalization.
First, humanize the selling & buying journey by putting a face to your business.
How can you put a face to your business?
Trade out monologues about the business for conversations with the customer, employing identity through storytelling and transparency through clarity and core values.
This also means speaking to the real person searching and reading behind the screen.
Notice I didn’t say people, because individuals aren’t forming searching parties from the collective.
No, people search and consume personally, so it requires a personal message.
This answers the questions people are already asking like;
- What do you stand for?
- Who are you?
By extension, it naturally facilitates emotions of empathy and trust, a few key ingredients for better conversations, better engagement, and more purchasing decisions; because “engaged customers buy more, promote more, and share more.” (Source)
Except, a fundamental piece of advice is to establish what you do and how you do it differently as quickly as possible.
So how can you really do that without talking about yourself?
The thing is, it’s not so much talking about yourself as much as it includes what’s relevant in a complementary way.
In a way, we can think of it like deleted scenes.
Is it what’s going to move the story forward in a meaningful way or somehow out of place and random enough to be cut?
Since conversations are give-and-take by nature good writing is essential to craft your language, because it’s not a ten step process it’s the feel of the message; honest, whole, relatable, and elicits a valid reaction.
Understanding who you serve and communicating that way changes your information from self-serving to mutual.
So consider yourself the director in this case; who does this message serve first and best?
A failure to humanize your brand is a failure to evolve past ideation even after implementation.
Businesses as institutions are useful for things like administration, internal affairs, and legal purposes.
For marketing it’s strife.
An institution is a perception or an illusion of entity, because there are no businesses only tangible human beings.
And that is fundamentally a foe to increasingly anti-establishment consumers.
It’s not a decline of spending or problem solving but rejecting the feeling of being sold to over being heard.
Until it forms identity, an idea is “faceless” and lacks qualities like accountability, causing a lower ability to relate and a higher distrust.
Businesses exist to make money. Humans exist to live…together.
We’re meant to discover purpose, connect and evolve.
All of these qualities are largely adopted based on word choice and formality in your message, so testing your message out loud or in a real conversation can help predict how it will land.
If your message is inconsistent in voice, unclear in motivation, inflated or self seeking in branding, you could be seen as part of the institution of business rather than the playground for value exchange.
If you want something to be more human, give it human qualities.
Empathy. Courage. Imperfection.
But, the most representative of humankind is awareness.
Beyond encouraging empathy in customers is expressing empathy within a personal message.
In other words, communicating empathy by recognizing the beliefs, challenges and needs of a distinct group of people (instead of the masses) could be more beneficial and more human too.
“If you want to reach everyone, you’ve denied the people you’re serving their humanity, because you’re saying; you are the masses. You are average.”
Humanizing influence reframes the conversation to be less manipulative and sets the stage for real connection.
So does transparency.
Go through line by line and simplify your message accurately.
Distilling your message grants enough clarity for reciprocity.
And true value exchange happens when the purest form of your message becomes a clear contribution.
What earns lasting attention, if any, isn’t something potentially worthwhile, but something that has a real advantage.
In the way that we’re wired to attach meaning to what we encounter, we’re also geared to create as many shortcuts as we can to function efficiently.
That means attention, a limited resource, is a form of value exchange, which has everything to do with your narrative.
So, how can you write with clarity?
By having the courage to turn away the wrong person by dropping overgeneralizations.
Upgrading language from general and sweeping to transparent and direct is one way to consider your customer’s experience, because you’re leaving behind the practice of making assumptions.
Often what we say isn’t what we actually mean.
A blog post about how to do something explains the importance of it, industry chatter often carries no actual meaning only perceived meaning, and incorrect use of words leave behind the power we meant to express.
And it’s mostly because of internal language.
Or we’ve fallen prey to the assumption that we automatically interpret our own words before we send them.
Asking better questions from our writing often reveals that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, we have to make sense of things as we go, and tell the story better next time.
Let’s take a look at these two words often used in bios or headlines to describe a brand’s value; Strategic Solutions.
The problem is that all solutions are technically strategic unless something happens by chance.
Strategy only identifies there is a plan without actually saying what the plan is.
What makes a plan more strategic than another? → Failing to answer this question also fails to differentiate your business; Two birds sadly wasted.
Basically you’re saying, “we have a plan to achieve desired results.”
So we’re back to telling the importance of something without actually showing our approach.
And if we explain further down in the copy what we mean, we’ve wasted valuable space and attention on the way.
This exasperates the conversation because aside from preaching to the choir, you may actually stress the customers pain point, a celebrated teaching, but in an entirely different way.
And what problem does your customer have that searching the words ‘strategic solutions’ would remedy?
Honestly, that would be the least strategic way to go about finding a solution.
What about ‘Synergy?’
What about ‘Authentic?’
What about ‘Innovation?’
These really mean well, but they keep us pedaling in place.
If you think about what these mean to your customers some of the original excitement settles.
Or what you originally meant.
Now comes the realization (that we all go through) that some headlines, posts, or bios contain empty language.
Even more than the basic need for good writing, is the need to create your own branded definitions for words that, apart from generally speaking, have no real meaning – enough to properly inform your audience of what life with your solutions looks like.
And it starts by going through line by line asking better questions;
- What do I really mean?
- What are customers asking when they search, land on the site, and start reading?
- What is the right order of information to propel the conversation forward?
- What information makes this conversation worthwhile? (to both parties)…
Yes, it’s asking a lot.
But, it resolves your customer’s concerns like;
- What are your intentions?
- How can I make more informed decisions?
When you simplify your offering, you explain your intentions in a way that lowers risk.
Landing your message happens line by line.
That’s why professionals consider length, readability, structure & flow.
They’re relentless about the purpose of your message and what you really mean by that, because ambiguous doesn’t serve your audience.
It doesn’t serve you either, even though it sounds nice.
Part of expanding your customer’s experience beyond using clear, digestible words is by reflecting their language.
This can help land your message somewhere between trust and camaraderie if you’re not careful.
Making content searchable is another way to provide clarity because their query, now matched to your site, can be adequately answered.
Other than structure is also how it flows.
Flow isn’t as much of a mystery as it is a pattern.
But more than that, it gets into the mind of the customer to consider the order of information and talks back.
It’s the one time talking back isn’t acceptable, it’s welcomed.
It keeps the conversation going by anticipating, or rather answering, objections and questions when face to face (or ear to ear communication) isn’t an option.
Another part of guiding the conversation forward is creating trust.
One way is by being consistent.
You can create consistency by satisfying a burden of proof.
Businesses worthy of trust bear the responsibility of showing that you give more than you take.
That happens when you’re concentrated in your branding, which comes from increasingly compatible (on-brand) decisions, and when you’re generous with your value.
Naturally, you’ll answer questions like;
- Can you help me?
- Are you worth it?
- Can I connect with you?
Dependability isn’t just about trustworthiness.
It’s also about managing expectations.
So when your message gets clearer, you attract more of the right people and contribute to a better customer experience in a way that builds long term trust.
And businesses are continuing to show they care about the customer experience in dollar signs, according to digital marketing stats, “[a] number of CX executives [are] predicted to grow by at least 25% in 2020”
Another way to create reliability is to use expertise and facts as connection points to personalize your brand.
You can place information within visuals, timelines, and locations to show the relevance of your brand in real time and space, like placing your readers into the setting of your story.
Expertise isn’t always about telling every aspect of the story but showing information in a significant, memorable way.
Creating consistency of values can also build a strong foundation of trust, because it’s easier to choose what’s best for you when you’re aligned with something.
And anything that helps someone make a more informed decision is going to make a bigger impact than what’s harder to decide on.
It Doesn’t Matter If You Do What You Say You Will, If You Aren’t Saying Enough Of What Matters.
Clarity of values helps discover trust, because it creates a compatibility with your target audience.
And value is expressed by your content and measured by your customers.
So, showing your value in business is a lot more effective when you know what’s valuable to your audience.
You can do this by painting enough of the picture to back up every claim and show a benefit.
This means showing your audience more than why this will help solve their problem, but ultimately what can be gained moving forward.
How will life change with this?
Other than showing your customers the benefits is realizing the benefits of your efforts.
Give and take, remember?
Content marketing is a support system for your brand to increase awareness, authority, and liking that eventually leads to follow-through.
Because of this, businesses have to navigate the problematic waters of quantifying things like loyalty, engagement that translates to a positive ROI, and actual profit.
But, the connection with your audience isn’t always quantitative – sometimes it’s qualitative.
It’s no wonder things like connection or engagement are hard to quantify, because they fall under a qualitative data group, which measures the why based on opinions and experiences. While quantitative data measures the what, how, and when numbers based on statistical analysis. (Source)
Maybe that’s why we have such a hard time understanding and connecting with customers, because we aren’t asking why we’re asking what & how much.
And how much doesn’t inform value the same as why, something we may find out if we dedicated our efforts to better conversations.
The point of branding is to create a system for doing things that’s unique to you and your goals.
That often means creating your own definition of success, but that’s also determined by measuring your return.
We can’t totally abandon real numbers, but maybe we can qualify customer experience by asking better questions.
And being able to make your audience feel heard isn’t just a way to get their attention, it’s a way to get their loyalty.
So, what are some better questions to ask?
- What is the potential impact versus actual impact of this message?
- How does your content manage expectations?
- How searchable are your articles?
- Instead of thinking how my business is different, what’s different about my customers versus someone else’s target audience?
You could even take this information and use it to help you establish closer connections with who you serve.
Sure this could help with things like testimonials for social proof, but it could also be customer stories used as articles, web copy in your customer’s own words, open ended questions to your target, client questionnaires, ideas for campaigns and so much more.
It almost adds another piece of value to your investment if you’re not only able to slice your own content but also able to use feedback in the same way to inform other parts of your marketing.
Since your message should no longer be separate from your mission, it helps to get a better idea of evaluating what serves your business by what serves your customers.
The truth is that every business has to find a fruitful balance between “brand, value and promotion.”
Many struggle to figure out their brand, because they believe this process happens naturally.
But the answer has to be intentionally pieced together from a bit of soul searching, history and goal discovery.
And that’s where you enter the competitive landscape.
Why is it important that this message is coming from you?
Marketing isn’t competitive because it’s crowded or because it’s working.
There’s something about the ability to stand for something.
Simply participating is an insignificant part of what makes us truly competitive, because showing up isn’t enough.
The very nature of competition is counter practice.
But showing up with strong opinions and your own set of values and definitions can help direct you where, only you, need to go.
It’s not about following or rejecting what’s there. It’s not even about making it your own. It’s about expressing your value to the audience you want to serve by following the path your story paves.
When we talk about originality we’re looking to find something that couldn’t have easily come from any other place.
It’s almost like, the more control you realize you have over the whole process, the further you are from being generic.
Customers can feel a part of something deeper, only if it’s clear.
Not just for the sake of the cause or higher morality but messaging they can recognize will help them, almost as if it’s from a friend.
Whats central to your culture, story, message, and approach that makes this message different when it’s coming from you?
If it’s not something already there, it’s something you can create too.
It’s a process unfolding in real time on shifting ground; and we need to be present to uncover it.
And, if you’re asking questions, you are already on your way, because better conversations start with better questions.
Because if none of it matters in the end, what the hell are we doing here? And what good are our ideas?