Message & Media: Conversation Killers
Are you ready for a break from reading about social, digital, mobile, online and other media?
A colleague who is a social media maven recently reminded me that, "Media is meaningless unless it's delivering a compelling message of personal relevance to your targeted audience." Amen, sister.
And the objective of direct marketing messages is to engage prospects and customers in a mutually beneficial, two-way conversation that generates measurable, trackable response.
When you think of your marketing messages as conversations, it's much easier to avoid the following five conversation killers.
It's All About I/Me/We
When was the last time you enjoyed a conversation with a friend or new acquaintance who talked only about himself, his job, his successful career, his company, his co-workers and his family? Were you waiting to see if and when he might include you and your interests in the conversation?
There's good reason why, "How are you?" is a universally accepted conversation opener. It puts the focus on you—not on I, me or we. These three self-focused words are conversation killers when they dominate your message no matter which medium is delivering it.
TIP: Engage your reader and maximize clicks, calls, traffic and response in the mail by using the word you twice as often as I or we. All it takes is a simple edit of your sentence or paragraph.
The Nonstop Talker
No one likes to be talked at nonstop. It's the same with marketing messages that suck the air out of you when you read them. Lengthy sentences are overwhelming. Dense paragraphs are indigestible. And multisyllabic words often convolute the message. Case in point is this letter snippet sent by a law practice:
We are writing to confirm that our representation in connection with your estate planning matter as referenced above has been concluded and that our representation of you with regard to this matter is therefore ended. Because the lawyer-client relationship between us has ceased with regard to your estate planning matter, we will have no further obligation to advise you in connection with the matter or as to any future legal developments that may have any bearing on the matter.
These two sentences demonstrate why you should never allow an attorney to write your copy.
TIP: Involve your reader in processing your content more quickly and easily with sentences that vary in length (maximum one and a half lines). Keep paragraphs to six lines or less by breaking longer paragraphs into two. For maximum readability/scannability, keep 75 percent to 80 percent of your words to five characters or less.
The Slow Startup
With only a split second to grab your reader's attention in any medium, don't bury the point of your message with a slow startup like this letter opener from a health care provider:
I think you'll agree that every one of us needs and deserves access to high-quality healthcare—care that we can count on every day, no matter what.
Yawn. Phrases such as, "I think you'll agree," "I don't need to tell you," "I'll admit that" are conversation-killing wasters of your reader's precious time. What's the point of your e-mail, letter or landing page? Hook your reader's interest by getting to your point or major benefit quickly. You can always elaborate later.
TIP: Look for your most powerful opening sentence, headline or subject line buried in a second, third, even fourth paragraph; then move it to the forefront. In the case of the letter above, the point of the letter was buried at the bottom of the page, "Today, Annie O'Brien is a cancer survivor. Why, you wonder? It's because …"
Think Before You Speak
If you want to build credibility, only make promises you can keep. The following is from a retailer's mailing, but the lesson applies to all marketers.
Outer envelope teaser: Surprises await you
Inside teaser promise on front panel: You've asked for it—here it is!
Inside benefit statement: Now you can use your saving passes* on top of all sale & clearance apparel prices (except specials and super buys)—even designers.
*Exclusions apply. See coupon for details.
Woops. This mailing just went from promising to misleading and contradictory.
Until I read the inside offer statement, I thought the retailer was responding to customer complaints that its coupon offers frequently do not apply to too many items. However, after reading the parenthetical exceptions and asterisked exclusions, I realized it's the same old deal, and I felt cheated.
TIP: Don't disappoint or confuse customers. It dilutes your credibility. A much stronger and appropriate offer for this mailing would have been a special, one-time-only opportunity to use your saving pass on anything and everything in the store—no strings attached!
Do You Really Want
to Talk to Me?
Recently I went to a company's Web site with questions about a product I was interested in buying. Not finding the answers, I looked for a phone number to call.
I looked on the homepage. There was no Contact Us tab. I went to the About Us tab. No phone number. I clicked three or four more times, and finally, buried in small type at the bottom of a miscellaneous page, I found what I was looking for. It was obvious this marketer really didn't want to have a phone conversation with me.
TIP: If you genuinely want to engage customers in two-way conversations, make it easy for them to talk to you by phone, e-mail or live online chat. At a minimum, put access to your phone number on every Web page, every mailing component, even your company's Facebook page—everywhere your customer or prospect might look for it.