Are you sending clients the wrong signals?

Most of us think we’re good communicators. Almost everyone thinks they can write. The problem is, our perceptions are different from what those who are reading or listening to our stuff see. Just because messages are clear to us, the creators, doesn’t mean someone else will understand it. Or, more importantly, appreciate it. Creating effective marketing copy is all about gaining understanding about what your consumers see.

A sign, a light, and a quandary

Bleary-eyed one day, I came to a familiar intersection, yet couldn’t figure out what to do. I was driving into a small Connecticut town toward a client’s site after a tiring trip from Rochester, NY. It was a drive I had made many times, but I was paralyzed as I approached new signs and signals. I just couldn’t figure out what they were trying to tell me.

Are you sending clients the wrong signals?
When can you turn if the light’s always red?

I’m sitting there, waiting, trying to decide what to do. It seemed certain a move through this red-light intersection was begging for a ticket. I probably watched the light change three times before I mustered the courage to proceed. If you look at the photograph depicting this scene, you’ll see a sign that says no turn on red. The red light stayed on continuously even when the green arrow appeared. What would you do?

Even today, part of me wonders if this new set of intersection instructions wasn’t intentional. It sure made for easy money for the local Leos to collect if they chose. What’s more likely, though, is an office worker produced purchase and work orders for a signal they didn’t care much about. Those who did the installation probably figured they “made sure it works” because the lights were in fact turning on. The red one just wasn’t turning off. No one saw it as their job to see how a driver experiences the intersection.

That happens a lot with sales, marketing, and customer service. Few bother to take the time to think about what it feels like to be a prospect or customer. It’s OK if your message makes no sense to those outside your intended audience. But if your target market is confused, that’s not a good thing.

Are you creating effective marketing copy?

It amazes me how often people are certain they’re communicating effectively with a message that’s clear as mud. There’s a good reason you might think your meaning is obvious to the reader. It’s obvious to you. Your audience, though, doesn’t have your knowledge or your unique perspective. This is a particularly critical reality to understand when it comes to writing marketing materials or books.

There are some easy ways to verify your messages are understood. The simplest one is to ask. Run intended materials by trusted clients. Does it make sense to them? If you’re writing a book, get beta readers to review it and provide feedback on where you miss the mark. It also helps to instruct them to indicate where something works well too. Going through nothing but criticism is discouraging after you’ve spent months or years working on a manuscript.

Of course, if the material you’re putting out there on social media, your website, and through printed or electronically delivered material such as newsletters and brochures isn’t causing anyone to reach out, your message needs work. That’s when it gets more important to put yourself in your prospects’ or clients’ shoes. Here are 9 quick tips for creating better marketing messages.

No budget, no problem

Have someone call your office. Have them put the phone on speaker and listen in the background. Is your phone system a nightmare? Does your receptionist know how to handle certain types of questions or who to direct people to? Is she pleasant or does she sound like she wants to punch you through the phone? Does the person getting the transferred call answer quickly? Little things can make a big difference.

Test your systems. Does your calendar work properly? Is anyone answering email? Do map services send people to the right address? Is information up to date on Google My Business?

If you’re producing marketing material, is it written from your perspective of that of your ideal reader? Rarely do prospects care about your boasts; they want to ensure you understand their issues. Do you know what they are? If not, again, simply ask. You’ll be amazed what people will tell you when given permission to be frank.

The best way to ensure you’re reaching your audience with a message that’s clear and powerful, is to experience your business the way they do. Sure, a good bit of imagination can help here, but sometimes it’s as simple as asking a question or making a call. It’s not rocket science, but it’s really important. If the people you are trying to reach are getting the wrong signals, your business will suffer. Creating effective marketing copy can be a lot of fun, especially when they work.

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