(‘Words are all we have ..’)
It might seem odd to talk of the Bee Gees and Tom Peters in the same sentence. You see, I’m currently reading (and loving) Tom’s new book The Little BIG Things! and he has me reflecting upon communication.
Tom’s communication style is straightforward. He uses simple language and presents his thoughts in different typefaces, font sizes and with lots of exclamation points. (!!!) You feel his passion.
His communication style not only makes for pleasurable reading but enhances the uptake of his messages. He is adept at the essence of communication – able to share meaning and establish ‘a commonness or oneness of thought’ between himself as the sender and his reader.
As a marketer whose business relies on ensuring shared meaning with my customers and between my customers’ customers, I’ve become even more conscious recently of avoiding jargon in my communication. It’s an ongoing process. After all, what is the point if we cannot convey what we do, and the benefits of our products/services to our customers? Understanding our buyers’ problems and then communicating how we can solve them in language that is understood is sound marketing strategy.
I was reminded again of this in reading The Little Big Things. In a ‘Special Section’, Tom lists Guru Gaffes (GF) and Real World (RW) responses. The following is the GF/RW relating to communication:
‘GF: Imposing words-phrases such as ‘business models’, ‘scalable’, ‘strategic talent management’, ‘customer retention management’ and ‘knowledge management paradigm’.
RW: Most of us try to use everyday language such as ‘the way we make a buck’ (instead of ‘business model’, ‘let’s grow this sucker’ (not ‘is it scalable?’), ‘hire good people and treat ‘em well and give ‘em a chance to shine and thank ‘em for the stuff they do’ (rather than ‘strategic talent management’), ‘bust our asses to keep our customers happy and keep ‘em coming back’ (instead of ‘customer retention management’) and ‘share the stuff you learn with everybody ASAP, don’t hoard it’ (rather than ‘executing a knowledge management paradigm’).
Another favourite author, David Meerman Scott , is also passionate about clear communication. David calls it communication without the ‘gobbledygook’ – those words and phrases which are meaningless and nonsensical.
In 2006, David undertook an analysis to see how many of these words are being used. At least one in five of the 388,000 news releases collected over a nine month period contained one of the gobbledygook phrases. Whilst the phrase ‘next generation’ won out as the most frequently used ‘gobbledygook’phrase with 9895 uses, others which were popularly overused included flexible, scalable, cutting edge and groundbreaking.
David updated the research in 2007, and despite a marked increase in the number of releases studied (13%), there was only a slight decline in gobbledygook free items.
In transcending gobbledygook, David advocates ‘communication to convince’: simple language with proof, telling our buyers how we can solve a particular problem.
Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni reiterated these thoughts in her recent post Put it Into Plain Words. She includes the TED talk of branding expert Alan Siegel, who urges clear communication via simplicity, transparency and empathy. This he says will build humanity into our communication. Clarity he concludes should become a national priority.
Not Just Words
Although the Bee Gees claimed that words were all they had – in marketing we have much more. Everything we do provides a message to our buyers – whether it is the way we present our products, the price we set or where we decide to place our products for sale. The communication extends beyond the the words we use in promotion.
To design, price and place products/services which solve buyers’ problems and then to convey in simple language how these assist them, is surely effective marketing and good for sales. To do this though we need to really know and understand our customers and their needs, the media to which they are exposed and the language they use.
Simple is best. In business communication – it’s a little BIG Thing. Perhaps in business and in life – it’s everything.
What do you think?
5 Steps to RW (GG Free) Business Communication
1. Audit all communications
2. Ask your customers if they understand what you are trying to say
3. Seek to establish meaning
4. Delete all gobbledygook words
5. Replace using the language of your customers
The Little Big Things is available for purchase here.
WOW!!!! Judging from the fantastic feedback and comments (thank you!) this post has proved topical. Sure enough the following appeared today from Nigel Marsh, Group CEO, Y&R Brands and wonderful, best selling author. (Loved ‘Fat, Forty & Fired!’) Read Nigel’s post ‘The Nightmare of Complexity’ here.
Here is a link to Nigel’s website to purchase his books.
“Speak to be understood” - Love’s Labour’s Lost (V.ii)