Cut out the guff. Write as you speak

It’s worth reminding ourselves how important it is to write clearly and with the reader in mind. It is easy to get carried in imparting all we know or be victim to the jargon spoken all around. These tips remind us how to keep things real …

Humans Buy Services. Honest.

Paint a visual picturePaint a visual picture

A ‘critical friend’ (aka colleague) checked some writing for me last week. Her comments were characteristically to the point – “you’ve lost sight of your audience, so cut out the management guff and write as you speak, not as you’ve been conditioned.” I couldn’t argue with her. She was right. I had lost sight of what I preach – marketing in a more friendly, human, accessible way. And it prompted this post; a recap of how to get it right.

Pictures are worth a thousand words – I know it’s a cliche but pictures work, especially in this YouTube world, where the first thing we do  is to ask the limitless Google for help, or absorb information visually via one of the excellent video channels, meaning we read less and less. So keep the pictures in your business writing, and if anything, use more to communicate simply and powerfully

Simple, short words are in

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Human or machine? What First Direct can teach Lloyds

And convenient please ...

And convenient please …

I am mid-way through refurbishing my home and paying lots of bills for all the services and materials I need. For this I rely on two banks to help me, First Direct and Lloyds. One treats me like a human being, the other part of their big business machine. There’s no need to guess which is which. Here’s what I experience:

First Direct – setting up a new payee online is an important service to me right now and with First Direct it is a breeze. Once logged on, three clicks is all that it takes from end to end and I know that money will be in the account of the payee two hours later. I like the ease, the simplicity, and above all, the convenience to me the customer

Lloyds Banking Group – doing the same thing takes considerably longer and involves more steps and more processes (in the name of security). For example, after setting up a new payee, I receive an automated call (would prefer a human if it’s strictly necessary) and I am taken through a quick identity check. At this point (and only if you are around to take the call straight away) is your payment confirmed and ready to be processed

These different experiences make me wonder though if I am a fool putting my convenience ahead of security? Having checked the security statistics though of both organisations, I see that both have similar track records and nothing much sets them apart. So that suggests that First Direct worries about my needs as a customer and that Lloyd’s driver is their own. That’s not good for customer relations or for building long term relationships. It just confirms to me that it’s time to take up First Direct’s bank account switching service and see if it is easy to do as their marketing material suggests.

Another time I phoned First Direct for some help and got through to Craig who talked me through a couple of options for paying for my holiday in Euros. He highlighted the pros and cons of paying either in Euros or in GBPs. He didn’t have to but I found it valuable information that also saved me money. It is a simple example of just how easy it is to deliver good service. I’ve made similar transactions through Lloyds in the past, although the experience always feels like I am being taken through their script, which ends up with a sales pitch for a product I don’t want.

What this shows is how easily my belief in and support for an organisation is reduced or expanded. How about you? Have you any experiences of businesses who get it right and treat you as a human being rather than a faceless buyer?

 

 

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Davina takes on Goliath – putting human qualities to work

Image

Last week I had the privilege of spending two days with 180 women from all kinds of organisations – blue chip, start up, not for profit, public sector – brought together by Aspire aspirewomen.co.uk and Dr Sam Collins @DrSamCollins. Our mission? Improve our leadership skills and clarify our purpose in work and in life.

What struck me was how powerful women really are, how supportive we naturally are and how much is to be gained by sharing, collaborating and asking for help. The women were inspirational, not only because they hold down amazing, tough, complex jobs, bring up families and have many other talents – anything from sailing across the world to campaigning against sexual violence or taking on organisations that are ripping off the ordinary person in the street, in a “Davina takes on Goliath” way.

Without exception everyone was friendly, approachable and enthusiastic to share their stories, their advice and skills freely. I couldn’t find anyone hiding behind their impressive job title or behaving in a way that was cold or competitive with each other. All I experienced was warmth and willingness to make the world a better place by being compassionate, and most of all, interested in helping each other. They taught me so much about getting the human touch back into business, that it’s important to share their advice:

  1. Women are a force for good – they mentor, nurture quite naturally, so are your secret weapon in adding balance to your organisation and fulfilling greater business potential. @MorrisseyHelena https://twitter.com/MorrisseyHelena and The 30 Percent Club @30percentclub https://twitter.com/30percentclub do lots of valuable work in this arena http://30percentclub.org/
  2. Don’t conform – and don’t assume that others expect us to. Be you in personality, dress and attitude. There is no need to adopt masculine behaviours to get on. In fact, one woman told me of some research that shows how irritating men find it when we try to be like them in the workplace
  3. Do random acts of kindness – and if you are lucky to receive one, “pay it forward” and enjoy watching the ripple effect of change. Many happened during the event, with donations being made instantly to causes that touched us and jobs being offered because dreams were shared and there were enough well connected women in the room to fulfil the dreams instantly. It was powerful stuff
  4. Don’t chase the money – do what you love and the rewards will be there. We heard real stories of women ditching the corporate life to set up their own businesses, giving up security and big salaries (it went the other way too!). Not only were they considerably happier and more fulfilled, they reported unexpected growth in income, explained by doing what they love
  5. Help people along the way – there was a strong sense from the women that businesses should support others by sharing their knowledge, suggesting leaving a legacy is as important as running a business on a commercial footing. For example, why not share your content openly and share others’ ideas to support each other rather than keep them to ourselves? Social media channels are proving that collaboration and sharing is easy and valuable, not giving away the ‘crown jewels’
  6. Be yourself – Dr Sam Collins has the last word on this. Sam told the audience that a previous delegate was offended by Sam’s colourful language and advised her: “You should be more corporate”, to which Sam replied “Duh? No. Corporations have human beings in them who want to be in touch with who they are.”

And what is Sam like? Strong, vibrant, playful, bright, nurturing, driven and inspirational. Who wouldn’t want those qualities in their businesses?

 

 

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Beam, boo and the hashtag

 

Just do it

Just do it

 

In the past week I’ve been to two seminars, billed as helping us to make our businesses digital. The first was organized by the @TheFSForum and as a delegate I was keen to hear the marketing director @HiscoxSmallBiz https://twitter.com/HiscoxUK speak . Sorry to say she was ill on the day, so I am none the wiser about how Hiscox (a brand that I admire) is using digital. I would dearly love to know. The second event was hosted by corporate communications folk @InstinctifCorp http://instinctif.com and I was on the other side of the experience, as one of the speakers.

What struck me was how different those experiences were. The FS Forum lacked any visible sign of people engaging in digital conversation. Twitter handles went un-promoted and I scrabbled around for my joining details, desperate to find a hash tag to follow. Instead the chair fielded questions from the audience and it felt flat and un-engaging.

Being part of the Instinctif event made me think about how easy it is to get it right though, but only if you follow their lead:

  1. Give your event a hashtag – and promote it ahead, during and after the event. It sounds obvious but people aren’t doing it enough, especially in the b2b world. Make the information easy to find and splash it over all materials, slides, Twitter feeds
  2. TweetBeam – no doubt there are lots of apps like @TweetBeam http://www.tweetbeam.com  that bring together comments and consolidate them onto a wall that becomes a feature of your event. The Instinctif team got things started by posting ideas, showing us the way and encouraging everyone to join in. And join in they did, making for a lively, fast moving and more inclusive experience all round. It felt good for delegates and speakers alike
  3. Vary your content – another tip that I picked up was how the team filmed brief video clips as people trooped out the door, another means of promoting your ideas and keeping the topic alive. They introduced me to neat little app called audioBoo https://twitter.com/audioboo which records 30 second sound-bites that you can embed into a post and add a mug shot too (scary). Simple, yet a very effective way of bringing content alive whilst adding the human touch http://bit.ly/1ocorrQ
  4. Be passionate – and finally what I noticed about everyone there (organisers, delegates, speakers) was their determination and interest in sharing their experiences and learning from others. It’s powerful stuff if you can break out of traditional ways of working

What digital does is give us better tools that enable us to be more collaborative, get into genuine dialogue, where giving ideas away is good and learning from each other is encouraged. I, for one, am a fan. Are you?

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What’s your story?

Humans Buy Services. Honest.

iStock_000015344866Medium

At ‘humansbuyservices.honest’ we believe in aligning our marketing efforts to human behaviour and away from impersonal, corporate marketing where dialogue is stifled by lack of character. It’s part of our campaign to get businesses out of their comfort zones and into meaningful, truly engaging business relationships.

1. Teach me something new – the traditional view is that sevice companies are here to inform, educate and help their clients make solid decisions. The alternative approach is to use our expertise to teach our clients something new – for example how to get their boards’ support; how to tackle a problem in a novel way; how to draw out insights they wouldn’t have, without us and our specialism. The upside? Solid, lengthy relationships and greater value for all.

2. Storytelling is the only way – a typical way to communicate is – put simply – process driven. We think about the audience, their needs, what we have that…

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Cut out the guff. Write as you speak

Paint a visual picture

Paint a visual picture

A ‘critical friend’ (aka colleague) checked some writing for me last week. Her comments were characteristically to the point – “you’ve lost sight of your audience, so cut out the management guff and write as you speak, not as you’ve been conditioned.” I couldn’t argue with her. She was right. I had lost sight of what I preach – marketing in a more friendly, human, accessible way. And it prompted this post; a recap of how to get it right.

Pictures are worth a thousand words – I know it’s a cliche but pictures work, especially in this YouTube world, where the first thing we do  is to ask the limitless Google for help, or absorb information visually via one of the excellent video channels, meaning we read less and less. So keep the pictures in your business writing, and if anything, use more to communicate simply and powerfully

Simple, short words are in – scientists have proven that long, convoluted words (pun intended) slow us down and get in the way of communication. Chuck out extra words that don’t say anything and simplify language everywhere. For example, my pet hate (along with The Daily Mail) is the word ‘utilize’ when ‘use’ says the same, but quicker. Be tough on yourself. Check every word that you use is clear and aides clarity

Express yourselfMadonna sang about it and I advocate it. It is a good thing to express character and personality in your communications, especially in these socially-savvy times, when being warm and immediate are in and being cold and distant are out. The days of ‘management speak’ are over. Let’s get more businesses marketing themselves #thehumansbuyservices way

Think about what you want people to do – there are plenty of communication experts who preach story telling, with a beginning, middle and end, but few talk about getting your audience to do something, to take action. It sounds obvious but ask yourself if you fall into this trap. Think about it upfront and plan for an outcome. I guarantee it will improve your chances of getting heard

Get the tone right – check out Sharon Tanton’s excellent post on the topic ‘How to get the tone of your writing very wrong indeed’. Sharon takes a look at “the bank who likes to say yes”, showing us what not to do

http://www.valuablecontent.co.uk/how-to-get-the-tone-of-your-writing-very-wrong-indeed

This stuff matters more than ever. Why? Because we are saturated with messages 24/7. For example, ten years ago there were four ways to communicate with me (in person, by phone, by mail and by email). Today there are at least a dozen and most of them (snail-mail excepted) are instant, very flexible and engaging. That means that management speak no longer sounds clever or impressive. It sounds old-fashioned, out of touch and slow.

Our social networks have set new ground rules and raised our expectations. They teach us to challenge what we think we know and free us up to communicate in a modern, liberating way. It doesn’t mean that these networks give us all that we need in business. They simply show us how to connect with and keep it real for the people we are trying to reach. Tell me what you think.

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Spring cleaning for marketers

grass and beautiful narcissus

The weather outside my office window is glorious – mild, bright, sunny – and it’s having a positive effect. The daffodils are in full bloom, optimisim is in the air and people are  outside, desperate to bid farewell to the long and wet winter.

In springtime we have campaigns to roll-out and need to match the energy and vigour of that new growth outside our offices. So how can we be sure that our diligent planning over the winter months will pay off? What does a spring clean for marketers look like? Let’s be inspired by the high street:

1. Edit the shop window – for most of us our shop window is our web site, the first place a potential buyer (87% of them already do this) will go to see if we have anything in the store that attracts them in. If the window is cluttered with our expertise and stuff (because we are rather fond of showing off expertise. It’s a badge of honour we need to uphold!) rather than carefully edited to give a taster, then we miss an opportunity to help our ‘shopper’ make a decision to meet. It is missed opportunity number one to draw someone in.

2. Signpost – once we attract buyers into our shop (or in our world, our offices for that initial conversation) how do we translate interest into finding out what the buyer is looking for, then signpost how we can help? In a retail environment, products are organised into types or colours or by the kind of people they are designed for eg for children, for women, and visual signs are given to match person to product. In business, we need to identify needs, then verbally and visually signpost the kinds of solutions that could be the perfect fit. For example, this can take the form of matching services clearly to needs that we identify, or through colour coding or signing routes in our marketing materials. Or it could be majoring on the ‘why us’ rather than the ‘what’, which is sadly too common in b2b. If you are not signposting, you miss opportunity number two to match need to you.

3. Language matters – using regular, everyday words always works better than fancy ones. We don’t complicate our conversations at home or the pub with lots of jargon or elaborate latin words, so why do it in business communications? Think about the tone as well. Making ourselves friendly and approachable is the goal, rather than distant and corporate. So if you don’t pass the plain English test, you miss opportunity number three.

4. Tune in – understanding how people work is a must but not always practiced. Today I went to a meeting about a new proposition launch. The sponsor is a partner, very clever and highly technical and his clients buy him. What I noticed about his approach though is that he instinctively gets the importance of also understanding human behaviour and using that knowledge to get someone interested in our new proposition. What is his secret? He enthuses about the project – he is two parts passion, to one part expertise – in explaining why this new solution is the “bees knees”. And his passion catches on. We listen. We believe. We want some of what he is selling. So if you are lacking passion in your approaches, you miss opportunity number four to engage.

So these are my tips for spring cleaning our businesses as well as our homes. Have you a tip to share?

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