6 Ways Poor Communication Kills Customer Value and Your Business


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The way you communicate with your audience either creates or destroys value. And communicating doesn’t mean that you’re successfully connecting with people. When marketing communication is brief, focused, and simple, it can add value by challenging your prospects’ status quo, expanding their options, and helping them to see things in new ways. At its worst, however, poor communication can kill your business. Below are 6 common ways you might be undermining your success without even realizing it.

The ‘Base Toucher’

How many times have you used this verbiage with a prospect or a client? You call and leave a voicemail, or perhaps an email, saying the following: “Hi. I just wanted to touch base and see how things are.” Would you call someone back after receiving this message? How many messages exactly like this do people get every day? It not only lacks actionable urgency for your prospect or client; it destroys value by adding more noise to their inbox and voicemail. And exactly how is a customer supposed to respond? The Base Toucher – ironically – won’t be getting to home base with any client soon (in a strictly business sense, of course)! Instead, ask your client, “how can I simplify things for you?” That’s a better way to move things forward. The only good ‘touching base’ reference is in baseball!

The Data Overwhelmer

If 5 ideas for a customer is good, then 20 ideas must be better! It sounds good until you put yourself in your customer’s place. What your audience needs is simplicity. When we throw more data at them without context and a way to act on that data in any meaningful way, your audience is left to its own devices to figure out how the heck to do business with you and where to start. Instead, offer several easy ways to engage with you. Your customer may have 10 problems. Your goal is to figure out how to solve the first one before you take on the world.

Welcome to Jargonistan

When you throw buzzwords at people, you are throwing communication grenades at them. Again, people have enough complexity in their lives. What they need is an easy way to make sense of what you are sending them. Jargon isn’t meaningful – it’s a way to hide from having real, human conversations and a way of weaseling out of addressing the real issues. Jargon is not conversation catalyst in any way; rather, it shuts conversations off before they start because it puts the burden of deciphering on your prospect. It erodes trust. “If you’re not clear in talking about your business, then how the hell are you going to understand mine?” your audience will say. Clarity is your burden; so saddle up and stop the jargon-monoxide poisoning. It’s lazy and it kills your credibility.

We Do That, Too

This is the “we can help you with everything” offer. It goes like this: “We’re a strategic firm that does 20 things, and, of course, we’re experts in all of them! Surely, we understand the specifics of your situation!” Wow, 20 things! That’s impressive, right? Nope. It’s the exact opposite. If I have a problem with product launches and that is only one of 20 things your firm does, I can’t see how you specialize in solving my particular issue. Get focused. You may do a number of things under your umbrella. You need to lead with one – the one your prospect cares about.

The Wind-up

This is the “I’ll get to your question” when I’m done with my stuff approach. “Just wait for it, I’m winding up, and the punch line will be worth it.” And, yet, it never is. When you ignore client interruptions, concerns, or fail to read body language, you put your agenda on your prospect. This is tantamount to saying, “I don’t care what you have to say; I’ll hear you when I’m done talking about me.” Forcing your prospect to hear your stuff isn’t why a client or prospect agreed to a meeting with you. Start asking questions. Talk half as much, and always be prepared to throw your plan out the window. When you see you are losing your audience, stop and say, “I see you have questions or concerns. Let’s talk about them.”

The Complicator

“Let’s get started by talking about our methodology.” Much like “The Data Overwhelmer,” the complicator erects self-imposed barriers to business because complication derails decision-making. Talking about your how – your process and methodology – is irrelevant. Often you are fighting the status quo, and the status quo looks good compared to your complicating process. If working through a proposal or engagement gets complicated, you are seen as a ‘complicator’ not a complication ‘solver.’ “Doing business with you won’t solve our problems,” your customers and prospects will say. Instead, it will create new ones having to manage the process with you. How you communicate with an audience tells people what working with you will be like. By communicating simply, you allow people to see you a solution, and not another complication in their already complicated lives. Your methodology doesn’t matter; only talk about results. The ‘how’ is your process and your problem.

Communicate Simply

Too often businesses think their value comes from the work they do – their solution, their products, their channels. Yet, what we say and how we say it can create value for our audience, too. Conversely, it can also destroy it. The first way any audience experiences you is through your communication. So make every touch count by making it simple, human, and easy for your audience to see why you are the answer, and not just one more complicating factor in their already complex lives.

Kathy Klotz-Guest

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kathy Klotz-Guest
For 20 years, Kathy has created successful products, marketing stories, and messaging for companies such as SGI, Gartner, Excite, Autodesk, and MediaMetrix. Kathy turns marketing "messages" into powerful human stories that get results. Her improvisation background helps marketing teams achieve better business outcomes. She is a founding fellow for the Society for New Communications Research, where she recently completed research on video storytelling. Kathy has an MLA from Stanford University, an MBA from UC Berkeley, and an MA in multimedia apps design.


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