By Conor Kenny
It’s very tempting to write something that sounds great but what if the person reading it doesn’t understand? You might just run a great and beautiful hotel, a fantastic restaurant or an attractive attraction but if those simple messages are lost in language then you are tying your legs together before you even start the race. George Bernard Shaw said – “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” Not only is it a problem, it is also dangerous. You might like the ‘sound’ of what you write but I mightn’t ‘understand’. The goal, the only goal, of any communication is to ensure that the reader understands what you are trying to say. If they don’t, then doubt creeps in. When there is doubt you open the door to your competitors and you will forever wonder why your messages failed to connect and attract.
The Purpose of Marketing. We can plough wearily through academic definitions of the purpose of marketing and, in no time, confusion will exhaust you. The word ‘marketing’ originated with ‘the market’. Markets, by their nature, are competitive places but also theatres of opportunity. To succeed at the market, you had to be attractive, at your best and clear about what you offered. If it was a cow, the cow needed to look good. If it was fruit, the same applies. “My cow is for sale” “Fresh fruit” They needed little more. Often, it’s when we write we fail to describe what we are trying to sell. Therefore, the purpose of marketing is simple, very simple, it is “to create the desire to buy”
Take this deep into your thinking and you will quickly realise that this alone can drive a marketing plan and even a brand strategy. “If we do this, will it create the desire to buy?” If you say ‘Yes’ then do it. The opposite applies too.
What’s Your Message? Naturally, hotels and restaurants want to sound as attractive as possible but remember the old adage “Too far east is west”. Sounding good is not the goal, being clear about your message is. Let me give you a simple and deliberately non-hospitality answer to show you what I mean;
I was helping a friend with this very subject. He is a mechanic and a very good one. Business was not good. His garage is on a very busy road with easy access, but he couldn’t understand why he had such poor passing trade. Neither could I. At lunchtime, we walked across the road for coffee. Walking back, I saw his huge sign overhanging the daily rush hour queues. It said “Specia lists in automotive diesel and petrol engines using the latest diagnostic technology” It was a mouthful and though I might have thought I understood, I didn’t really. Later, we changed it. The new sign said; “We fix and repair faulty cars” Overnight, his business improved.
It sounds simple, it’s not. However, getting this kind of clarity around your message really matters. Now try asking yourself what your message is and then try answering it. When you are done, ask your sales and marketing colleagues the same question. The answers might just tell you something.
Why We Read Your Message or Website We don’t waste our time reading not to learn something. We read with the desire or need to buy and that comes from wanting to satisfy something. If my heating is broken, I read the plumbers website with the desire that he is the right person to fix my problem. But, once I land on his page, it could be that I’m u nsure, it is unclear or, how he represents his brand and work doesn’t fill me with confidence. We are scanning, judging, assessing and deciding. Based on what? Based on what you wrote. Does it matter? Imagine going to a fine hotel or restaurant for the first time but the menu is full of errors? Imagine reading descriptions you don’t understand? Imagine the reality didn’t match the message? How you write, what you say, how you say it matters. It matters because it is the only evidence I will initially use not to come to you but to make an enquiry.
If the headline is wrong, I’m not going to waste time reading the story.
The Nonsense of Words Sitting in a warm office it is easy to conjure up moody evocative words but beware. A few years I came across a big poster. The caption said “For a fresh perspective on life and a new outlook on living” You can just imagine the author sitting there chuffed with their own work. Looks go od, sounds good, show stopping, works well … really? Says who?
Often, at our workshops, I quote this line and ask people to write down what they were selling. Here are just some of the answers I’ve enjoyed; – health food, spectacles, health cover, drugs, retirement funds, holidays, time share, vegetables, slimming tablets, leisure centres, night courses, political party membership, the list goes on.
No, they were selling apartments. If the sign had said “Really nice apartments” then 100% of the audience would have understood. That means 100% would all have had the same choice. When I count up the number of people who answer this correctly at our workshops, the correct percentage is usually around 20%. That means that 80% have already gone because it sounded good but they didn’t ‘understand’. Hunting in a pool of 20% is never going to be very rewarding.
Quality Not Quantity Many marketers believe that more is be tter. It’s not. Millennials especially, your audience today, are impatient and expect things to be instant. That includes your answer to “What are you trying to say?” Good writers write then they edit and take out any superfluous word. When they are done, they repeat the process.
Remember, the newspaper street sellers only ever call out the headline, not the story. Think about it, the headline is designed to create interest (your desire to buy) and if the headline is unclear, there’s no risk to me walking on by.
“What’s your message?” Good question and one worth revisiting again and again.