Golfers are the biggest suckers ever. Most will drop $500 or more on a new driver without batting an eye, when the real problem is that they don’t know how to swing it. Empires are built around the typical golfer’s obsession with finding a magical new gadget that will lower his handicap.
When it comes to communicating our businesses, we’re wasting far too much time and money on new tools when we need to get better at using the old ones. In the late 1990s, a client wanted to rename his company to a dot-com name, even though its only connection to the Internet was that it had a website. Another a client wanted to go “all in” on the synthetic world of “Second Life,” because that was the shiny new toy. More recently, a very smart fellow asked what I thought about his beginning to use “Bitcoin,” an experimental digital currency.
We have too many choices, and we catch ourselves doing things just to show that we’re “hip” and on top of the new technology.
But nobody cares if you’re hip, especially if your business has poorly trained people who can’t explain what they’re selling. They don’t care of your website has the latest and greatest coding if they can’t find their way to the information they need. They don’t care if you’re using the latest hot social network if they can’t understand what you’re saying.
Fortunately for golfers, the rules only allow 14 clubs in the bag. Otherwise, some would be carrying so many that their carts would sink in the ground.
If you really want to communicate better, here’s a much better plan than shopping for new toys:
- Inventory the tools you have. You may be shocked at just how many things you’re doing — poorly — already. One of my favorite tools is the communications audit, which is especially useful in large corporations.
- Ask yourself what you can quit doing. Don’t try to cut back across the board. Look for things to cut out entirely. More isn’t necessarily better.
- Write out your communications goals and define the desired outcomes in terms of action. Publishing a newsletter isn’t a goal. Getting appointments with six people because of its content is.
- Distill your core messages into five or six simple sentences, e.g., “YA Widgets have the longest warranty in the business.” These should be messages that, if you can communicate them well, should accomplish your communications goals and bring you more business. If you can’t do this, you’re so unfocused you shouldn’t try to communicate anything at all until you figure it out.
- Decide how to translate those messages into content that your prospective customers will welcome and gladly consume. Give them advice. Track trends. Connect the dots in their industry. Tell success stories.
- Select your tools and use them. I’ve found it helpful to think in terms of “carrying capacity.” I commonly use newsletters and blogs for longer content, such as analysis, advice and case studies, and use microblogging services (Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook) for pointing people to them. If you need to show something visually, consider using video and embedding it on your blog.