Take a step outside your business

Every now and then, you need to take a step out of your own shoes (your shoes being those of the marketing manager, director, business owner or communications coordinator) and look at your website and other communications from the perspective of your audience.

If you don’t do this, you will almost inevitably find these problems starting to happen in your marketing communication:

  1. Jargon. You forget that your market may not speak like you, use the same words and acronyms, or know what ‘integrated services’ means.
  2. Undertelling. It’s easy to assume people will just understand what you’re offering. In many instances, services and products, especially new ones, need a simple, clear explanation used regularly throughout your communications so your audience doesn’t feel bewildered or unsure. No one buys when they’re unsure.
  3. Overstating. If you use every positive adjective you can think of to describe your business, you’re not going to convince anyone. Show your strengths, size, difference, etc. rather than telling it. Use case studies, client lists, values statements, etc. to send these messages.
  4. Business-centric communicating. Your market is who you’re trying to talk to; not your staff. While the structure of your website may make perfect sense to everyone in your business, the user may not understand why you have grouped certain products together under a particular heading, or why you are describing internal systems instead of external outcomes.
  5. Inconsistency. When you work as part of a team, you may have a case of too many cooks. You’ll need to take stock every now and then to ensure the messages, tone, words and organisation of information are consistent across all your marketing communications and media.

How do you step out of your shoes?

The process may involve quite literally asking an outsider to review pieces of communication. Try to find someone who is outside the industry altogether.

Or you can do it yourself. Clear your mind and visualise one of your customers (imaginary or real) – preferably a new customer who is still learning about your business. Now imagine you are that customer. Write a brief list of what you, as that customer, want from the business.

Don’t impose your own knowledge on the list; keep it as simple and honest as possible. Think about the things customers say to you that express relief or satisfaction – those moments will show you the things your customers really want. Try to include some goods/services (e.g. pool chemicals) AND some values/intangibles (e.g. price matching, fast delivery).

Now open your website or e-news or brochure – or whatever other item of communication you’re reviewing. Read the first paragraph and answer these questions:

  • Are there any words or abbreviations I, the customer, may not know?
  • Do I, the customer, immediately know what this business can do for me?

Next read the whole page – just a skim read. Answer these questions:

  • Am I, the customer, sure this business will be able to provide the goods or services on my list?
  • Am I, the customer, reasonably confident this business will be able to provide the intangibles on my list?
  • Have I, the customer, been told what to do next (e.g. click here, enquire now, etc.)?

Now follow the journey your piece of communication offers, as if you were this customer. Click a link. Look for more information on the product or service the customer is seeking. Look for ways to find out prices. Look at the images. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I, the customer, easily finding the information I want, or am I having to dig deeper or wade through lots of text to find it?
  • Am I, the customer, seeing what I need to see in the images?
  • Have I, the customer, been made to feel reasonably safe in dealing with this business?
  • Do I, the customer, know where to get critical purchasing information, such as prices, store open times, stock availability, etc?

There is pretty well always room for improvement. If you’re honest in your answers and you can successfully stand in the audience’s shoes, then you now have a valuable set of answers to these important customer communication questions. Take the answers and brainstorm ways to improve the experience even further for your audience.