A client at The United Way Silicon Valley said the following to me after a recent storytelling workshop I gave:
‘You made the topic so simple to get. You took away all the complexity we were struggling with and gave us a much-needed, relevant, inspiring and simple framework.’
That is one of the greatest compliments any business can get because of how much work goes into making things look and feel simple. You see, every business is in the ‘simplification’ business. And yes, ironically, that itself might be a simplification, albeit a critical one.
Be a Chief Simplification Officer
Everyone is struggling with complexity today. There is too much work, too much data, and too much noise (social media overload, anyone?!). The most important thing you can do for your clients is simplify their lives. This applies to your interactions, products and messaging.
It’s easy for messaging – the essence of how you make your clients’ lives better – to become convoluted, dry, and boring. This is especially true when your services are complex, and that happens a lot in technology, in medicine, and in the legal profession, among other industries. We want to tell the world everything we do and how we do it. That’s all too much.
Thus, the only antidote for complexity is simplicity. If you can’t articulate with clarity, you become a ‘complicator,’ instead of a problem solver. Prospects will ask, “How can I trust that this provider will make my life easier if they can’t communicate clearly?” Clear messaging makes it possible for your audience to imagine what doing business with would be like, and what results they could expect.
Simple is Human… and Memorable
Simple messaging makes it easier for your audience to recognize that they need you. Crisp messaging in practice also means a few really important things:
• First, it means no jargon! Jargon is not human. It’s not my responsibility as a prospect to figure out what you do and why I should care. Clarity is *your* burden.
• Stop talking about your services. Your value is not your services. Your value is the end result of working with you; your services are vehicles to get to that end result! Plus, offerings evolve over time. Tell me what results I can expect.
• Focus on one key takeaway. For example, one thing I bring to my clients is that I help them succeed by simplifying and humanizing their messaging so it attracts the right prospects. Sure, there is a lot more to it; yet, simplicity is memorable. In a world rife with noise, that matters! Here’s a great exercise – try to communicate your message in 20 words or less.
• Paint a vision of how life could be after working with you. You are selling what could be – a story, not a set of cold hard “facts” that your competition can also claim. People won’t remember a spew of your services; they will remember stories and how you made them feel. Leave people with a feeling that you “get” their issues and that you can simplify their lives.
If you can’t simply explain what you do and why people should care, customers will fear that you will add that same level of complexity to their lives. They need less, not more.
Your Story…Only Simpler
How is your messaging? Ask yourself the following questions:
• Do I find myself explaining what I do over and over, and people still don’t “get it?”
• Do I get blank, bored stares when I explain my business?
• Can I explain my value in less than 30 seconds with confidence and clarity?
• Can other people articulate my value if *they* were to explain it?
• Am I referred frequently by others?
• Am I falling back frequently on describing my services instead of my value?
• Do I know how I am different from my competition?
• Do I have a clear, compelling, differentiated story showing how I improve customers’ lives?
• Do I avoid jargon?
• Do people ask me for more information when I tell my story or seem to tune out?
• Are my marketing materials consistent, clear, and succinct?
• Am I confident and proud of “my story,” when I tell it?
If you answered “no” to most of these items, you have a messaging challenge.
“Simple” Is Anything But…
Getting a simple story to tell about your business is not easy, and that’s precisely why having one will give you a competitive advantage. To communicate that you will simplify your customers’ lives, you must first communicate your own value – simply. And simplicity can be anything but.
Let us help.
How do you keep things simple and human? Email me at Kathy(at)keepingithuman(dot)com