Avoid these Five common mistakes
When I was a kid, every Sunday, my Dad and I would sit in front of the TV and watch Abbot and Costello. It was our thing. You may not be familiar with the show. It was old even when I watched it back in the 70s, but it was one of those things I remember doing with my dad.
Anyway, Abbot and Costello were these two frenemies who hung out together. I call them frenemies because they were supposed to be friends, but Costello invariably annoyed the shit out of Abbot. Their most famous routine was the often quoted “Who’s on First.”
The gist of the skit was that Abbot was trying to teach Costello the names of the players on a baseball team, but due to unclear communication, the lesson went down in history as the pair’s most famous interaction.
And it brings to mind the importance of clarity in brand messaging. There are five C’s to effective brand marketing. I’ve touched on the first two in previous posts: Killer Content and Consistency is Queen – the big two. But sneaking into the top five is having clear messaging.
In today’s world, we are bombarded with noise. Our inboxes are overflowing. News, and fake-news, comes at us from every angle including tweets, Facebook, subscriptions, adverts to name just a few. Everybody is screaming, trying to get our attention. More than ever, if you want to cut through all that noise, you need to be clear and concise.
Avoid these five common mistakes to get better results from your communications:
Mistake #1: Trying to be too inclusive
You’ve probably heard the saying…”If you are speaking to everybody, you are speaking to nobody.” The idiom has gained traction in the marketing world because it’s an easy trap to fall into. Heck, I’ve seen big travel brands sometimes get this wrong. And I get it. We are all afraid that if we don’t have messaging that appeals to everyone, we might be turning our backs on potential business.
But the exact opposite is true.
Until you define who your ideal client is and begin writing with only that one person in mind, your messaging runs the risk of being unfocused, unclear, and it will not resonate with your intended recipient.
I used to have a boss a long, long time ago, who had a similar unclear communication style. He would sit his management team down in a boardroom and then start lecturing on all the things he thought “some” of us were doing wrong. But he would never mention any names. He never made eye contact with anyone. I have to assume that he reasoned his message was something that everyone could benefit from hearing. However, the problem was that at the end of his hour-long diatribe, many people, myself included, would leave his lectures thinking…” well, that was interesting, but it doesn’t apply to me.” And we’d all continue to go about our daily lives. Nothing would change. And I can only assume this must have infuriated him. Had he just been more direct, and confronted the one or two offenders by name, his message would have landed. And the issue would have been resolved.
The same is true when you communicate with your audience. You need to define who your intended audience is first – then only speak to them. Others will hear your message too, of course, and they may very well become loyal fans, but you will never have a situation where everyone walks away thinking…I’m not sure her message was meant for me.
Decide who your ideal client is. Give her a name, an age range. Describe what her hobbies are. What magazines she reads? What words does she use? Is she married or single? Is she a dog lover? Does she shop at Pottery Barn or Target? Cut out a picture in a magazine of someone you think resembles her the most and then stick it on your whiteboard beside your computer screen. Then…every single time you sit down to craft a message, write as if you are only speaking to her. Try it. This exercise can be quite transformative.
Isn’t that right, Jennifer? ?
Mistake #2: Sacrificing clarity for cleverness
Confession, I probably need to stick my hand way in the air on this one. I love cute. And there is nothing wrong with coming up with something clever as long as the message remains clear. If you can get both — that’s the win. But if you can’t get both, then forget clever and focus only on clarity. As mentioned, nobody has the time to decipher your riddles. (except, of course, your boyfriend who I’m sure loves that task). Often, we are scanning through multiple emails, and other forms of written messages, or are distracted while listening to a podcast. We simply do not have time to notice, never mind appreciate, a witty message if it doesn’t hit us in the face.
And in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), people search on obvious terms. They will not search for puns and other plays on words when they look for answers to their problems. Therefore, when you use cute phrasings, you also run the risk of not showing up in Google search results.
If you aren’t sure if your sense of humour is landing, it might be best to run it by an unbiased third party…oh and then…listen.
Mistake #3: Trying to do it all
Just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should. There is nothing wrong with a bit of white space. At least this is what I tell my mother every time I visit her. My mother lives in a museum. Not the kind that is closed on Mondays and has school groups traipsing through them during the rest of the week. But her two-story farmhouse is a treasure trove of chachkies and other dust collectables all vying for any free space. She has a zero white space style guide when it comes to her decorating taste. And as a result, unless you wear high visibility clothing when visiting, you might easily get lost and fade into her wall-paper.
I see this happening with a lot of travel websites. It’s not uncommon to come across some websites that sell cruises and rail journeys, foodie tours, group travel, adventure trips, active journeys – you name it…they sell it. It’s too much. Not only is it difficult to get a feel for where their expertise might lie, but you end up leaving the site with a sense of vertigo.
Decide what your niche will be and who your audience will be. Make sure people can breathe when they land on your site. They need to be able to discern within the first minute if your website is for them or they’ll bounce. And work on perfecting those first. You can always expand a bit later but keep things simple.
Mistake #4: Losing focus of your objective
This is so easy to do, no wonder it lands in the top 5 mistakes people make when communicating. How often have you gone online searching for one thing and then two hours later, you have a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, you’ve learned how to do a Boho Fishtail braid, and it turns out Kylie Jenner has split with Travis Scott? Meanwhile, you were just trying to find out when your local library was open.
Rabbit holes are called rabbit holes for a reason. I’ve gone down many, even in writing this very article. Squirrel!
Come up with an elevator pitch – a two or three sentence synopsis of what your goal is in your business. Write it on your whiteboard. Repeat it to yourself so often that you could say it backwards, in pig Latin, while standing on your head doing tequila shots. If you aren’t crystal clear about your business objectives and can’t articulate them at any given moment, you will run the risk of finding yourself off track. And your audience will be lost too.
Mistake #5: No clear call to action (CTA)
Finally, don’t ever let any piece of content go out into the world without being clear about what’s next. I like to think of it as a virtual game of hot potato. You can’t allow the potato to fall, or you lose. And how do you keep the potato in the air? You simply keep the conversation going. At the tail of every Instagram post, you ask a question. You end every interaction on Facebook with a directive to visit your website or sign up for your weekly email. You might be surprised, but as you build your audience, you build their loyalty, and they will look to you for direction.
For example, I’d love you to share this post with any of your many friends you think might find value in reading this article. Just choose your favourite social media share buttons below. That then becomes my call to action.
Before you finish any social media posts or any form of communication, just have a quick look. Is there a what’s next?
The good news is that all five common mistakes are super easy to fix once you are aware of them. It’s probably a good practice to do a review of your work from time to time to ensure you don’t fall back into old habits. Clarity in messaging is critical when trying to build your audience. It’s easy to get stuck on first base with Who.
And on that note, let me know in the comments below if you found this helpful. And if so, I’d love it if you shared.