I had the pleasure of being part of a high-level business mastermind this past week. We had people in a wide variety of industries, both business to business and business to consumer. The purpose was to talk about obstacles or bottlenecks in our businesses and see what perspectives and solutions the group could bring.
One of the gentlemen was a CFO for small businesses—not an accountant, a professional Chief Financial Officer. He asked those of us who had an accountant what we used them for. The common answer was “taxes.” Small business people tend to do their own books (poorly) then hand spreadsheets off to their accountant come tax time. I commented that even though I had worked in general ledger accounting, I hated doing my books and I let them slide for as long as I can before I update them. Others nodded, agreeing. Bookkeeping is one of the first tasks that small business people and entrepreneurs choose to outsource.
And then, in a move that truly was unusual for me, I started ranting. (OK, maybe not so unusual.) I went off on a tirade of why I hated to do my books, even though they aren’t hard to keep, all the worries and insecurities, and frankly, I don’t know what, but he got about 11 minutes of me on tape. (I was on a roll.) He later commented that it was one of the most valuable pieces of information he came away with. Why?
I articulated the pain points of his exact target market. I listed off all the things I hated and why in the words that an entrepreneur or small business person would use. He can take that language and weave it into his marketing – ads, blog posts, email nurture sequences, a book… The possibilities may not be endless, but they sure are plentiful. My rant gave him marketing gold.
YOU MUST SPEAK TO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE IN WORDS THAT RESONATE WITH THEM.
It’s not enough to know your prospects’ pain points. You need to be able to articulate it back to them in their own language, in words they themselves would use. And to do that, you need to talk to them. (What a concept.)
It Ain’t Shakespeare
You don’t need to be a fantastic writer, but you do need to know how to speak to your people. Decades ago, when I first moved to Florida, I worked for an insurance broker. He had written an ad to recruit insurance agents and his wife brought it to me.
“Dick didn’t go to college. Can you check this and fix it? He doesn’t write well.”
I read the ad. It was beautiful. If I were an insurance agent looking for a broker (and even if I wasn’t and saw the ad), I would have given him a call. He knew what they wanted out of a broker. He hit all the hot buttons that insurance agents have—high commissions, easy paperwork, vetted marketing materials and who knows what else—all in words that agents use every day. Was his grammar absolutely correct? No, but there was nothing glaringly wrong.
Was it poetry? On par with Hemingway?
It was an ad. Full page, but still an ad.
But speaking to your prospects in their own language carries through for blog posts, emails, videos, and yes, books.
“But,” you may say, “I thought we weren’t supposed to use jargon!”
It depends on who you’re writing for. If you are writing to industry-specific professionals, feel free to geek out. But if you’re writing to an audience that is more general or that is new to the field, then you want to use jargon sparingly, and define it as you go. (That goes for acronyms, too.)
How Do You Discover Your Clients’ Language?
Talk to them. Ask them. Reach out and TALK to them. (Gasp.) Online surveys won’t get you the words you need. You have to TALK to them which means a real live conversation. Work on creating a short set of questions designed to uncover their pain points and listen to (or better yet, record) their answers. Take a few clients out for drinks. Talk over what’s going on in their business in a casual setting, when they’re relaxed. Do male and female clients have different language for the same problem? Do 30-somethings describe a pain point differently than a 50-something? Do managers talk about a problem one way and workers call it something else? If so, which group are you talking to in your materials? Use their words.
In order to speak your clients’ language, you must first be clear in your communication – strange grammar and inscrutable spelling will be a fatal obstacle to reaching the people you want to reach. But then you must go beyond proper English and use the actual words your clients use.
When you speak your clients’ language, they feel that you understand them and their problems and are qualified to provide the solution. Learn to listen to the words your clients’ speak and use them in all your communications with them. The right words will attract your ideal clients.