Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don't Follow Leaders

Looking back, you can usually find the moment of the birth of a new era, whereas, when it happened, it was one day hooked on to the tail of another.
― John Steinbeck

To many observers, Charlottesville feels like the birth of a new era.

But we've known for years―
since 1965, to be exact―don't follow leaders.

That was the year credulity died, the year we entered 
The Age of Suspicion.

Since then, we've experienced The Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Enron, Iraqi WMDs, subprime mortgages, Madoff and, now, Trump.

It's no wonder customers―no matter their ages and demographics―are bred-in-the-bone non-believers.

Yes, you hope they won't deflect your message; but hope's not a strategy.

If they're not already of your tribe, customers discredit your message before they’ve even taken it in.

To capture their attention, you must adjust for mistrust. You must:
  • Harmonize your message with customers’ notions of “truth;”

  • Speak authentically; and

  • Achieve artless clarity.
To achieve those three things, you must:
  • Get out of the office and talk to customers. Lots of them. Large ones. Small ones. Happy ones. Not-so-happy ones. And don't stop until you have a firm grasp of the "scene" they’ve painted inside their heads. For better or worse, that's the world they inhabit, and the only one they know.

  • Revise the premise of your message to conform to the customers' worldview. When you next tell your story, begin with their "truth." And when you speak, at all costs resist the temptation to challenge that worldview. Customers will dignify your message with a moment of their attention only if your message meshes with their notions of who’s sincere, honest and caring.

  • Tell stories. Customers spot disingenuous organizations a mile away. Your words trigger their BS detectors—even if you’re squeaky clean. They no longer tolerate the expert opinion, the reasoned argument, the manufacturer’s warranty, the “act now” deadline, or the product-claim based on the avoidance of pain. So skip the superlatives, ambiguities, unsupported claims, advertising clich├ęs, jargon, legalisms, fine print, and fear-based sales-talk. Just tell stories. "Once upon a time..."

  • Speak as tersely as possible. If you keep it simple, you’re trustworthy; if you don’t, you’re not. Don't say, "Membership in the association provides professionals the opportunity to pre-register for our annual conference at the member-only rate of $495 instead of the non-member rate of $595.” Say, "Membership saves you $100 on our annual conference.”

  • Include context, to assure you’re understood. Don't say, "We serve more than 100,000 dentists.” Say, "We serve more than 100,000 dentists, two-thirds of all dentists practicing in the US today.”

  • Omit unimportant facts. Don't say, "With more than 300 programmable features, the MLX is a workhorse that directly replaces our SP-88 series.” Say, "The MLX is a powerful new workhorse, with more than 300 programmable features.”

  • Use plain, crisp words and lively figures of speech. Don't say, "Our exhibition is the most comprehensive and efficient way to see the industry’s latest offerings.” Say, "A day at our show gives you a year’s worth of trends, tips and technologies.”

  • Minimize tech- and corporate-speak. Don't say, "Our face-to-face and e-learning opportunities will provide leading-edge techniques to expand your skill set through world-class experts." Say, "Learn the latest techniques from experts in our seminars and Webinars.”

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