Get Off The Elevator

Elevator-OutOfOrderBW

The elevator speech is a great concept; a concise yet compelling description of your business that you’re ready to deliver whenever the opportunity presents itself.

For many, though, the elevator speech is little more than a commercial; a rapid-fire list of products or services, and the offering of a business card that will soon be at the bottom of a recycle bin.

But what if we rethink the elevator speech mentality?  What if, instead of smothering a captive audience, we shared something that captivated them?  What if instead of trying to say everything about our product, we shared something about our purpose?  What if, instead of having to offer our card, we shared a message that moved people to ask for one?

Thanks to modern technology, it’s never been easier to be heard, and never been harder to be listened to.  And nobody’s going to be interested in what you have to sell if they’re not interested in what you have to say.  Stop trying to convince and start trying to connect.  Get off the elevator, and step up to a message that engages listeners and moves them to the only response that matters, “Tell me more.”

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Messaging Secret #15: spell-check doesn’t know write from wrong

I remember discovering spell-check…a seemingly magical function of the fancy new typing program on the newfangled computer.  I thought to myself, “It’s like an English teacher in the computer!”  Turns out, it’s not.  Because while spell-check may indicate when you’ve typed the wrong spelling, it will not indicate when you’ve typed the wrong word.

Imagine you’re inviting people to read your online journal.  You type an email that reads, “Check out my clog!”  No misspellings there.  Send it!  Sadly, outside of the plumbing and wooden-shoe markets, your message will generate little more than confusion.

It’s not just missed keystrokes, though.  I recently read a high school newsletter that dedicated an entire page to the achievements of students in a marketing-club competition.  The kids apparently focused on preparing baked-goods, turning things over, and pushing things on wheels, as there were over 30 references to various forms of “roll play.”

It’s not just a student issue either.  I recently received an email in which a client agreed with me by typing, “Me to.”  And there was the client who confirmed their open mindedness by saying they were not “apposed to the suggestion.”  Neither of these would cause a spell-checker to react.  Both could, however, cause a reader to ask, “Is this really someone I want to work with?”

Remember, spell-check is a proofreading tool, not a proofreading replacement.  Whatever your business, there are no shortcuts to great messaging…only fast tracks to disastrous results.

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Don’t dumb it down, clear it up!

So often, our efforts to outshine the competition lead to overselling ourselves. We try to position ourselves as experts in our field, and confirm that position by using complex language and industry-specific terms. We try to impress rather than inform, and we end up saying something that’s confusing instead of compelling.

Clients often tell me they don’t want to “dumb down” their message. “If people don’t understand our product, they’re not our target customer anyway!”  Well, I don’t know how a refrigerator works. But I have one. And I didn’t buy it from a scientist who gave me a lesson in thermodynamics or gas compression & expansion. I bought it from a person who introduced me to a reliable machine designed to keep stuff cold.

Simplicity is not a sign of stupidity. It’s a path to clarity that helps you develop a message that goes beyond a list of what you sell, to an illustration of what you offer. And only when you have something interesting to offer, will listeners be interested in knowing more.

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