According to author Joe McCormack, we're all drowning. Awash in a sea of information and flooded by constant interruptions, the average consumer doesn't have the time or patience to try and wade through complex or confusing messages. And that's a big problem if you're a small business owner.
How can you cut through the overwhelming noise to make an impact with your customers?
Fortunately, there's a life raft called brevity and McCormack has perfected it. In his book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, McCormack argues that we can all become more effective communicators with the proper training.
Here are five tips McCormack has for small business owners and entrepreneurs to get to the point when it matters most.
1) Get to Why, Before How
“If you haven't defined your purpose, then you haven't provided any real reason to use your services."
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is focusing on how they provide value, rather than why they exist. The former is important, but the latter is essential. Consider the issue from a customer's perspective. If they don't know why you exist, why should they care about the services you offer?
Answering the why is how you test the validity of your business. Are you solving a problem for your customers? If so, what problem? Once this is defined, then you can begin to communicate how you are different.
2) Don't Over Explain
“You have to trim the fat and focus on the essentials."
Take a good hard look at the “About" section on your website. Is everything you're communicating absolutely essential? The odds are good that there are at least a few superfluous details you could remove without hurting the overall impact of your message.
One of the keys to being a lean communicator is understanding the difference between primary and secondary details. Primary details are the pillars of your brand. These are the key things that should shine through in every communication. Secondary details exist merely to add context. The number of employees you have or the year you were founded may seem important, but are they truly memorable? If not, they're secondary details and should only be used when time allows.
3) Prepare What You're Going to Say
“Don't just wing it."
Part of becoming a successful small business owner is mastering the art of improvisation. It's an unfortunate, but inevitable side effect of being the CEO, COO, CMO and CFO all in one. But when it comes to communication, it's best to have a script and stick to it.
The reason is simple. When you are clear and consistent, you not only improve the chances that your message will be heard, but also that it will be understood.
So how do you do it? The key is to use narrative storytelling techniques. First, focus on why you exist. What problem do you solve? Then, focus on how you solve the problem: What makes your business unique? Finally, focus on the payoff: What benefit do your customers get from using your services?
When you answer these questions in this particular order, you turn your message into a story that's clear, relatable and memorable.
4) Have a Point of View
“You have to stand for something."
In addition to clearly defining why you exist, McCormack argues that you must have a point of view that is distinct and memorable. Unless you're truly revolutionary, the odds are good that you're seeking to solve the same problem as many other businesses. How you approach this problem is where you can stand out from your competitors.
5) Tell, Don't Sell
“People don't want to be sold, persuaded or 'closed' and will tune you out if you try."
Storytelling is in our DNA – literally. Researchers have proven that a compelling story is the most persuasive way to make a lasting impression in a customer's mind, so it's no wonder that McCormack recommends using storytelling in your communications.
Rather than trying to sell what makes you special, tell a story about how you solved a customer's problem. Or better yet, have your customer tell the story for you. Not only are stories more entertaining, they're also more memorable, which means they will have a greater impact than almost any other form of communication. You can also tell stories that will resonate with your customers through content on your blog or social platforms.
McCormack likes to say that “brevity isn't a nicety, it's a necessity." For the average small business owner, this is particularly true. Fortunately, with a bit of good old-fashioned practice and discipline, these techniques can help ensure that your message cuts through the static with a clear HD signal.