Connecting is about your audience, not about you

The continued explosion of social media is a clear reminder of just how badly we humans want to connect with each other. Unfortunately, too many companies completely ignore that reality when they try to communicate with customers and prospects.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re using social media posts, an email, or a website – they do the same thing. They talk about themselves and what makes them so great.

 “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in emails and websites? Aren’t they about promoting yourself?” They can be … but they’ll be a lot more effective if you flip them around and make them all about your audience.

It all comes back to human nature. When you feel like you’re doing business with a faceless organization, you feel unimportant, and your reaction will likely reflect a lack of trust. But when you sense you’re working with an individual, your trust in the organization increases.

For example, you may get frustrated at a form email from your bank, but the same information delivered across the counter by a teller won’t upset you nearly as much. Or, when you call a company’s 800 number and a friendly voice named Susan answers, you find yourself addressing her by name. You’re looking for a personal connection to help you, and she just became the company’s face.

Keeping that in mind will help you identify with the people who are reading your websites, emails, or social posts. If you reach out at a personal level, the reader will be far more likely to respond favorably.

How do you make that happen when you’re creating messages? The easiest way is to envision just one person. Maybe it’s a prospect. Maybe it’s a customer. Or maybe it’s your golf buddy. Then write what you want to convey as though you’re explaining it to that person, and keep the tone conversational.

Focus on the individual instead of the big picture, and keep messages positive. Saying “in this economy, companies throughout Indiana are slashing budgets” is far less inviting and communicative than “in this economy, your company is looking for ways to make every dollar work harder.” Both statements are true, but the second is far more meaningful to the reader.

Suppose your goal is selling left-handed widgets. You could take the traditional approach of saying something like “our high-quality widgets have slip-resistant grips with a built-in gizmo holder.” But what happens when you take more of a one-on-one approach? “It’s tough when a widget slips out of your hand and you wreck a costly gizmo. That’s why you’ll appreciate the slip-resistant grips on our widgets and the way they keep your gizmos secure.” See the difference? The second presents you as someone who understands the challenges your reader faces.

Another way to make your messages more personal is to read through them and count the number of times your company’s name is mentioned or you use the words “we” and “our.” Compare that to the number of times you use “you.”

You may be afraid to do that because your seventh-grade English teacher told you that using “you” when you write is a bad, bad thing. And it is when you’re writing a second-semester essay on The Mayor of Casterbridge. But when you’re writing persuasive copy for an ad, website, brochure or email, the rules of the academic world don’t matter. Your copy should be friendly and conversational, not stuffy and formal.

Instead of pontificating from on high about the greatness of your organization and what it offers, get next to your reader and use a one-on-one approach that focuses on how they will benefit from working with you. Do that, and you’ll make the connections that count.