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The Email Cliff

1 May

If you’ve had someone skim your email and click delete without reading it all, you’ve experienced this fact firsthand: our readers are only willing to give us a certain amount of attention before moving on.  The more words you write, the harder it is to get people to read them

 Illustrating that statement might look something like this:

Email not

This is close…but not exactly how readership works.

But that’s not really how readership works.  It’s not a linear function, where increasing your blog post or advertising email by a certain number of words means that you’ll lose a predictable number of readers.

How does it work?  Have you ever decided to read or not read an online article based on its page length?  Or received an email at work and condemned it to some buried folder after reading 1/3 of it because you had to scroll for days to see all the text?

At some word count, at some unfortunate sweet spot, our audience decides that our written message is too long to engage with and stops reading.

At this word count or page length, the majority of our audience clicks delete or x’s out the brower window, creating a steep, ugly decline in readership.  I call this steep decline the email cliff:

Ouch...your audience fell off the cliff, but you're the one hurting.

Ouch…your audience fell off the cliff, but you’re the one hurting.

For all of us that want to be read instead of deleted like spam, the email cliff means we should do two things:

1) An extra sentence doesn’t necessarily mean losing a small number of readers.  It might push the majority of your readers over the edge of the email cliff.  That’s why when we’re debating whether we need another bullet point or sentence, we must scrutinize whether that extra bit is really needed.  

2) Different audiences have different cliffs.  Your mom might read pages and pages of an email before she decides to stop reading.  Colleagues will probably jump off the cliff sooner.  And potential customers?  They tumble off the cliff after a paragraph or two (if we’re lucky).  We need to think hard about the audience we’re writing to and craft a message accordingly.

Email Cliff 4

If you think about the cliff, you’ll be a click-through champion.  And more importantly, the important things you have to say will be heard!

Are You Ready?

29 Mar

I ran a focus group yesterday to record product users (in this case 18 year olds) giving our product glowing endorsements.

What I captured on film instead is two of the most opinionated teenagers you’ll ever meet bashing our product.

These outspoken attendees called the product trivial, degrading, insulting.  You can hear the tension in my voice on the recording, the strain of me nodding my head and asking “explain further…” when all I wanted to do was lash back.  They’re wrong and I know it.

But it doesn’t matter what I know. Or what I think.  I seethed for hours after the focus group until I realized how naive I was to expect a love fest of a focus group.  How silly I was to think I could control the feedback they gave me for the camera.

Focus groups attract two types of people: those in it for the money, and those who want to be heard.  The second group is the only group that matters, and they’re often critical.  You’re not going to like everything they say.  The point isn’t to control their feedback.  It’s to have their feedback control what you do.

feedback

Be sure you can answer yes to all of these questions before you run a focus group:

Are you ready to listen?

Are you ready to be criticized and instead of arguing, push your retorts deep down into the pit of your stomach?

Are you ready to make changes?

Feedback is coming.  Are you ready for it?

 

The Story of The…

26 Mar

These mantras were pulled from the website of a well-known company:

  1. We perform comprehensive microbiological testing to ensure that all products meet our high quality standards.
  2. All employees sanitize their gloves and equipment every time they enter our work product areas. Employees leaving these areas for any reason must re-sanitize their gloves/equipment before reentering our facilities.
  3. Air entering our facilities is purified by air filtration systems designed to remove potential airborne contaminants.
  4. Using an independent certified laboratory, we conduct our own internal product audits at all of our facilities to ensure that our standards are never compromised.

Microbial testing.  Air filtration systems.  Independent certified laboratory.  Can you guess which company website these standards are taken from?

Kimberly Clark and its medical equipment?   Dial and antibacterial soap?

Nope.  These are from the Boar’s Head website.  We’re talking about sandwich meat. 

Boar's Head 2

NYC is a city with a deli at every street corner.  Walking the streets this weekend, I had a revelation: nearly every deli advertises its use of Boar’s Head cold cuts in its front window.   And then I had another: I can’t name another company that makes sandwich meats.

Can you?

Maybe Boar’s Head has become a meat monopoly because its high standards means its bologna just tastes better.   

But maybe it’s the Boar’s Head story we’re tasting when we take a bite.  The quality assurances, the rich history on the company website,  the obsession with brand control.

Why is Boar’s Head synonymous with cold cuts?  Because it’s mastered the story of the sandwich.  What’s your story?

My Marketing Haiku

13 Mar

Marketing is a smile

Red-robed impression

That allures, excites, disarms.

But the product talks.

smile

The Little Man That Sits On Your Shoulder

1 Mar

The little man that sits on your shoulder is usually a mischief maker.  He whispers naughty things in your ear and urges you to do no good.

Shoulder Devil

But a different kind of little man is described in The Art of The Start, one who doesn’t tempt you to make trouble, but keeps you on track during your presentations.

When I present, I’m constantly reminding myself that what others get of my presentation is my #1 consideration—that the audience is all that matters.  But when we start talking, it’s VERY easy to lose sight of this.  We begin to ramble, the focus on our audience disappearing.  We say everything we want to say, not just what the audience needs to hear.  Soon, the session is more about us, and less about everyone else in the room.

Here are two guards against this mistake:

  1. Write an e on the back of your hand.
  2. Guy Kawasaki’s little man trick.  When he gives a presentation, Kawasaki imagines that there’s a little man sitting on his shoulder, asking him “So What?” after everything he says.  “How does this help the audience?  Why is it important?  How can they use it?”  If the talking point is important, it’s worth explaining further and making crystal-clear.  If it doesn’t help the audience in some way, cut it.  Simple as that.

Two little tricks, same result: a presentation that’s not only focused on your audience, but moves others to action.  I use both now.  So should you.

The No Name Game.

7 Feb

“How long can you last without mentioning our product?”

That’s the question my sales manager asked me my first week on the job.  He wanted to know this: in a sales call, how long could I have a conversation with a potential customer without mentioning the name of our product?

When the A, B, C’s of selling are “Always be closing,” this game seemed counter-intuitive.  How could I sell anything to anyone without telling him about my wares?

Only with serious suspicions did I at first play the “no naming our product game.”  By the end of my time as a sales rep, I played it religiously.  It was clearly making me highly successful.

Stopwatch

Nearly every book on sales mentions the importance of establishing relationships.  My sales manager had a deeper insight.  He taught me that as soon as you mention the name of your product, the nature of the conversation changes.  What was once a chat about the customer and his or her needs now at some level becomes transactional.  When you name your product, you’re now a salesman trying to make a sale, no matter how aggressive or pushy you are.

My manager begged me to hold off on mentioning my product because he knew that I needed to get to know my customers before becoming a salesman in their eyes.  He knew that as soon as I mentioned my product, I could no longer ask qualifying questions freely.

In your next sales call, should you bring a stop watch and clock how long you can last before turning the conversation to your product?  Maybe or maybe not.  But I beg you to ask yourself this question:

  • Am I ready to change the nature of the conversation by mentioning my product? 

Meet In The Lobby At 7:15

2 Feb

The lobby of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego is 150 yards long.  Asking someone you’ve never met to meet you in the Hyatt lobby when it’s buzzing with people is like playing Where’s Waldo without knowing what Waldo looks like.

hyatt lobby

I asked ten strangers to meet me in the lobby of the hotel at 7:15 before a group dinner.  At 7:35, after scrawling “group dinner” on a dopey paper sign and weaving my way through the lobby, I left with six of the guests in tow.  The other four are probably still in the lobby, asking themselves what kind of jackass would give them these instructions.

When you host an event, be specific as possible in your communication with your guests.  Hosting a group diner?  Tell the group to meet you in front of the concierge desk to the left of the front doors at 7:15.  Not just “in the lobby.”  Running a focus group?  Don’t tell attendees that the session will be held in the Del Mar room.   Make sure they know the session is in the South Tower of the hotel, on the 3rd floor, in the Del Mar Room.

We put too much work into our events to have them fail because we give incomplete instructions.  The more specific you are, the higher likelihood that attendees will show up and that your event will run smoothly.

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