We’ve all heard it…

”The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side!”

When Scarecrow from the “Wizard of Oz” gets his brains, he says this line with great confidence. While it’s true that confidence gets you pretty far, it doesn’t always provide message clarity. (Regretfully, neither does bad math.)


The expert card just isn’t enough

I’ve learned a lot from working with subject matter experts. One colleague in particular was a walking encyclopedia and poured out a constant stream of industry-specific information as easily as breathing (often at an alarming word-per-minute rate). I learned a great deal from him, in the terrifying way people learn foreign languages through sudden and total immersion.

I noticed, however, he never varied his delivery. With clients, he spoke enthusiastically at a high technical level, and they were lost in the weeds almost immediately. Yes – he was speaking to other smart people, but they weren’t smart in the same way; they needed the C-level brief. Often, what they got tended to be more of a lecture (albeit an enthusiastic one).

This SME had the best intentions, but didn’t ever realize that the same information needs to be packaged in a way in which an audience can receive it. You wouldn’t talk about triangles (isosceles or right) with a young child the same way you would with a math professor (or a scarecrow).

Determine the goal of your communication

Luckily for all the SMEs in the world, there are professional ‘translators’ who can deliver messages in a more compatible way. However, there is a method to the madness. Aside from the occasional savant, most people acquire good communication skills with preparation and effort. For marketing and sales, this begins with problem solving.

Research first

When communicating for marketing, your research focus needs to start with understanding your target audience.

– Who are they?
– What do they know?
– What is their particular ‘pain’?
– How can you alleviate it?

You must understand your prospects and their motivations before you can communicate how your widget will resolve their specific issues.

They have questions; give them answers

People offering products and services tend love their products and services, and never tire of listing their numerous wonderful features. Everyone’s baby is beautiful, you know?

Your prospect, however, is more interested in the solution to a problem. What can this product/service actually do for me? Why is it better for me?

Oblivious CommunicatorExtols the bells and whistles of an amazing software program
Savvy Communicator: Woos by offering to deliver increased user compliance

Not just impressive – also insightful

It all starts with why they are searching in the first place. Do they want to increase business? Show (don’t tell) them how your widget will help. Paint a picture of what that looks like. When you start your task of communicating with the ‘why’ in mind, you’ll find it easier to speak with relevance.

Jargon-filled content may sound awfully smart, but any farmer will tell you – they want the crows out of their cornfields, not the square root of your isosceles scarecrow.