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Avoiding Customer Information Overload

Posted by Seth Elliott On January - 21 - 2010

Information OverloadHave you ever strolled down the oral health section of a big box retailer? Imagine those circumstance and you’ve got a bird’s eye view of what information overload feels like as a customer. I experienced this yesterday – an entire aisle of colorful boxes with nuanced choices, “on sale” and “save now” tickets at random intervals, the occasional coupon stuck to a box. If I didn’t have a great deal of intestinal fortitude, the whole experience would have been quite exhausting. I think you get the idea.

That activity was but a few short moments of my life. Unfortunately, for many of us, that experience is replicated throughout our day. From the moment we arise until the time we lay down our heads, we’re subjected to a never ending stream of information bombarding us from every direction we turn. Many find this circumstance overwhelming, and simply tune out.

What this really means, is it’s likely that your marketing messages are simply submerged amidst the daily informational clutter. Whether you’re selling toothpaste or online coaching services, it’s critical to address this problem in order to continue to build your brand and acquire new customers. Here are a few tips for cutting through the daily white noise and reaching your prospective customers.

Where’s the Map?

As always, you’ve got to know where you’re going before you start out. So don’t just sit down and spew forth in the hopes that you’ll end up with a useful piece of marketing content. Ask yourself key questions and design your piece in advance of writing a word. What is the point you want to make? What’s the emotional and tonal feel you’re going for? What call to action do you wish to emphasize? Build your marketing materials from the ground up in an outline form before you start to write the first word.

Do You Understand?

If your prospect is confused or bewildered, you’re unlikely to persuade her to action. Your first objective in communicating with customers and prospects is to promote understanding. Focus on clarifying and simplifying your message. Be sure it is easy to read, hear or watch. Ensure that the message is transparent – you want the customer to focus clearly on the benefits you are communicating and respond to your call to action.

Up or Down?

Determine your core idea or theme and build the message around that. Be cautious about adding to many “subplots” – additional messages that are tangential to your core communication. You don’t want to distract a customer by forcing too many messages at one time. Above all, avoid contradictory or interfering messages. Contradictions equal confusion in the mind of a prospect. Start with your big idea and build a structure that reinforces it. Stay on message throughout your communication.

Why Do I Care?

You have but a few seconds to capture the initial attention of your customer. As such, you’ve got answer the “Why” question immediately – as in why should the customer care about what you have to say. Identify a clear problem and create meaningful copy. After 50+ years of hard core advertising messages, empty hype is ignored and soon forgotten by customers. Communication of actual needs and solutions is recalled and acted upon. Focus on tangible results. If this presents difficulty, re-examine whether you have something meaningful to impart. Sometimes a shift in perspective is needed to bring the core elements to the forefront.

In a related fashion, be sure to emphasize substantive benefits. Presenting a message filled with buzz words, jargon or clichés is unlikely to gain traction. Focus on the specific. Stock phrases like “Low prices” “unmatched customer service” “unique product” etc. will not resonate with a customer. This type of message will simply be lost in the noise. Instead, present tangible benefits that prove particularly meaningful to, and valued by, your customer.

Familiarity Breeds Comfort

We are all creatures of habit and environment, and you can take advantage of that in your efforts to spread your message. Link information that you provide with ideas that are familiar to your customer. Hollywood has done this for years in their elevator pitches – “It’s Harry Potter meets Pride and Prejudice.” This works because the verbal shorthand immediately helps peg an image for the development executive hearing the pitch. You can take the same approach. Use common images or analogies to connect your message to processes regularly encountered and viscerally understood by your customers.

Emotional Environments

Customers are more likely to remember messages when they are linked with intense feelings. You should not hesitate to inject emotional content into your communications. Personifying problems and solutions is likely to impact your prospects’ awareness far more than presenting dry facts and statistics. Do your best to tell stories, with substantive emotional tags, that illustrate your core theme and idea.

What’s So Funny?

Beware of humor. While comedic messages can stand out and be quite valuable when successfully executed, you also run the risk of boring or even alienating your customers if you’re not careful. It’s difficult to pull off comedic writing or broadcasting in a marketing setting. If you aren’t absolutely certain of your audience, the risk may be too great. If you do elect to juice up your marketing with some humor, remember that the focus is not on being funny. Any humor should be an adjunct to your theme – stay on your core message and build humorous elements in as support.

Isn’t that Clever?

In a similar fashion, be careful not to be too clever or cute. Witty puns and wordplays may serve to demonstrate your intellectual acumen, but they can compromise any attempts too communicate clearly with a prospect. By the way, this isn’t limited to verbiage. Often the culprits in this area are graphics, images or effects that have a similar result. Try not to get to clever or trendy with images. There’s a dual risk: you turn off prospects because it’s “too smart for its own good” or the visual play interferes with communicating the core message.

Would You Like a Pony?

Everyone likes to be rewarded for good behavior. Human beings tend to think “What’s in it for me?” What can you do to foster a feeling of reward for paying attention to your message? Of course, offer the benefit of useful information. Go above and beyond with any incentives you can think of – tangible or within the message itself – to encourage customers to pay attention to your message. Remember, you’re usually approaching prospects on an “unsolicited” basis, so you must give them a strong reason to pay attention to your communication amongst the daily noise.

In the end, you should imagine yourself as that customer in the oral health aisle. What will make you pay attention to a product and make that choice? Be certain you know what you’re selling. Keep your message focused and simple to understand. Stay on message and avoid the temptation to be too clever or amusing. Do tie familiar situations and emotional content to your message and offer rewards to your customer for paying attention.

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About the Author

I have spent the last 15 years advising entrepreneurs on starting and growing their businesses, as well as assisting in financing those growth efforts. I have also been an entrepreneur on several occasions myself. By writing this blog, I hope to provide actionable advice on how to achieve your goals and become more successful.

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