By Stephen Bean | Feb 17, 2012
Words are extremely powerful in the world of marketing. In fact, I’d argue that nothing is more important.
Every word you choose for your advertising will either help you or hurt you. Not many words are neutral in their effect on customers and potential customers. The misuse or improper use of language can cost you plenty. So, the more you know about the effective use of language the better marketer you’ll be.
Everyone interprets language differently. It depends upon many variables not limited to but including such things as the recipient’s age, intelligence, language skills, gender, and cultural and experiential background, as well as the language he or she speaks. Therefore, as a coin laundry owner, I suggest you be mighty careful as to your choice of the words and phrases you utilize so that what you hope to be a positive marketing effort doesn’t turn around and bite you.
Good marketers reassure people. They make the recipient feel valued and comfortable. They don’t make them feel scared, anxious, confused or uncomfortable. Yet, I have noticed many marketers (self-service laundry owners and others) who are guilty of using ineffective language.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you understand the meaning and intent of the language you use that the reader or listener always will. Often, they won’t – especially if it’s a recorded message (including radio and television commercials) or a printed advertisement.
Did you know that the words you use are direct, overt projections of your inner thoughts and feelings, and are a measure of what you are about? They are.
Have you ever heard people begin a sentence with the phrase “to tell you the truth” or “to be perfectly honest with you?” If they feel the need to use such phrases, it’s often a valid tipoff that they are not always honest; otherwise, the phrase would not be necessary. Your words communicate, but they also disclose you. Savvy marketers know this. Amateurs don’t.
Marketing communication is a direct reflection of your attitude. And your attitude is displayed by your choice of language. Humorously, marketing also can be defined as the study of feet. If they like what you have – and have to say – they will walk in to your laundry. If not, they will walk out. Or they may not walk in at all. So, as you can see, it all boils down to the study of feet.
One of my pet peeves is the signage in laundries near the washers that describes the machines’ capacities. I often see signs that say, for example, “holds up to 40 pounds” or “holds up to 80 pounds.” The last time I checked, most people don’t weigh their clothes. So, in these instances, the laundry owner is providing a feature, not a benefit. Therefore, those signs should read “holds up to four loads” or “holds up to eight loads.”
After all, people who go to the hardware store to buy a quarter-inch drill bit don’t really want the drill bit; they want a quarter-inch hole. Essentially, it’s the benefits – not the features – that must be clearly communicated in your advertising, although sometimes it’s wise to use a combination of both.
As is my nature, I like to collect things. And I’m a long-time collector of instances of ineffective communication within the framework of marketing. As such, I thought I’d provide you with some of my all-time favorites – to heighten your sensitivity to the subject and hopefully help you focus on how to communicate within and about your business more effectively. Perhaps you’ve had these very same experiences.
Calling a doctor’s office for an appointment: When I call a doctor’s office for an appointment for the first time, the first thing they typically say is, “What type of insurance do you have?” They rarely, if ever, ask how I am feeling or what my ailment may be. In so doing, the message they convey to me is that it’s all about the money and how they can assure they will be paid. This turns me off from the get-go. Most doctors should read a marketing book or two.
And, speaking of doctors: When I arrive for my visit and the doctor enters the examining room, he or she will introduce himself or herself as “Dr. Whomever,” yet will simply call me by my first name. I find this irritating and disrespectful. My attitude toward the doctor is shaped during that moment. I’ve always found it amusing that, if you are visiting a doctor, you are a “patient.” If you’re visiting a lawyer, you are a “client.” Wrong. In both cases, you’re a “customer.” Nothing more and nothing less – and you should be regarded as such.
Irritating voicemail messages: Often, when calling a company to make a purchase or inquire about products and services, the call will go directly to voice mail – and the message will often end with the phrase, “We will get back to you at our earliest convenience.” Huh? What about my earliest convenience. I’m the customer. It should say, “We will get back to you promptly,” rather than conveying the message that they will call me back only when it’s convenient for them. That sends an arrogant, self-entitled message.
Putting me on hold: I can’t even count the number of times I’ve called a company, law firm or real estate office, asking for a specific individual – and, as soon as I mention the name of the person I want to speak with, I’m immediately slammed on hold. How about asking my permission to do so? “Do you mind if I place you on hold while I locate Mr. So-And-So” is a pretty good way to go. When I am instantly placed on hold, it automatically shapes my attitude toward the person I’m trying to reach and the company I’m calling. Like Rodney Dangerfield… no respect.
The “no problem” response: How many times have you requested something of someone you buy from and the response is simply, “No problem?” I have a problem with the phrase “no problem.” It implies to me that essentially my request is a problem or that they view their job as a problem, otherwise why would they use such a phrase. It discloses them. The response should be: “I will be happy to help you,” or “That’s part of our service.”
The “I’m working on it” response: Let’s say I call an individual who is supposed to provide me with information on a particular subject, and when I inquire as to the status, the response is: “I’m working on it.” I have no idea what that means, so I am then forced to define it for the individual and, in essence, do their job for them. Now, let’s assume someone calls your laundry and asks how their drop-off order is coming along, and you or your attendant respond with, “We’re working on it.” Get the point? It’s a non-answer.
The “due to heavy call volume” message: I’m sure you’ve had this experience. This scenario basically says, “We don’t value your call enough to actually answer it, so call back later.” Talk about a sense of entitlement. I have actually called these companies back when they were closed and received the same recorded message. Here’s my message to them: Hire more people to answer your phone – or lose my business.
Well, there you have it. The point is that the language you use in dealing with customers is crucial to how they perceive and react to you. Even calling some people by their first names can be offensive in many cultures.
Language can elicit strong emotional responses from many people, and some will act on these feelings when making buying decisions. So, why not be careful to use language that will be viewed only as positive by the recipient?
It’s not that difficult. And not doing so can – and likely will – severely limit your business success.