Imagine for a moment that someone we will call, “Peter” is sitting down with a coffee and having a conversation with “Paul.” Peter and is displeased by something Paul has said. But Paul feels that he didn’t say anything offensive. Peter replies, “It’s not what you said… it’s how you said it.”
If you are married or have been in a relationship, you may be familiar with this common scenario.
Succeeding in business is remarkably similar. Good communication comes down to using language that is clear and unambiguous. These have become known as the words that work.
We must always remember that sometimes what we say, is not what people hear.
Communication hinges on the words you use. During the 1960s, Albert Mehrabian studied conversations, and developed a formulaic breakdown for how people communicate in person.
Mehrabian’s theory states that 7% of our message is conveyed through the actual words we use. While 35% is carried through the tone in which we say those words. Yet the greatest impact on our message, at approximately 55% of the meaning, is derived from non-verbal body language.
You can find the comprehensive explanation of his communication attributions here.
The communication insights revealed through Mehrabian’s model provide the foundation for important concepts in business marketing and communication.
As business owners, you likely can’t speak face-to-face with all of your current and potential customers; in terms of practicality, it is not a scalable business practice that could accommodate future growth.
Business owners will sometimes employ marketing efforts too broadly
In doing so they fail to accommodate the communication concepts identified through Mehrabian’s model. Traditionally, the mediums used for marketing were static, which implies the message was communicated through text alone — without the richer qualities of speech and non-verbal language. These static messages were broadcast indiscriminately to the public and were deemed to be interruptive in nature.
Because these messages were relatively untargeted, it was necessary to repeat the identical message over and over again before connecting your content with a buyer that was interested in what you were selling.
Worse still, the traditional process of broadcasting a single message to a large, un-stratified audience was prohibitively expensive.
In contrast, the social media ('mediums') that we use everyday are dynamic and fluid — rather than static. It is now easy to engage and interact with your audience. Naturally, people respond better to being treated with respect and listened to on social media. It is never pleasant when someone simply talks over you, (such as radio and t.v. ads).
In the same way that Mehrabian credited tone and body language with creating a richer exchange of information, online communication allows for a richer feedback loop.
Online communication tools permit detailed information to be freely exchanged almost instantaneously. The result is a dialogue back-and-forth between your customers and business. Your website is a good way to generate sales leads.
Today, marketing is inviting conversations between you and your customers.
It is important to understand if you are communicating effectively. If you are selling widgets, and you know that people should buy your widgets, (because they are better than all the other widgets) then you must communicate this through the ongoing conversation that is constantly happening with your customers.
Think carefully about ‘what you say,’
Always examine your message in every way.
The value your widgets provide, producing more free time, or saving money in the long run are the qualities that matter to most people. The tone that you use becomes the allegorical, ‘how you said it.’
Your branding, website, images, and overall visual presence are your body language. When all the pieces are put together with care it will enable a meaningful and lasting conversation between you and your customers.
It is also important to note that if you just create a brand and visual identity, you still need a message. Content is vitally important, but content is more than just words; it is the holistic package of your combined marketing efforts.
Marketing in the current age is very much like having a one-on-one conversation with your customers. They read about you, ask questions, and listen to your responses. If they like you, then they will walk through your door.
All you have to do is say, “hi” to your customers online.
It may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.