Prior to stepping into a management role last year, I had little experience managing other people. I’ve never taken a management class and I hadn’t done it in the workplace before. Fast forward a year or so later, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Try as I did for a while to learn from the daily goings-on about the office and apply it to my management, I reluctantly accepted Kris’ recommendation to pick up a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman, who’s somewhat famous for his first book, The 5 Love Languages.
The premise is simple: most people speak different languages in the workplace—even if they don’t realize it. What one person appreciates in their feedback is likely not the same thing as what another person wants to hear. Different people want to be acknowledged in different ways. The same premise is true in Love Languages; you and your partner or spouse may think you’re communicating the same language, but chances are, both of you have different wants and needs in every conversation.
With that, I had another revelation: I think the same thing applies to companies publishing content. Even if you think you’re speaking the same language as your customers, ask yourself: is the language you’re speaking truly aligned with your clients’ needs? Here are a few potential languages to gauge your level of success:
- Those who speak strategy, like a CEO, care about the ins and outs of your product or service and want to know how it will impact their business long-term. Many strategic thinkers are decision-makers in an organization and want specific problems to solve specific needs.
When targeting those who speak strategy, don’t be afraid of going in-depth, offering clear examples, and talking about the abstract benefits of your offering. Second only perhaps to researchers, strategic thinkers don’t mind processing lots of information and drawing their own conclusions.
- Research speakers want the dirty details: hard facts, case studies, blogs, and more. Remember, though, researchers probably aren’t primary decision makers. What they are is decision-influencers, even if at a very basic level. These folks will want information that they can give to a decision maker in a clear, concise way.
With researchers, it’s important to be very clear. Unlike strategic thinkers, they probably don’t have the time (or desire) to parse out a ton of information and make their own conclusions. Instead, it’s their job to find information and pass it along. If your content isn’t easy to boil down and then pass on, you’re missing the boat with research speakers.
- People whose primary communication point is function care most about how well a product works. Can you demo your product or service to show it has value? Do you have testimonials from other clients who can attest to how easy you are to work with? What supporting material do you have that talks about how and why your product or service works?
Make sure you can boil down your offering into an easy to understand set of guidelines. If you don’t talk specifically about what you do or how you do it, good luck getting through to a functional thinker.
- Some, like many small business owners and executives, care most about one aspect of your product or service: how it will affect their bottom line. Will it grow their business or save them money? Do you have proof?
White papers, case studies, and quick facts are great for folks whose minds go straight to ROI. You can talk strategy or high-level concepts all you want, but if you don’t tie it back to real business benefits, you’re going to have a hard time winning over anyone whose language is Return on Investment.
- People who ‘speak’ photos vastly prefer infographics and other quickly digestible content to long text descriptions and white papers. While all text won’t be completely lost on them, you’re still taking a chance by not giving them enough visual content.
Those who speak photos probably don’t have a lot of time to digest content otherwise, so giving it to them in as quick to read of a format as possible is important.
Want real evidence that brands don’t often correctly speak the languages of their customers? How about Kitewheel’s study, which found that while 73% of consumers said that loyalty programs should be for brands to show appreciation for their loyal customers, 66% of marketers think that loyalty programs are for consumers to show their commitment to their businesses. That’s a fundamental disconnect, and also a strong sign that marketers aren’t speaking the same language as their customers.
Once you study and understand the language your customers speak, no matter what business you’re in, you’ll be able to develop true empathy and give your customers what they really need. While that’s another big step in the process, it all starts with knowing what your customers want and how they want it.
If you speak English and the person you’re speaking with speaks Japanese, yelling your message louder isn’t going to help them understand. You and your customers may both be speaking English, but chances are they see and understand your product differently than you sell and market it. You wouldn’t solve any other language gap by yelling your message and hoping the other party understands—so why would you do it in your marketing?
Image credit: CC by Manchester Public Library.