Are you singing from the same hymn sheet (or Christmas carol book) as your customers?

If your messages are going unanswered, the chances are that you’re not. Never fear – I’m here to help.

A festive faux-pas

Let me start with a little anecdote.

Since Lockdown 2.0 lifted, I’ve been making an effort to support the independent shops and businesses near me. Walking into one shop earlier this week, I overheard the manager telling a colleague about a range of Christmas cards that had been withdrawn from sale. It turns out that the cards, which featured festive greetings in multiple languages, also featured a number of spelling mistakes. They had stopped selling the cards in case they caused offence to any native speakers of the misspelt languages.

I’m not bilingual or multilingual, and so I probably wouldn’t have noticed the spelling mistakes in other languages, but I would have noticed if ‘Merry Christmas’ was spelt incorrectly. That’s because, as an English-speaker, the words written in English are there for my benefit.

If you don’t speak the same language as your customers, supporters or clients, there are difficult times ahead. The wrong words can miss their target altogether, cause misunderstandings or, worse still, cause offence. If you want your audience to listen and respond positively to you and your business, you need to be speaking the same language.

Learn the lingo

Different words mean different things to different people, and words that can make perfect sense to one person can mean nothing at all to someone else.

Language barriers exist everywhere, even when you are speaking the same native language. Industry jargon, regional dialects, slang, accents and phrasing can all affect whether or not your message is received and understood. If you’ve ever struggled to understand someone with a completely different accent to your own – even though the words they are using are familiar to you – you’ll know what I mean.

Understanding your audience, and using the same version of the language that they do, is crucial. Otherwise, it’s just not going to work.

Show that you understand

By putting yourself in the shoes of your customers, you can begin to understand what is important to them, and what they are looking for from your products and services.

An easy way of doing this is to look at your customers’ ‘pain’ and ‘gain’ points.

Let’s say you run a business selling coats. One of your customers may have learnt the hard way that their existing coat isn’t waterproof, and so is looking to you to provide them with a solution that will keep them dry on wet days – your waterproof coat is addressing their ‘pain’ of getting soaked through in the rain.

Another customer may have a perfectly serviceable waterproof coat, but has seen that you sell a waterproof coat in their favourite colour that has a detachable lining to make it adaptable for both warmer and cooler weather. In this case, your coat is giving the customer additional benefits, meaning that they ‘gain’ by purchasing it.

Understanding and communicating the ‘why’ of your customers’ purchases as well as the ‘what’ puts you in a strong position to get your message heard. If your customers value staying dry, being colourful and being neither too hot not too cold, then make sure you tell them that your coat can provide all of those things.

Message received and understood

To sum up, there are two things you need to do to get your message heard and understood:

  1. Use the language of your customers, so that they can easily understand you;
  2. Show that you understand what they are looking for, and why.

By communicating the right things to your audience, using the right words, you are on to a winner.

Happy communicating!