This presentation from Colin Robertson at TED is one of the best demonstrations of concise and effective communication that I’ve ever seen. It has great object lessons that can be applied to Web design and marketing communication in general.
Here are the main takeaways I got from the presentation:
He uses very few words, but the words he does use are the key messages of his presentation. So much of Web and print design would be much more effective with fewer but better chosen words.
It’s out of the ordinary (way out of the ordinary) and creates a unique memorable experience. How long will you remember this presentation? How long would you have remembered it if he would of taken up the three minutes talking?
The nonverbal communication which comprised 99% of the message is “quality” in the sense that it’s professionally orchestrated. The effect would not of been nearly as powerful or long lasting if that level of effort wasn’t put into the production. It’s the cumulative effect of many small details being done correctly. Same applies to Web design, overall quality is achieved by paying attention to many details which result in the cumulative effect of providing credibility to the message.
I think this is a very important point–a significant portion of the content was provided with collaboration from the audience.
I’m currently reading a book from 1938 entitled, “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I was struck by how applicable her observation of business communication still is 70 years later; she writes:
Don’t write like an advertising writer . . . if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better”
Don’t write like an advertising writer…advertising companies hire the very brightest, wittiest young people to write for them. Not one single sentence of it is worth repeating. Why? Because it wasn’t meant. It was all written, not because the writer felt something and then said it (if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better, the more effective), but because he tried to impress and inveigle people, convince them something is very fine about which he himself does not really care… (p 115)
I sense the anxiety many clients have when they put together the content for their Websites . . . they put themselves under some unrealistic expectation that their writing needs to sound “businesslike.” The problem with business sounding content is that it sounds way too much like a billion other Websites, brochures and magazine ads and is tuned out by the reader.
More than any other medium, the modern interactive Webpage is fertile ground for communication that is authentic. Most business owners and executives are typically much better qualified to provide this type of writing than anyone else . . . the most important to effective content writing is authenticity and passion.
This is a real email I just sent to a company today. It struck me, that the challenges I faced as a prospective customer with them are typical shortfalls that companies of all sizes make in their messaging. Read through this letter to see if yours shoes start pinching. Company names and identifying terms have been changed to protect the innocent (me).
My company has been using <a competitor’s software> but are in the process of exploring other alternatives. <Your company> was recommended to me…I’ve been poking around your site and forum for the last half hour but I’m having a hard time finding specific info on what makes <your company> different and better than <your specific competitors>. So far I’ve seen a lot of great features, but everything sounds pretty much the same as the aforementioned competitors.
I’m not suggesting that <your company> is the same, based on the referral I’m optimistic that you are better. I just asking if you can articulate to me the reasons why? Can you have one of your sales people contact me with this info?
I strongly suggest too, for your own marketing benefit, that you make a clear statement on your frontage answering the question “What features-benefits make <your company> totally unique and the best choice.”
You do have a generic value proposition stated that states: “We offer more flexibility, security, help, value, choices, stability, features and support. Get more with <our company>”….and that you’re technical
jargon> with more features than any other application in it’s [sic] class” This entire statement could be easily used by any of your competitors on their website…it would do you great benefit to call out the specific features and their benefits that are unique only to <your company>.
One last suggestion…your site is very feature heavy, I suggest you associate a clear benefit statement with each technical feature you list. The prominent feature button on your front page leads to your features page which lists a lot of technical features including multiple references to your “Hybrid X Core”.
Frankly, none of this means anything to me.
I am technically savvy on this topic so I understand much of what your saying but it really doesn’t mean much to me in terms of why I should go with <your company> … I covet finding out what the unique benefit that such features as the “Hybrid X Core” bring to me.
Please know, I am a legitimate prospect and all the above is intended as constructive advice. I suspect that I am a typical prospect for your product and I’m certain you could improve your sales conversion rate with more specific “why” info prominently displayed.
I’m looking forward to hearing from your sales dept.