Four signs that you might not be communicating effectively
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. In a world with so many platforms for communication, George Bernard Shaw’s insight is truer than ever. We have a myriad of ways of communicating; from the verbal and written in which GBS worked, to the digital and social that came after his time.
This proliferation of communication media makes it even harder to have a message that stands out, and even more important that we clearly explain the value of what we do and how it helps our audience.
So, how do you know if you’re doing a good job and getting your message across to your audience? Here are four signs that you’re not connecting with your audience and that you could be communicating more effectively:
Sign 1 – Blank looks
The oldest communication medium of all – the spoken word – gives you instant, visible and tangible feedback. Every time you have the opportunity to speak about your business, you get to see the faces of your audience and their reaction. It might be someone asking ‘What do you do’, or it might be a more formal short pitch, in a meeting or networking event. In fact it can be anywhere, as my recent experience proved.
Either way, it is a chance to engage. You have a window of opportunity, and no more than 30 seconds to keep that window open or see it shut, probably for good.
If you have a clear verbal pitch, you’ll use those 30 seconds to engage. The sole aim is to keep the window open and to invite further conversation – a ‘that’s interesting’, or a ‘tell me more’ or a ‘how do you do that?’ response.
At a networking event, I asked someone what he did and the first words out of his mouth were ‘Well, it’s a difficult kind of business to explain’. He did go on to try, but he’d pretty much lost me at ‘difficult’. The irony was that his business was a marketing agency! I also remember a meeting from my corporate days where after 30 minutes I still didn’t understand what the other company did, what they wanted from me and how I would benefit. Needless to say, the partnership didn’t proceed.
If your message isn’t clear, and you’re not explaining how you help and add value, you’ll get blank looks or polite smiles, no questions and no further engagement. That’s a sure sign you need to get working on your elevator pitch.
Sign 2 – Low proposal win rate
If your business relies on responding to tenders to win new customers or retain existing ones, your win rate is an indicator of how well you’re communicating the value you offer.
A tender response isn’t just about answering the questions to show you can do the job (everyone responding can do the job!); a winning response is about explaining how you deliver value and why you can do the job better than anyone else.
Value is only value if it is linked to the client’s requirement. A low win rate is often a sign that you’re not linking your strengths to what the customer needs.
Some proposal responses are more like marketing brochures – they focus on the company’s strengths, without referencing what the client needs/wants. You may be the best in the world at what you do, but unless you can show how they help the client achieve their goals, they are strengths, not value.
We recently helped a company to review its past unsuccessful responses, and immediately
spotted that every single paragraph in the executive summary, and 50% of the paragraphs in the response, started with their name or ‘we’. There was no mention of their clients’ requirements and therefore no translation of their strengths into value.
If your win rate is under 50%, and you’re therefore losing more than you’re winning, it’s time to review the content of your proposal responses.
Sign 3 – Low social media engagement rate
Social media allows anyone and everyone to publish their message. But there’s a big difference between sending a message and having that message received. The fact that social media is so easily accessible means there is an overload of content, much of which goes unread, unheard and unwatched.
If you’re sending out a message but not getting engagement from your audience, it means you’re not talking your audience’s language, and not explaining how you help them.
There are several ways of measuring engagement, but a good starting place is Average Engagement Rate, which is the number of actions (likes, shares, comments) as a percentage of your total number of contacts/followers. It is a good indication of how well your content is resonating with your audience and how valuable they find it.
If your engagement rate is low, or if it decreases over time, you have a sign that it’s time to review your message strategy and your content plan.
Sign 4 – Website stickiness
Getting visitors to your website is a goal for most businesses. But getting them there is not enough – you need them to stay and engage. If your message is clear, and is communicating the value of what you offer, your visitors will stay and read/watch what you have to say. They’ll spend some time on your site, and they’ll visit multiple pages. They’ll make a return visit and stay again.
This is known as website stickiness. Stickiness is attracting visitors then retaining their attention, which give you greater opportunity to generate the interest that leads to sales. It only happens if your visitors find value in what is on your site.
Stickiness isn’t the same as SEO – SEO is about getting people to the site in the first place, stickiness is about keeping them there, and may well be based on content that is unrelated to the original search. They come looking for one thing, and stay to watch a video, read a testimonial or because they spot a new blog article. They know your site has up to date content, so they come back to see the latest.
Stickiness is measured in minutes per month – the number of visits and time spent per visit. The opposite of stickiness is a high bounce rate – which means people are finding your site, taking a quick look and then quickly leaving.
If you’ve got a low level of stickiness (or a high bounce rate), it is likely to be a sign that your website content needs a refresh.
Communication is a two-way business, and only takes place when it happens in both directions. By checking the four signs, you can ensure that your communication is genuine, and not just an illusion.