Yes … if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Attributed to German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, this advisory rings true in many situations — not just in science and philosophy, but also in marketing and communications. Simplicity is a powerful sales tool, because typically we have only seconds to connect with and engage a potential customer. The simpler the message, the more quickly we can “land” our message and move our target audience to act. So, how do we do that?
Understand first. Write second.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is. Most often, though, when planning your message, you have to work to get there. Research. Read. Ask questions — lots of them. What does it do? How does it do it? What advantages does it offer? What difference does it make? Why is it tastier, more profitable, faster — and why do I need it? Simply speaking, before you sell it, you have to “get it.”
That goes for services, too. Financial institutions, for example, are often challenged by messages with multiple layers. A client may need to let customers know about a change to their credit card’s interest rate, for example — in our sample case, a lower rate, which is always welcome news.
Now let’s think about that.
That seems easy enough — and good news offers an opportunity to enhance and grow existing customer relationships. But what if the monthly due date is also changing, which is potentially inconvenient, and the message requires considerable not-so-customer-friendly legal jargon from the Credit Card Act?
To begin, let’s …
- Greet the customer with good news, then …
- Segue into the upcoming change in the billing date, and then
- Explain simply the “1,2,3” of the steps necessary to prepare for that change.
To make the call-to-action stand out and our message easy to digest, we’ll set off this information to be appreciated at a glance — bolding important words, dates and deadlines and bulleting the steps to be taken.
Our goal: to help ensure a positive customer experience by crafting a simple message that clearly encourages customers to take the appropriate action. In this case, if the necessary action is missed, a late payment fee may result. That’s never a good experience, especially if the customer believes the payment was made on time, as always. Simple and clear communications protect and enhance the customer experience — decreasing calls to the call center, discouraging negative comments in the branch or on social media, and most importantly, setting the stage for growing the value of the customer relationship.
Two can be simpler than one.
Sometimes our clients have complex messages — communications requiring multiple calls-to-action — that must go out in a single package. This presents an added challenge. We understand that when the message is received, the recipients — our client’s customers — will skim through the document and speed-read the content. We all do that. So, whenever possible, we’ll recommend narrowing the focus to one overall message with one call-to-action — perhaps separating lengthy supporting details into a bulleted, easy-to-read insert.
When complex messages with multiple calls-to-action cannot be avoided, we work to ensure your reader is not overwhelmed and, as a result, important information missed. We might advise using more than one method of communication — possibly two different letters, or a letter and a follow-up postcard or email. Breaking up a larger serving of information into smaller bites makes the message easier to digest and any necessary action readily apparent.
When you can’t avoid it — simply talk about it.
So, what about all that required legal language you can’t get around? The change-in-terms notices? The privacy mailings? The systems or platform conversion letters and other required notifications? Our advice: embrace your inner legal advisor. Consider the intent of the legally required language and add some customer-friendly explanation around it in plain English. For example…
Good news — beginning November 2015, you’ll have a lower interest rate on your credit card account. You’ll want to read about that on page 1 in the following Change in Terms document. It’s important that you review the entire document, and when you do, be sure to note your new payment due date in section 3B and the increase in our late payment fee detailed in Section 6.
Bottom line: Make a complicated message simpler for your customers. You’ll be helping to protect your customer’s experience and open the door to improved and more valuable customer relationships.