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Are you speaking the same language as your customers?

At a team meeting the other day, an esteemed colleague pointed out that when it comes to communication, it’s not what’s said that’s what’s heard. This is perhaps one of the most important tips about communication and it’s one I try to remind myself of regularly.

Haven’t we all felt that frustration when after explaining something to someone we’re asked a question that shows that the other person just didn’t get it? Maybe they weren’t listening, or just had one of those temporary lapses of concentration we all have, or maybe we just weren’t being as clear as we thought?

At the beginning of my marketing career, while studying for my CIM Diploma, it was drummed into me that before you could apply any of the 4 P’s (I’m going back a bit here), you first needed to know your audience. Who are they? What are they like and why should they be interested in anything you have to say? Once you’ve collated all the information, statistics and done the modelling, then it’s all about the message – what do you want to say, how and why should they listen?

But how often do we bother to check that people have really understood? For Chris Evans breakfast show fans, the legendary Father Brian said that ‘we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk’. He’s right, of course, we should always be listening. But when we talk, we need to be talking in the same language too. Sometimes literally. If you’re marketing into France, Germany, or Russia, it should come as no surprise that people want to be spoken to in their native language. Therefore your collateral and messaging should be in French, German or Russian. The case studies you present should be from French, German and Russian customers you already have. And if you’re contacting those people, show them that you are taking their business seriously by having a specialist, who is a native speaker, contact them.

I’ve heard numerous people complain about call centres based outside the hard it is to have a conversation and to be understood...and these people are speaking in English! How much more frustrating is it then if someone is trying to sell you something but doesn’t make the effort to speak in your language? We know from first-hand experience of working in the channel and marketing across EMEA (and into Russia) that when we translate and localise content and ensure the messaging is fit for purpose and delivered in the native tongue of the target country, the results are up to 5 times better than just rolling out your campaign in English.

Jargon is another bugbear of many. Within our own companies too there are often the same catchphrases that come out time and again. I bet we’ve all played ‘buzzword bingo’ in the odd meeting. We need to make sure that when we are talking to our customers and prospects we’re using language that makes sense to them, that shows you understand their business and that your solution can help them achieve their aims. If you just bombard them with catchphrases and jargon, the chances are they’ll stop listening.

So I hope my blog post has made you stop and think for a moment. And although it’s typed and not spoken, I’ve still got two ears, so I’d love to hear your feedback!