It is not what you say, but how you say it. -Linda B D
I got an email this morning that immediately caused me to want to unsubscribe. It is a paid subscription. The person making money off of me will no longer be making that money.
Do you know what the sad part is? It didn’t (or doesn’t) have to be that way! And, this young woman could have continued to make money from my subscription. All she had to do is modify a few words in her email. Money secure.
Let’s Get Started
I’m going to use the message that I received this morning as our sort of case study. Out of respect for the individual, I don’t want to name names. I’ll avoid specifics. I’ll include just enough to get our job done here, in analyzing…
- the message; and
- how it was delivered (or presented).
Ask Yourself What the Message Is
So, in using our case study the message was that getting a college degree was worthless. Now, please, I am NOT presenting that message, only repeating a message that was presented to me. Remember, this is a case study or example if you will.
If you are following along with your content marketing campaign, whether from your home office or your work office, go ahead and do the exercise with us, but use your own campaign and ask yourself what the message is, in that campaign.
Verification is Also Important
When we look at our example of the discussion of college degrees, we should really verify whether or not we have defined the message properly. Have we properly identified it? This goes for your example campaign, as well.
I purposely stated a message that I don’t believe was the message at all. Why did I do that? I did that to demonstrate how easy it is to miss the real message or the objective of what is shared, even before we assess the presentation of it.
In this case, if we read the email further, we would notice that she is selling a program to teach people how to do something that is similar to what she learned in college. But, in this case, the program, of course, is only about $500. Now, $500 sounds like a lot of money, right? But, if you compare it to a $100k college degree, it sounds like pennies!
The Message Sometimes Has More To Do With the Objective
So, while it is true that she is thinking that the money that she paid for her college degree was a waste of money, is that really the message that she is sharing? How would that benefit her? Unless her followers simply enjoy receiving an email with a bunch of complaints in it, it is not a beneficial message. That causes us to dig deeper. That is where we discover that her objective is likely to sell her program.
And, really, it is quite brilliant to compare a $500 program to a $100k degree, if you are offering the same education. I think we all know that you are not going to get as much education with one course, compared to multiple courses, but that is where we have to look at the other side of her coin.
You see, some of us really value the education process and the degree that we earn. In her case, she stated that all she was looking for was a way to make money. For her, the program that she developed would help people earn money and there is a better ROI (return on investment) in earning money after only paying $500 than $100k.
Finishing our Assessment of the Message
So, not only do we need to properly define the message, the real message (based on the objective), but we need to understand the motives. This gal was not incorrect in her assessment for HER. She was not an “academic” who enjoyed going to school for the sake of learning.
That probably applies to many people!
But, there are such people as “academics.” I am one of them. Any amount of learning is not wasted on me as I do two things:
- I value the process of learning;
- I make sure that I find something to learn so if I already know most of it, I seek out the morsel that I don’t know.
Therefore, for me, an academic, learning (even $100k of it!) is not wasted, especially when I get that fun doctorate!
Am I the oddball? Possibly. Maybe the target audience is comprised of non-academics.
But, this is what I want you to notice. In this case, as an academic, I am interested in learning and knowledge. So, even if I have paid $100k for my university degrees, because of the person that I am, I am going to be interested in paying the $500 for her program, for the opportunity to learn.
But, what happens when her presentation is to pick on the process of going to college? I’m going to flush the email, unsubscribe, and she is going to lose the monthly subscription AND the sale of the program.
If you were her, is that what you want, to lose money? If your objective was to earn money, how are you reaching your objective if you are actually losing about $1.1k for the year, over ONE email?
And, all because it was not presented well! It could have been presented correctly and she could have retained the subscription fees and possibly gained an additional $500! And, she could reach the academics like me, as well as the non-academics that she appears to have been targeting.
The Solution is the Presentation
I’m not judging.
If this gal hated her time at college, that is her story. That major that she selected is not what she wanted? That is hers to dislike as well. If she doesn’t like how much money she paid, so be it. It is her complaint and for her, it may be perfectly valid.
But, we have to be careful that OUR opinions about our own actions do not force judgment on others.
Picture something with me, please?
A Visualization Using the Beach and the Water
Before we visualize, we need to define two groups of people. The first group contains those who have committed to going to college, whether having completed their degrees or in the process. There is much more to that discussion, but since it is not the main point of this article, we will just leave it at that, as the definition of one of our groups.
For our visualization, we will picture them as in the water, like the Pacific Ocean, with life jackets, but no watercraft, out about 150 feet from shore and just struggling a bit with a need to swim back to the beach.
Now, there are also people who are on the beach, dry as a bone, who have not entered the water yet. Those are the people who have not gone to college yet and are considering it but have not made a commitment.
Applying the Message to the Visualized Groups
The message in our gal’s email is probably more helpful to those on the beach. It is a matter of stating that they don’t have to make the mistake that she made. But, what does her message do for those in the water? They are treading water, working on getting back to the beach and you basically have someone telling them that they were fools for getting wet (in this case for going to college). Well, what are they supposed to do now? They are already wet!
So, the email only serves to either make them feel bad or get upset about what she is saying. You see, her presentation did not say that it was only a decision that did not serve her purposes but a case of “Why would you want to do that? You would be a fool to do so!” So, she effectively calls those of our friends out in the water fools! Are they going to be inclined to purchase anything she has to offer? Not if it means being insulted!
The Kinder Approach (That Happens to Make the Sale)
The kinder approach would have been for her to warm her audience up a bit and explain to them that she is not an academic and that she felt forced into going to college and chose a degree that also felt forced on her (components that she shared or implied). So far, we are changing how she shares the information and not what the information is.
Now, the next step is to acknowledge that college works for some people. Here she is stating that even though she may not like college for herself, that it does work for some and that that is cool.
What has she done here? She has acknowledged our swimmers out in the ocean and said it was ok for them to swim to the beach and she would not call them fools! Also, there is a message that it is ok that some people go to college or have debts because of those endeavors and that she does not judge them.
She has brought the academics into the fold with the non-academics and said: “We can all live at peace together, regardless of our personal likes and dislikes!”
Then, in the final phase, she could say something to the effect that she is offering an alternative learning opportunity. She can present it to the college-bound by mentioning that it is less expensive. It may also help them earn money for college. Possibly, earning money may help them to have fun if they are not college-bound. By doing this, she has appealed to different groups and sub-groups.
See, if we walk into a situation assuming that everyone is like us in our thinking, we are going to (guaranteed) alienate some people. When it comes to content marketing, we want to define our target audience. But, we also don’t want to lose any members that we have already convinced, do we? So, let’s keep it on the kinder, understanding side. And, if that is difficult, hire someone who can take your communications and convert them into something that does not cause your bottom line to plummet, ok?