Are You Talking to Me?

Guard dog (medium)¿Me hablas a mí? Kijk je naar mij? A ydych yn siarad â mi?

What do you mean, you don’t know what I’m saying? Why not? Ah, is it because I’m not speaking in a language you understand?

A good friend of mine works for one of the UK’s electricity distribution companies. She has a senior role within the company so can often been found in the office ‘after hours’. Let’s call her Amy for the sake of this post.

As you might imagine, the company takes security very seriously so they have a guard patrolling the premises, along with his dog. The dog often gets shut into Amy’s office with her whilst the guard patrols other parts of the site “just for company”.

At least, that was the case with the previous dog. 

What do you think happens to trainee police dogs that don’t quite make the grade? A lot of them become guard dogs, ’employed’ by security companies.

Following the natural course of events, Amy’s friendly guard dog was retired and replaced by a younger dog. Let’s call him Rover.

Sit. Sit! SIT!

Rover was quite a different prospect from the previous dog! Despite doing well in his police training, he was very unresponsive as a guard dog – basically ignoring his handler and doing his own thing. Not qualities you want in a guard dog.

It got so bad that the security guard wouldn’t even let Amy get out of her car if Rover was loose in the car park.

Until one day he did.

Amy arrived at work, saw Rover loose in the car park so waited until the guard gave her the all clear. Strangely, he made no move to secure Rover. He just spoke to the dog (who stayed where he was), walked across to Amy’s car and waved her out.

So what had changed?

Getting to the end of his tether (no pun intended), the security guard had done some research into Rover’s background. It turned out that Rover had been trained in the Netherlands. It wasn’t that he was being disobedient – he just didn’t understand English! Once the guard had learned his dog commands in Dutch, Rover did exactly what was expected of him.

Finally, the point!

“And the point of the story” I hear you ask?

Are you speaking the same language as your customers? Or are you baffling them with in-house terms that you understand perfectly but outsiders don’t know? Are you trying to get your PoV across using TLA’s?

The point of all of your sales and marketing communication is to engage, interest and excite your potential customers to the point at which they become actual customers. This will only happen if they understand what you are trying to tell them.

Use technical terms only when appropriate and when you know they will be understood; don’t use them just to appear ‘clever’ and certainly don’t use them if you don’t fully understand them. That’s the quickest way to lose your credibility.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask ‘would I understand this?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then go away and revise. Always aim for clarity.

Well done if you spotted the languages – Spanish, Dutch and Welsh – all courtesy of Google Translate (so don’t blame me if they’re wrong!)

 And in the spirit of understanding – Point of View and Three Letter Acronym.

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