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Talking to Your Audience Instead of Yourself (IABC Summit Breakout Session Recap)

I recently attended the KC IABC Business Communicators Summit and one of the breakout sessions was called Talking to Your Audience (Instead of Yourself), presented by Priya Nibert, (communications consultant, Lockton Benefit Group). While the session was directed at business communicators, it’s an important lesson for businesses, in general, when planning marketing strategy. Don’t prioritize communication over the message to the audience. One size fits all communication never works.  

Nibert emphasized that connecting to your audience is the key to communicating to your audience. Stop talking to yourself and prioritize the audience, message, and vehicle. Start by asking yourself the following questions: What’s in it for the audience? Is your message clear? What is the best way to deliver that message?

First, start with your audience. Determine who they are and get to know them. You can do this a number of ways. An easy way is to pull demographic data from digital platforms like your social media accounts and your website. You can also conduct a customer survey. For grocery retailers, don’t make assumptions based on a limited set of people you see in the store. That can be part of your data collection to learn about your audience, but it’s important to go to where they are (online) and ask them about themselves (customer survey). Another option is to take the data you get from these tactics and use them to create different personas for your customer base. Then try talking specifically to that “person” when you are creating the message.

Which brings us to the next step, crafting the message. What does the audience need to know? Narrow it down to specifics. Too much generalization is going to make the audience think you’re thinking about yourself and not them. What do you want them to think, feel, or do? For example, if you are getting ready to launch something new in your store like online shopping or digital coupons, what do you want them to know about these new services? You have to tell them more than just the fact that you are launching a new service in your store. You will need to explain how to use them and why the customer might find them helpful.

When you’re crafting a message to your customer, be sure to speak their language. Avoid using industry jargon and write to them like you would speak to them if they were standing in front of you in your store. Find the right balance of professional and conversational, depending on the platform. You might lean more toward professional on your business website, but more conversational on social media platforms. Your communication style might even change slightly based on the social media platform you are using.

When communicating to your customers, you need to give the audience a reason to care. Most people hate being sold to. For example, if you’re sending an email to your customers, lead with the benefit. Don’t just tell them that your store is launching online shopping, tell them how they can save time using your store’s online shopping service.

Finally, focus on the vehicle you’re going to use to communicate your message. How does your audience prefer to receive communications? Again, don’t assume. This could be a question on your customer survey to learn the best way to communicate and the best way to spend your advertising and marketing budget. Also consider the tone of the communication and the time you choose to send it. Select the best means of communication based on these questions.

Even though it’s your business and your communication that you are creating, ultimately it’s not about you. It’s about the audience. Use this audience-focused messaging in everything from your in-store signage, to your weekly ad, to your digital platforms. Stop talking to yourself and talk to your customers.

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie