Have you ever been out in a public place, maybe enjoying coffee with a friend when all of a sudden, your ears perk up? You hear a familiar voice and you can't help but listen for it? Or you hear a phrase or word that trips off your own tongue on a regular basis?
It's human nature to be drawn to voices that feel familiar. Steve Lovelace from Build a Better Box has a great post about a study from the National Academy of Sciences about how infants respond to people speaking in different languages. The study suggests that even as young as five months, the infants recognize the tones and patterns of their native language and respond accordingly.
Customers are really just big babies. No, I don't mean fussy. I mean, just like the 5 month olds, they respond to their native tongue. But all too often — we don't write that way.
Look through your own communications pieces and see if you can spot one or more of the following:
Sales speak: "You can drive it home today!" Okay, yours probably aren't that blatant. But if it sounds like a slick salesman, it isn't going to fly.
Insider jargon: Do your materials look like an eye chart with all their acronyms? Are you sure your audience uses those same shortcuts?
Vague buzzwords: You know the words I'm talking about. Empower. Paradigm. Value add. It's not that those concepts are bad or irrelevant to your customers. But the words are so over-used that we assign very little meaning to them any more. Don't talk in generalities — be concrete.
Listen to your customers for awhile. Then, read your materials out loud. If they don't sound like your customers talk — re-write them. It really is that simple. Be sure you're speaking in their native tongue.