Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Say It In Fewer Words

Abraham Lincoln took just 270 words to write the Gettysburg Address. 

Had he been around today, amidst the cacophonous cascade of social media and marketing information,  he might have nodded along with the sentiments of Jeff Hoffman.

Jeff writes in the online Inc. magazine that it's advisable to "distill your message to as few words as possible." 

Welcome to the Winter Solstice edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management. 

Here is an, ahem, abbreviated version of Jeff's article: 

It's amazing how complex our lives have become. Nothing's simple anymore. Think about it. Even your Facebook page has a million things going on. The increase in complexity has led to a decrease in focus. It's hard to know what even matters anymore.

Everybody's talking at once, saying so much, that customers can no longer remember what we started talking about in the first place. Tweets are flying through the atmosphere as thick as a flock of birds, filling minds with an endless stream of useless information, and crowding out the few things that were really worth knowing. 

What can you do about it? Focus on simplicity. To be truly memorable, to be the one product or service that people remember when the dust settles, you need to narrow down your message, streamline your sentences, cut out all the fluff, and deliver one--yes, just one--strong, simple message, and deliver it clearly and concisely. 

One of the most valuable skills in the world is the ability to explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Writing lots of words is easy. Making your point with an absolute minimum number of words is really hard. Yet it is so much more effective. Mark Twain once said: "I would have written that shorter, but I didn't have the time." Find the time. 

Imagine you had a quick minute to tell a potential customer why he should do business with you. Because in today's world, that's all you have anyway. Write down what you want to say. Now cross out as many words as you can, each time reading the sentence again to see if it still delivers the point you want to make. Keep crossing out words until you have created the shortest sentence you possibly can.

 Keep it brief, straightforward, and clear. Eliminate any industry-specific jargon. Avoid the noise and clutter. 

There is an elegance in simplicity. Simplicity does not mean removing features, benefits, or services from your product. It means distilling what's most important about those features, and explaining them in the fewest words possible. Go ahead, write yours down, and get busy crossing things out. 

(Admittedly, I probably could have written this column in only two paragraphs.)    

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. @colorjar


Look for a new "Not Your Usual..." newsletter the first Tuesday of next month. 
Going forward, our core subject -- marketing -- will be different. 
Artfully different. :) 
But hopefully you'll continue to derive some thought-provoking ideas to help you in your business just the same. 
Until then, enjoy a safe and happy holiday season. 

Joel Kweskin 

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