Hey, What Do You Know? Speaking Like a Human Actually Helps You Better Connect With … Humans

Posted on July 1, 2010 by 2 Comments

As anyone who’s worked with any of us at WE Studio D can attest, we’re not the biggest fans of jargon appearing in any sort of communications fit for human consumption. To be honest, we’re not huge fans of jargon in general, but some will argue that if it’s internal, acronyms and shorthand can certainly speed up certain transactions. And in that limited scope, we’d possibly agree.

It’s when corporate-speak creeps into a company’s outside communications through press releases — and yes, shudder to think, even blogs — that we begin to climb atop our soap boxes. It will come as no surprise then that we were thrilled to see woot.com’s distinctively human approach to communicating its news of an Amazon acquisition. Well, actually, there was a rapping monkey in the official announcement video, so I guess it’s about being a highly functional primate with more than a fair share of creativity.

OK, these guys have taken it to the (near) extreme, but they’re staying true to themselves. Given the positive response that’s resulted from this use of decidedly noncorporate speak, I sincerely hope communications professionals everywhere are taking notice. Speaking like a nonhuman drone isn’t going to win you any friends in the media, is quite likely to outright confuse your customers and will overall alienate most everyone else. With that, I recommend you skim through an excerpt from CEO Matt Rutledge’s acquisition letter below, watch the aforementioned rapping monkey video and, for bonus points, add “Fight the Bull — Why Business People Speak like Idiots” to your business books archive.

I know I say this every time I find a picture of an adorable kitten, but please set aside 20 minutes to carefully read this entire email. Today is a big day in Woot history. This morning, I woke up to find Jeff Bezos the Mighty had seized our magic sword. Using the Arthurian model as a corporate structure was something our CFO had warned against from the very beginning, but now that’s water under the bridge. What is important is that our company is on the verge of becoming a part of the Amazon.com dynasty. And our plans for Grail.Woot are on indefinite hold.

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Is Your Product Ready for the Customer’s Interview?

Posted on June 4, 2009 by Comments Off

Tac Anderson, Digital Consulting Director

Help Wanted...

The average chief marketing officer (CMO) lasts 23.5 months. 75% of all new products or services introduced by establishedcompanies fail. Think these two figures might be related?

Clayton Christensen of The Innovator’s Dilemma fame put out an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, titled “Finding the Right Job for Your Product,” where he takes on the commonly held practices of many marketers, including but not limited to segmentation and demographics.

While I’m not going to try and recap a 10-page article from someone who is much smarter than myself, I would like to add my own take on two key points that he makes.

Customers are looking to “hire” the right product. An employee’s job, no matter what the job description might say, is to add value to the company. Your product’s “job,” therefore, is to add value to your customer. In a business setting your product’s job is even more specific: to add economic value to your customer. I’m not just talking about a clinical ROI measurement. After all, what’s the ROI of hiring a new employee? So if an organization, or individual, were going to “hire” your product, what would the job description look like? What would (or should) your product’s “resume” look like? This goes beyond identifying what your customer’s “needs” are. Needs change; jobs are more stable. Now you may be saying to yourself, how are jobs more stable? Jobs get eliminated all the time, right? This is where I’d like to address my second point and the title of this blog post.

The vicious cycle of focusing on demographics and segmentation has led marketers to become increasingly lazy. If your product is not addressing the job your customer needs to have done, you are faced with the only other option: “brand building.” This is so cost-prohibitive that many companies will scrap great product ideas before they get started, or bury potentially good products in advertising that doesn’t speak to the job position their product could fill. This leads to the 75% failure rate of new products by established companies. How long would a company last if it had only a 25% employee retention rate?

What’s the solution? Marketers need to get out from behind the demographic figures that their advertisers keep giving them to support more advertising expenditures in the wrong direction. Since your customer is not going to hand you a job description for what they are looking for, you need to get out there and observe your customer in action and sometimes even talk to them. How many CMOs talk to their customers? Christensen gives some great guidelines for what type of research needs to be done and how many cases you should gather.

It is not easy gathering data to figure out the right job for your product. One quote I will use from Christensen’s article, to leave you with, exemplifies the type of research he proposes and how companies can apply it.

“Sony Corp.’s legendary co-founder, Akio Morita, had a policy of never relying on quantitative data to guide new-product development as he led the company between 1950 and 1980, because data doesn’t exist for new applications of technology. Instead he and his associates just watched what people were trying to do and tried to imagine how applying the company’s electronics miniaturization technology could make it easier and more affordable for more customers to do those jobs. Morita’s success rate for new products was much higher than the 25% success rate for products whose launch is guided by more quantitatively sophisticated market-research methods.”

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