Look. Listen.


Have you ever had a waiter get your order completely wrong? This frustrating scenario easily can be applied to today’s fast-paced, app-obsessed businesses. Time after time, we see products and services that customers didn’t want or need. It’s a waste of time, resources, and money.

The trick to overcoming this is pretty simple: stop insisting that your business tell people what they want or need.

Instead, observe your customers’ daily lives, ask them what their biggest challenges are, and find out what they dream about. Get to know your customers like they’re your friends. Then, and only then, can you really find out what they want or need.

Want to know your customers more? Here are two well-established resources you can actually use:

Stop Talking So Much


Most of us believe that the more we use words, the more we’ll be understood. It’s communication, right? And we’re always told to over-communicate because repeating using lot of words helps you to be understood. Here’s the problem: At some point, people stop listening.

I’m not talking about those critical things that businesses communicate internally, such as a change in strategy or business model. Those really do need to be heard several times before most of us get it. I’m referring to content that is ultimately consumed by your target audience. Websites, newsletters, print materials, and the lot.

If you think your audience is going to stick around and read a wall of grey text because you think it’s so gosh darn INFORMATIVE, then you’re doing it all wrong. Let me share a few mind-blowing statistics that will change your mind:

  • 48% of a website’s words are read when they’re 111 words or less.
  • 17% of people spend 4 seconds or less on websites. 4% spend 10 minutes.
  • Our overall attention span was a paltry 8 seconds in 2013, down from 12 seconds in 2000. For comparison, a goldfish can last 9.

So what should you do with these statistics? Stop talking so much. Stop thinking that the more words you throw at your audience, the more they’ll listen.

What you need is the right content, boiled down and condensed to it’s thick goopy goodness. Hire a talented content professional who can tease out that solid message, who can break up your walls of grey text into easily digestible bits of information. Your audience, and their attention spans, will love you for it.

4 Ways to Lose Customers with Bad Content



Content is an afterthought

You develop a great technology, build a product around it, and then hand everything over to a content designer and say, “Here, just make the words sound good.”

Other than making your content designer weep with frustration, what’s wrong with this picture? Really wrong? You thought content belonged at the end of your development life cycle.

It’s tempting to only use these resources as the grammar police who are here to tidy up things at the end. That’s a risky and devastating strategy for your business.

By not engaging your content resources from the very beginning, they only get half the story of what you’re trying to accomplish.  And their work will reflect that of someone who only knows half the story.

You wouldn’t do the same thing to your engineers or product managers. Just like interaction designers, content designers can profoundly improve your products at every step of the development process.

Adopt an inappropriate editorial voice

Would you retain a lawyer who looks like Spicoli? Or hand over your life savings to an investor who wears Beavis and Butthead T-shirts?

Didn’t think so. So why would you pick an editorial voice that doesn’t suit your business?

A well-researched and executed editorial voice resonates with customers, making them more likely to come and stay (think MailChimp and Disney). That ultimately makes businesses more successful because they’re creating a long-lasting, deep connection with their audience.

When an editorial voice doesn’t match a product or service, the dichotomy is too much for customers. You want to stand out from the competition, but not because the messaging makes people uncomfortable or comes across as just plain weird.

Not understanding your customers

You can do irreparable damage through misguided content because it directly reflects how well you know your customers.

Since making your product or service easy to use is baseline, so shouldn’t knowing your customers inside out. What motivates them? What’s their daily routine? What struggles do they face?  What are their expectations?

Understanding people on an intimate level and getting one step ahead of their needs go way beyond a typical marketing profile. Median age and income can’t help you determine what your customers really need and how you can deliver it.

So get out there and talk to customers face-to-face. See where they live and work. Ask them questions about their lives. Then mirror what you’ve learned through words. Celebrate their successes, empathize when things go awry.

Like a good friend, it shows that you’re listening.

You assume customers are in the know

No matter what your business specializes in, don’t ever expect your customers have the same breadth and depth of knowledge as you do.

Abstract concepts, industry jargon, and vague guidance for the layperson can make a them feel a little small and a lot frustrated. And you betcha that they’ll ditch your business in a heartbeat for one that’s just a teeny bit easier to understand.

Now, don’t get tedious with your products and services by explaining every single thing. This is a balancing act. It’s just as dangerous to assume things  should be dumbed down because no one will understand you.