The 7 Deadly Sins of Business Communications: How to Stay Out of the Marketing Rat Race
For brands—as with celebrities, politicians, and CEOs—scandals and PR nightmares, like the Airbnb scam that recently came to light, are nearly impossible to hide from today’s connected consumers. As a result, the best approach to business communications is operating with transparency and trust.
This poses a challenge for marketers: how to navigate the trends, meet customers where they are, and ensure the messages being communicated are genuine and in alignment with their brand’s core values. The challenge is all the more difficult when we consider marketing as an all-out arms race where brands compete to showcase their products and services.
Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race (with apologies for the mixed metaphor). So, let’s talk about how to stay out of it. The rewards will be waiting for you. When firms make an effort to avoid the seven deadly sins of business communications below, they often find customers do the marketing for them.
1. Pride – Lack of consideration for or understanding of your audience
We all know people who make everything all about themselves. When pride reveals itself in an individual, we distance ourselves from the individual. When pride reveals itself in a business, we tune out completely.
To avoid the sin of pride in business communications, show your audience that you are listening. Do your research. This is Communications 101. But I get it. When you’re under pressure to respond to a crisis or you need to get your marketing campaign up and running yesterday, it’s tempting to believe that you know best.
PRO TIP: Remember, the failure to hear your audience could easily spell failure for your firm.
2. Envy – Trying to ‘copy and paste’ another organization’s communications strategy or message because, hey, it worked for them
Whenever we’re developing a communications strategy, it’s natural to draw inspiration from other organizations. But remember that your organization, your stakeholders, and your situation are unique. If you simply borrow from what you see competitors doing, you risk missing out on the authentic connection.
And with all the data available to anyone with a website and a little ingenuity, there’s really no excuse for firms not to attempt some form of targeting and personalization. Of course, you’ll want to use caution here. Personalization can go too far. Make sure you don’t cross the line trading authenticity for ultra-creepy.
PRO TIP: Instead of ‘copy and paste’, try ‘customization and personalization’.
3. Gluttony – Sometimes too much is just…too much
Strong business communications are direct and to the point. When executives, whether speaking to the internal team or speaking to the public, use extra words, include too many buzzwords, or belabor a point, they take the focus away from the core message.
PRO TIP: Trim the fat by offering communications coaching or training for those in core leadership positions.
4. Sloth – There are few shortcuts in life (despite the astounding number of promised life “hacks” all over social media)
It’s hard work to step into the shoes of your audience (customers, employees, investors, etc.), to think about what matters to them, and to honestly consider how your message will resonate. But there’s really no getting around doing the hard stuff.
Also, just because you put a lot of time and effort into building out customer personas, doesn’t mean your ideal customer will stay the same for decades. You need to constantly re-evaluate your message and tweak it for each audience, circumstance, or business goal.
PRO TIP: Good communicators make business communications look easy. But there’s nothing easy about effectively communicating with a variety of audiences.
5. Lust – It’s easy to fall in love with the buzzword of the week, the fancy communications tools, or new social media channels
It’s easy to become enchanted with shiny new things because we’re always looking for ways to take our companies to the next level. Indeed, I’ve referred to some business communications buzzwords (e.g., authenticity, customization, personalization) in this very article. And they can all be useful in some form or fashion, but without the scaffolding of a bigger strategy, they are simply distractions or crutches.
The next time you feel yourself lusting after the latest and greatest, pause and ask yourself: what’s in it for my audience? And, will it help me better engage with my audience? If the answers are ‘nothing’ and ‘no’, you may be leaning on lust to keep from doing the hard work of communicating (see above: Sloth).
PRO TIP: Forget about lust. Fall in love with buzzwords, fancy communications tools, and new social media channels only if you can clearly see how they help you better engage with your audience.
6. Anger – We’ve got a lot of conflict in our communication channels these days
While there is something to be said for playing to the emotions of our audiences to invoke feelings of urgency, anger is not always the most effective way to motivate action or provoke conversation. Generally, anger is more of a monologue than a dialogue and when every communication is perceived as angry, it all sounds the same. Conversation, engagement, and attention work better for long term progress.
Non-profit organizations may especially want to take note here. You can establish a sense of urgency, while opening the door to a path where you can move forward together. It’s important to display your passion for issues and causes you care about, but passion without direction results in lost opportunities.
PRO TIP: Beware of anger, the sugar high of business communications. It might give you a quick hit, but it will evaporate quickly.
7. Greed – It’s okay to make an ask! But ask yourself who will benefit
It’s perfectly okay and even encouraged for every communication to include a call to action—heck, we all need a good call to action, particularly in business. But when the ask is aligned to the benefit of a few (or perceived to be for the benefit of a few) the conversation falls flat.
Additionally, remember that not every CTA needs to be “buy my stuff.” When you think about generating leads, try thinking in terms of how you can help your customers, rather than how you can get more people to click on your link.
All the SEO and marketing tricks you can buy won’t replace the success that comes from following these three steps:
- Do what you say you’re going to do
- When you say you’re going to do it
- Exactly how you said you would do it
PRO TIP: Business is the ultimate team sport. If the ask doesn’t also provide a “win” or a meaningful trade (of knowledge, services, etc.), then it’s hard to elicit champions for your cause.
As your company grows and you become more successful, business communications will become more complicated. Don’t let success cloud your vision of what’s truly important in your business: your customers and your employees.
If you notice any of these seven deadly sins creeping around your business practices, it might be time for a change. Audacia Strategies is ready to step in. We won’t give you absolution or assign you penance for your sins, but we can put your business communications back on the path to transparency and trust. Let’s Talk!
Photo credit: https://www.canva.com/robertkneschke/
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