The thing I love most about travelling is how quickly the ordinary becomes beautiful. On a brisk Autumn day in the Piazza del Campo of Sienna, Italy, I was enjoying a few vinos in the late afternoon at a hole-in-the-wall bar.
We discovered the terrace by complete accident and it became our favourite local spot while we were in the stunning medieval village. Sounded romantic. It was. Thoroughly.
We were immersed in our setting and intoxicated by the culture, history and tradition of the iconic Tuscan location. There was nothing other than the present to focus my energy or attention on.
Conversely, if you were looking at it from the server’s perspective, it was a dive bar in a tourist location of which no one could, nor be bothered, to speak the language. So not only was she no doubt earning a less-than-average wage to serve offensive tourists (who wanted to take photos of birds), she couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying, so she needed to work twice as hard.
A key point that isn’t rocket science comes to mind, but perhaps is well illustrated by the story.
We’ve heard it a thousand times: perception is reality. While it’s so easily dismissed as cliché, it’s the basis of all interactions, responses and corresponding actions.
Perception is mindset. It’s fundamentally affected by state, energy and environment. It’s fuelled by a number of influences, which seem to directly correlate with information.
Think of the above situation. What’s my state of thinking, and how is this affecting my perception:
- At 4:30pm on a Thursday, the week prior to our trip, I’d been working since 5am that day to get on top of my current deadlines (let alone the ones that had come through that day). Emails and phone calls had been peppering me throughout the day, each with their own demand and requirement, for all of which my response required genuine enthusiasm and interest. What this equates to is a high level of saturation and a very superficial absorption of any information that’s not deemed as critical. This high-energy, low-absorption environment is an essential state to keep on top of many moving targets, and to also process new requests.
- At 4:30pm on the Thursday of the following week, we were in Italy, with no plans, no expectations, no technology and nothing other than the present to focus on. This equates to a rich absorption of information: detail, beauty, energy, peace. What does this allow? FOCUS.
In addition to an altered energy, state of mind and environment, the fundamental difference between the two weeks was the volume of information.
High volumes of information are the antithesis of perspective. It seems that we crave information as much as we resent it. We’re now so conditioned to be ADHD about needing information now: the right information, right away.
We expect it to be fed intuitively into our social media, into our news feed and in our entertainment.
The effect of this uptake is that we seem to be constantly gazing at stimulus which is becoming increasingly difficult to decipher. Images seem to blend into one, text starts to look like unrelated letters on a scrabble board and retention is limited.
We seem to be looking for cues, rather than interpretation.
This efficiency of information intake fundamentally influences comprehension. For the most part, I find that people piece together a puzzle of information in the following sequence: scan, engage, action. It’s increasingly all about key words and related images that hit the mark.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that travelling is required to gain perspective. What I do strongly believe in, though, is that it’s imperative that we understand our market’s state of mind in order to deliver information that has the best chance possible of breaking through the clutter and being absorbed.
What we need to assume about markets are the following (irrespective of industry):
- For the most part, people are time-poor
- They’re bombarded by information professionally and personally
- There’s a constant stream of information that comes from sought-after channels (i.e. a newsletter you subscribe to) and organically (i.e. in your Facebook feed, ambient media, signage at a bus stop etc.)
- People will not tune into, nor notice, a message that’s not relevant
The quickest way to make a message relevant is to be concise and specific to your market. You need to help your audience either identify what they want or provide a solution at a time they need it.
So how does this work in the real world?
The goal is to get your audience to realise you’re there in a highly cluttered environment and focus on your business for a brief moment.
To give yourself the best chance of getting traction with your market, ask yourself these questions:
- What does the market want?
- What will get them over the line?
- How does my product / service fulfil this demand?
- How can this be communicated in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to them (NOT YOU)? (What words, images, graphics, colours, etc help communicate my message?)
- What channels will be well received?
- How can I enter into a dialogue with the market?
You’ve got to make sure that the message is all about them. Make them realise that you’re offering a solution to either a problem they have, or that you can help them take advantage of an opportunity that they aren’t previously aware of.
Now here’s the test: KEEP IT SHORT. The shorter, the better.
Anyone can develop lengthy descriptions that ‘justify’ the sell. It’s an art to condense down the message to both represent your market’s requirements plus entice engagement.
Sascha Moore is the founder of Create Design & Marketing.