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Are the visitors to your website responding positively to your marketing message? When they don’t, one reason might be an often overlooked communication disconnect.

Although this mistake is common, you can reduce the occurrences… and effectively move your prospect toward closure.

The Challenge of Being Understood

Human communication is both an amazing experience (when you truly understand and connect with the other person), and a frustrating one (when you aren’t able to reach mutual understanding).

If you have lived even a few years and interacted in any relationships, you've undoubtedly experienced a communication disconnect. For example...

Husband: “Honey, I just read this great article about home decorating… and thought you would really enjoy some of their ideas.”

Wife: “What do you mean by that?? Are you saying that our home needs redecorating? That the job I did with our decorating needs an overhaul? That I need outside help because I do a terrible job?”

Husband: *Sigh!*

But being misunderstood by your prospective customers and clients, especially in a B2B context, is also a common occurrence. However, a website visitor drawing crazy conclusions from your crystal clear message isn't usually the problem.

Often, we think we are being clear in our messaging… but we are not.

Business Owners and the Curse of Knowledge

"Made to Stick" by Dan and Chip HeathDan and Chip Heath, in their excellent book Made to Stick, call this miscommunication dynamic “The Curse of Knowledge.”

What that means is the transmitter of a message clearly sees in their mind the fullness of the message (and all the supporting information that gives the message its context)but the recipient only receives a skeletal outline… and can’t fully connect the dots.

To the sender of the message, they are cursed with a complete picture of the message and ASSUME the recipient sees and understands what he or she understands.

They don’t.

To prove the theory of The Curse of Knowledge, the Heath brothers tell of experiments performed by Elizabeth Newton.

What You Think Is Obvious… Often Isn’t

Persuasive Advertising Problems with the "Happy Birthday" SongOne group of people was asked to communicate a song by tapping the melody on a table. The other group was supposed to guess what song they were hearing. The tappers were told, for example, tap out “happy birthday.” The tappers thought to themselves, “This will be easy! Everyone knows this song.”

The tappers thought 50% of their songs would be recognized.

The real number was a mere 2.5%

Why the huge difference? Because as the tapper was tapping out a song, they heard the melody in their mind. It was as clear as day. Meanwhile, the listener only heard a disconnected series of tap-tap-tap-tap.

Hence, the sender (tapper) was cursed with complete knowledge of the song and assumed the listeners could hear what the tappers heard in their heads. And of course, they could not.

A Classic Example of How One Business Suffered from the Curse...

Every business has something they are offering to their marketplace (preferably a specific target buyer in that marketplace). They see how all the dots connect. To them, it makes total sense why what they offer is the greatest thing ever and will truly help their customers.

But, sometimes the visitor witnessing the presentation, or reading the website perceives only the tap-tap-tap-tap.

For example, one financial planning organization’s website I recently reviewed was prominently promoting the attainment by one of their staff members of “Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) Designation.”

Now, I am sure that is a great certification and may even make that person MORE qualified to offer me financial advice. But, they don’t explain why this is good news for the prospect. Because they understand what it means, it never occurred to them that others outside their world wouldn’t fully appreciate its value.

The curse of knowledge.

How to Overcome a Communication Disconnect

How can you overcome the risk of being misunderstood when it comes to conveying the value of your product and service offerings?

Here are two simple tricks to overcome the curse of knowledge:

1. Explain not only on what you are offering your prospective client or customer… but also why/how it benefits them.

A good rule of thumb to help you determine the why/how of something being valuable to the prospect is to ask the question “So what?” In fact, asking it 3-5 times to any item you think is important for the prospect to know.

A Persuasive Advertiser!For example, using the certification item from earlier...

Team member John Smith is now a Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) Designation.

“So what?”

That means he has passed a rigorous course on financial planning.

“Congratulations… so what?”

That means he can now help clients plan both their investment and retirement strategy.

“Ok, great. So what?”

Being able to collaborate in both areas with the same advisor allows the client to obtain a more holistic strategy on these two related areas.

“That sounds good, but … so what?”

It benefits the client because his investment strategy can now enhance his retirement strategy and vice versa. In effect, it allows a 1 + 1 = 3 holistic approach, all seamlessly achieved with the same advisor. Better results, with a faster, easier consultation.

Ah-ha! Now we are beginning to help the prospect understand the full implication of the item.

2. Have outsiders review the messaging on your website, or the presentation of your marketing materials.

Having someone outside of your departmentor even outside of your companybring a fresh set of eyes and ears to the message you think is clear helps to ensure you aren't creating a disconnect with your audience.

Better still, get feedback from prospective buyers, or those who fit the profile of the prospect you are seeking (even if they are not looking).

Pay them a few bucks, or provide some free services in exchange for them reviewing your material and giving you honest feedback.

What you may think is crystal clear… is a muddy mess. Or it may be clear, but unconvincing.

Improving Your Sales… and Closing Rate

Remember, your website is in effect your online, automated sales person. It pre-qualifies some prospects, pre-sells other prospects, and closes still other prospects.

The last thing you want is for your website to be a babbling salesperson who operates with the curse of knowledge… and never gets the job done.

Instead, you want your automated sales person to communicate effectively… and be able to convince the reader of the value of your products/services.

Is your website suffering from the Curse Of Knowledge? Check out some of these topical blog posts for tips on engaging your audience with a better user experience and more powerful content:

Drive Sales with Content That Converts

About the Author

Patrick McDaniel | Paid Search & Social Strategist
Patrick McDaniel, Paid Search & Social Strategist

Patrick McDaniel is PMG’s Paid Search and Social Strategist. He likes figuring out how people work – in between facts and figures on organic search rankings, lead gen and engagement techniques, you’ll find hints of psychology and buying behavior in his writing. He loves helping readers understand how to reach and connect with their best prospects!

 Tags: Marketing Strategy and Planning Sales Enablement

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