Is Big Better?

Depending on whom you ask and in what context you ask them, big may be felt to be better. But what about in communication? Does it behove you to utilize colossal or minuscule words when expressing your thoughts in written form?  Say what? Should you use big or small words when writing?  That’s better.

An online group that I’m in got into a long and sometimes testy discussion about this recently.

Some felt that, as writers, it was their duty to challenge the readers, to force them to look up the writer’s carefully chosen word in a dictionary before the reader can understand the writer and continue to read.

If it worked this way, it would be good.   It would lead to a more literate society.  However, it rarely works that way.  When the reader has to stop and do something, like find a dictionary, to understand what’s being read, the reader’s train of thought is destroyed and he/she quickly loses interest.

And remember – why do we write?  To show off our education or our ability to come up with big synonyms for perfectly good small words? Maybe that’s why you write.  But most writers write to be read.  If their work is not read it is a waste of time.

The topic you’re writing about dictates what words you will use.

If you are writing about some complex medical heart procedure, you will,of course, use words common to that branch of medicine.  If you do not, you will not be writing for that client very long.  But the average person will not understand half of what you write and that’s OK.

Now, if you are writing a thriller, it will hardly be viewed as a page turner if the reader is forced to the dictionary every page or so. Here you would use short fast words to keep the story moving along at high speed. This type of writing will generally be at the 7th or 8th grade reading level.

Similarly, if you are writing marketing materials, you will write for the audience at which this material is aimed.  For most consumer products and many business-to business products or services the writing will again be at the 7/8th grade level.  If a consumer or business client can not easily understand what you have written they may move along to the next product or service.

You may feel that executives expect flowery language in marketing materials because of the cost.  And some do. However,  rarely will an executive or highly educated person object to writing that uses short words and short paragraphs.  They like it because they can grasp the concepts quickly without worrying about whether they really understand what’s been written.

So use your judgement and, when in doubt, use short words and paragraphs.  Everyone will know what you’re talking about. The KISS principle applies here.

Adding Value not Cutting Price

Last time we talked about why your customers buy from you.  And concluded that price was not a good reason because it starts you on the road to bankruptcy.  Add value instead and hold you price or even increase it to position yourself as a premium provider of your product or service. You can add value by understanding how your customers use your product and make changes so that your product or service fits more smoothly into their process.

I had a firsthand experience of adding value a number of years ago when I was the chief electrical engineer of a major consulting company.  I was tasked with decreasing the costs of the drawings we were providing to our clients to construct their facilities.

Now, here’s a key point.  You would think that our client was the utility that hired us, the ultimate client, to design their facility.  And you would be right.  But that was not our only client.  The contractor that was doing the electrical work was also our client and was the client that first used our drawings to construct the power plant.  The company that hired us, the ultimate client, would use the drawings to perform maintenance and trouble shooting when the plant was operating.

My management, the partners who owned the company, felt that the wiring drawings we were providing to the contractors and our ultimate clients were adding great value and they didn’t want to change them even though they were  the drawings that cost us the most to make.

When I got involved I sat down with the contractors and asked them what they did with our wiring drawings. They told me that they gave them to a junior electrician to convert to wire lists because they wired the plant from wire lists not drawings.  Then the put them aside or threw them out because they were of no value to them .

We could make wire lists at a fraction of the costs of wiring drawings and those lists fitted into the contractors process without him having to perform addition operations on them.

Then our senior projects engineers told me that our ultimate clients would never accept a new type of drawing we were proposing to accompany the wire lists that would have all of the wiring for a service on one drawing.   We showed our ultimate client who would have to operate and maintain the plant when construction was complete that with the current drawings he would need to collect about 35 wiring drawings to trouble shoot a simple electrical valve.  All of the information he would need for this task was contained on one of the new drawing type we were proposing.  The ultimate client like this a lot because it would significantly reduce the time of his maintenance workers to do the work.

So by asking our customers (remember you may have multiple customers – customers of your customers)  how they viewed our current products compared to our proposed product we were able to reduce our costs by 50% and provide both of our customers with a product that fitted into their processes with minimal effort on their part.  This added value for the customers, reduced our costs and increased our profitably. Just by asking and not assuming that we knew better than our customers what they need for their jobs.

Why do They Buy fromYou?

You’re selling to other businesses. So, you’re in the businees-to-businees (B2B) section of the economy. Your business is chugging along. Maybe you’re happy with the progress and maybe you’re not.

If you’re happy with your progress and your profits, then stop reading right now and go pop a bottle of bubbly and drink a toast to yourself. You’ve arrived. And don’t read this blog anymore because you’ll be bored.

But of you’re not happy with your progress or even if you are but believe that you could be doing better, read on.

Then the question is, “how can I increase not just sales but profits?” You may be able to increase sales by cutting your prices but that does not mean your profits will go up.

You need to crank up your marketing. But will that help?. If you keep doing the same thing you will get the same results. A bit of a dilemma. So what can you do different?

How about this? Ask you customers why they buy from you. A novel idea. But who knows better why they buy from you and what you can do to keep their business than your customers.?

You will get a number of different answers that can help you direct your marketing.

The answer you don’t want to hear is price. Because that makes your product or service a commodity. And if it’s a commodity, your customers will continue to buy on price. But not necessarily from you because your competition may be asking the same question and when they hear price, they lower theirs to get your business. So, you just joined a race to bankruptcy. Not smart.  If you’re going to adjust your price, increase it and offer more value.

So what do you do? You need to identify how your product or service fits into your customers’ business processes. When you know that you will be in a better position to make your product or service a crucial part of that process. More value.

Tune in next week for a real live experience I had in this area.

Warmest Regards

Tom McCauley