As I write this I’m listening to a podcast from Armin Van Buuren, the world’s number one trance and progressive DJ.
Armin is dutch, however he speaks very clear English on the podcast. During each episode Armin will talk in between songs briefly with updates on upcoming gigs and shout-outs from his listeners. I’m always impressed by how he clearly enunciates the names of people and places around the world – and literally the entire world as he as a global audience – no matter what language he needs to use.
Another person I admire as a great communicator is Roger Federer. I’ve been a tennis fan for a long time. Over the years there have been many superstars of the game to rank in the top position, but they aren’t always universally liked. Pat Rafter was a guy everyone liked, but Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Leyton Hewitt, and a host of other top players, despite great tennis performance, aren’t loved by everyone and don’t come across as the most likeable people all the time (although the media must take some credit for this too).
Roger is possibly the most respected tennis player to ever hold the number one position. The word I most often hear floated around about him is “class”. What makes him especially impressive is he can communicate in three different languages. I always look forward to what Roger says in press interviews because he’s clever, has a deep respect for the history of the game and the players, and is capable of saying something unique and interesting every time he speaks.
Charisma, charm, class, likability – and the elements as marketers we care about, influence and persuasion – are all important when you communicate online.
I genuinely like Roger Federer and Armin Van Burren and I’ve never met these guys. They may well be complete arses in real life, but thanks to two things – their talent and how they communicate their personality – I’ve come to admire, respect and most importantly, listen to what they say.
Attention is our currency online so it pays to learn how to become a great communicator, especially when it comes to the mediums we use on the Internet. I rely on blog posts, emails, videos and podcasts to educate, entertain and market what I offer. In particular the written word is the most important to me because email is my most effective marketing channel.
I’ve been writing online for a LONG time and watched how Internet marketers use text to make a lot of money. I’ve tested all kinds of formulas and formats, modeled other people’s style and technique, and today am very comfortable knowing that I have the potential to reach a lot of people all around the world using the written word.
If you want to have attention and influence on your own tribe of followers then you must learn how to be a great online communicator. Here are some tips to help you…
1. Tell Long Stories
When I first studied email marketing the most effective emails I ever read came from Eben Pagan, who wrote massive stories using his nom de plume, David DeAngelo, a character with his own unique style. The emails were long, often full of anecdotal case studies, countless tips and of course a call to action at the end. This to me was the best example of over-delivering I had seen, a concept I learned from Eben and later applied to blogging.
2. Send Short Messages
As effective as long stories are, sometimes a short and to the point email works wonders. As the web became more crowded and people joined more email lists, attention rates dropped. It dropped so far that just the site of a large paragraph in an email could be enough to turn away some people.
Frank Kern has always been the best proponent of the short email, using witty content in a few short sentences, often just a clever way to get people to click a link. You won’t necessarily learn a lot, but you will have a chuckle and be entertained. What is important is you will start to like Frank and look forward to what he writes since you usually read every email because they are so short.
Frank’s style isn’t for everyone, but the format is. Short messages are like candy, easy to consume for a quick hit and almost everybody says yes.
3. Short Sentences Work Too
The short email is effective because the short sentence is effective. Short sentences do not intimidate, they are surrounded by whitespace which focuses attention on individual words and can be read in a blink of an eye.
Do not be afraid to use paragraphs made up of just one sentence.
4. Titles And Headings Are Primary
Your title, headings and sub-headings are vital. Scanning is reading today and your title and headings are what scanners see. The subject of an email and the title of a blog post are the most important elements of your content. If your title compels them to begin reading, then your headings become the sign-posts to grab their attention as they scan.
Many of my early email newsletters relied heavily on BLOCK LETTER headings since I send messages in plain text which doesn’t have bold or italics. That didn’t stop me from finding a way to give sign-posts to my readers because I know they may only offer me three seconds of their attention and I need tools to make an impact.
5. Write For Children
I’m not saying you should target markets with children in them, rather write to a level that even children can understand.
There’s a reason why academic writing is so boring. It’s not the content, it’s the style. Blogging was born from journal writing and journaling is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling formats (just ask Anne Frank). It works because the style is like a conversation.
When you write a journal, or today a blog or really any piece of writing, keep the format simple so anyone can understand it and write like you are standing in front of the person talking them.
6. Focus On One Core Message
This point is a rule I sometimes break, but I know when I do so I am reducing the impact of part of my message.
Take for example an email I just sent to my email subscribers. It recommended two podcast interviews I recently published to this blog. As I type this after checking the click stats, over 1,000 people had clicked to go to the first interview and only 500 the second. By having two destination points, I reduced the impact of both.
That’s okay in my book when you are giving some relevant free content, but in almost all other situations I recommend you focus on one message and one call to action only. You can discuss many ideas but they should tie into one outcome or one point or one step for people to take.
One of the best places to apply this strategy I believe is in your automatic email followup sequence. Your free e-course or newsletter should always be about delivering content, and that content should relate to whatever entry point product or service your business promotes. For example if you have $19 ebook as your entry product, every email you send out in your sequence should at some point offer the ebook.
7. Put All The Previous Points Together
The final point brings together all the previous steps.
When communicating online, tell long stories, use short messages and sentences where appropriate, always include compelling titles, headings and sub-headings, keep your style and lessons simple and focus on one core message.
It is possible to use all these ideas in every piece of online communication you produce. What medium you use will dictate how you use these concepts, but in most cases you can apply them all. At the very least, be conscious of them as you write and you will become a better communicator.
Many years ago I heard someone, I believe it was Marlon Sanders, say on an interview that as internet marketers you only have one goal:
To get people to like you.
No matter how good your product or service is, or your sales page or video or offer or whatever pieces of information and media formats you pull together to do what you do online, people will make the final decision to buy from you because they LIKE you.
It’s the most basic human emotion, and as I mentioned with Roger Federer and Armin Van Buuren, the reason at the end of the day that I listen to what these guys say is because I like them. I mentioned these two particular people because A) they are from two relevant interests in my life and B) they succeed in being liked by a great majority of people.
One of the best marketing tools you have available today is your ability to communicate as a human being and demonstrate traits that endear you to others. It’s important you teach and educate, but sometimes it’s just as important to entertain and inspire because these traits will make people like you as a person, not just an expert in your field. That likeability will drive the sale – and hey, let’s face it, we all want to be liked.