So often, our efforts to outshine the competition lead to overselling ourselves. We try to position ourselves as experts in our field, and confirm that position by using complex language and industry-specific terms. We try to impress rather than inform, and we end up saying something that’s confusing instead of compelling.

Clients often tell me they don’t want to “dumb down” their message. “If people don’t understand our product, they’re not our target customer anyway!”  Well, I don’t know how a refrigerator works. But I have one. And I didn’t buy it from a scientist who gave me a lesson in thermodynamics or gas compression & expansion. I bought it from a person who introduced me to a reliable machine designed to keep stuff cold.

Simplicity is not a sign of stupidity. It’s a path to clarity that helps you develop a message that goes beyond a list of what you sell, to an illustration of what you offer. And only when you have something interesting to offer, will listeners be interested in knowing more.

I get upset when my teenage daughter demonstrates what I refer to as “advantageous-interpretation-disorder”…a condition that causes questions take on whatever meaning is easiest to answer. I ask, “Do you have any homework?” My daughter hears, “Do you have any homework you can’t finish during lunch tomorrow?” and with a brief look up from her phone replies, “Uhhh, no.”

Turns out business people have a similar condition when it comes to message development. I ask, “Who do you want to speak to?” They hear, “Who is your target market?” and respond with information like gender, age, income, marital status, or maybe a string of job titles, positions, and descriptions.

Marketing & demographic data are important. But when we focus only on facts, we lose sight of feelings. We gain information about markets we want to capture, but miss the emotions of the individuals with whom we’re trying to connect.  And in a time when people are drowning in information, it is the emotional insight that reaches them and makes them want to reach back.