That’s right … as in, the “get-a-clue” train.
It’s easy (and sometimes fun) to bash companies that don’t seem to have a clue. You have to feel sorry for them on one level. I mean, it’s very hard to keep up. How does a slow-moving company adapt to a rapidly changing business environment? It must be terribly frightening for the muckety-mucks in these organisations. How do I know I’m not going to miss the big trends and suddenly be viewed as a dinosaur or worse—as irrelevant?
If you’re one of those people and you’re fretting about your relevance, let me give you a place to start. You’re not alone—nearly every company of any size that’s been around for any length of time suffers from the same malady. Hint: It has to do with the way you speak to your market; your voice.
You see, there’s a time-honoured tradition having to do with the way companies communicate to their constituents. I’m not sure where it came from—probably from academics training legions of corporate-bound college students in “business communications”. You know what I’m talking about – it’s the sort of cold, detached voice that gives you the feeling you’re talking to a machine. (Is it any wonder big companies like the idea of machines that talk to people?)
Well, the times they are a changin’ and it’s time for those of us who care about our markets to wake up and work on our “voice”. The reason is very simple: our markets are talking amongst themselves like never before.
I really like the way this is expressed in the 95 Thesis at Cluetrain.com. If you did nothing else you couldn’t go wrong by internalising just the first 5 points in the thesis:
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
So there you have it – one of the most effective ways to avoid becoming irrelevant is to work on your voice. Go tooth-and-comb through every aspect of your communication strategy and ask yourself, “Am I talking TO people or having a conversation? Is this a human voice? Is this the way humans talk to each other? Or is it contrived, strained and unnatural?”
If you don’t, you may wake up one day to the cold, hard reality of the 95th point in the Thesis:
“We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.”