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Four Must-Haves for Enlightening Your Customers

by Steve Woodruff  |  
February 26, 2013

If you want customers to converse with you, and about you, you'd better enlighten them first and foremost. (No, I'm not talking about bringing your customers up to a mountaintop so they can converse with a mystic.)

We all operate on perpetual information overload. That means that our mental filtering systems are on high alert, constantly having to cast aside that which is irrelevant or unclear. If you're curious about how this happens, read this simple overview of the RAS (reticular activating system ) in your brain. It's... enlightening!

Stop thinking about how you can make an immediate pitch for your business. Starting thinking about how you can shine a light into, and through, your audience's RAS filters.

So, how do we create customer enlightenment? You need four things to gain attention and earn memory space.

A clear message. "I help people solve their business problems" is not a clear message. I have no idea where to place you. "I take you from A to Z through the entire process of publishing your first book" is a very clear message. I know what you do immediately, and I know right away if you're relevant---for me, or for someone else I might know. In the limited closet space of my memory, I now have a hanger for you.

A memorable story. "I got a business degree in college and kinda worked my way up the corporate ladder" gives me no reason to think of you in any special categories. You just got RAS'ed.  "After trying my hand at technical programming for 5 years, my co-workers kept urging me to use my design talents to create niche websites, so now I do that full-time." OK, I'm intrigued. You had a change of course. You pivoted based on a hidden skill. Your market spoke, and your listened. You're not JAWD (Just Another Web Designer).

A verbal business card. "We're your family photographer when you need heirlooms, not Facebook Likes." There are a million photographers, and a bazillion casual photos on Facebook. But you just carved out a very peculiar niche. I'm calling you (or telling me friends to do so) when I want great picture-taking. You're also now positioned at the higher price point you're seeking simply by classifying yourself above the majority of commodity photographers. Plus, I can pass along this description just like a business card---short, sweet, distinct.

An analogy. "Our washing machine is pretty much in the mid-range of this category." Forgettable. "This is the Rolls-Royce of washers---you'll feel the difference every single morning when you get dressed!" Bingo! For people to quickly get "light" about your offering, a bridge needs to be created into the understanding. That is the role of metaphor and analogy. You use prior association to make a point immediately.

Long-winded descriptions and 30-slide Powerpoint decks will not survive the RAS-filtering gatekeeper. Enlighten quickly, and you'll have a shot at that rarest of real estate:  mindshare. But if you're not clear, don't expect the customer to figure it out. That's your first (and foremost) marketing challenge!

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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Lynda Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    You can't go wrong with clarity and simplicity! Great article.

  • by Robert Andrews Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    Certainly agree that "A Clear Message" and "A Memorable Story" are definitely great ways to educate or enlighten your customers. Most people on the web are looking for relevant information to help them solve problem(s). People don't always respond to logic or facts but they remember a story more than the message. As humans, I believe we relate more to stories.

    Nice article. Will be reading your blog more often.

  • by Steve Woodruff Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    True, Lynda -yet, amazingly, so few companies accomplish it.

  • by Steve Woodruff Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    If we meet someday, Robert, I'll tell you the story of how I came to be doing clarity therapy for businesses!

  • by Carolin Geissler Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for this article, Steve! I especially love the "verbal business card" and the example you used. My friend is a photographer who used to struggle with people asking her why her prices are so "high". I wish we had come up with your tagline back then!

    She still sometimes has that problem, but her portfolio now seems to take care of the verbal business card.

  • by Steve Woodruff Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    Carolin - Differentiating in a market that people intuitively think of as a "commodity" (photographer, or landscaper, or mover) is even more critical. If we're just one of the herd, then the only call to action is price. Not a good place to be, right?

  • by Jeannie Walters Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    Well done, Steve! It's so difficult for any of us to really see things from the outside-in. These are excellent steps!

  • by Eileen Killeen Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    Hi Steve,
    I really enjoyed your article and was interested in seeing the synposis on RAS but the link is not working.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog


    Hm. Maybe try the link again? It's been working for me...

    Your friendly neighborhood Daily Fix editor

  • by Jonah Sumaina Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    Thanks Steve. I benefited a lot from your article.

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    As the @gapingvoid artwork in my office puts it, "You can't read the label of the jar you're in"!

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for reading, Jonah!

  • by Cynthia McGarity Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    YOU were clear, concise and memorable. I read the entire article - no skimming. Rarely happens! (I particularly liked the visual "In the limited closet space of my memory, I now have a hanger for you.") Thanks for the reminder that simple is often best.

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    High praise from a gifted writer...thanks, Cynthia!

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    Of course, there's always the alternative: Meaningless Marketing!

  • by Alex Thu Feb 28, 2013 via blog

    Wondering what everyone here thinks about the future of video marketing and how it relates to the topic at hand here. It's pretty clear that video is here to stay, but how does that mesh with the marketing of a company? I'm inspired by this video: -- > is it clear enough?

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