The Web is an emotionally remote hinterland delivered to us through an impenetrable liquid crystal barrier. How, then, can you as a business owner, entrepreneur or marketing executive connect to a target audience that requires emotional reassurance in order to do business?
Gone are the days when we sent out phalanxes of sales representatives pounding the pavement, beating the bushes and generally getting in the face of prospects. Too expensive.
So you hire some hotshot Web designer who isn't as old as the shoes you're wearing. If you spent some money on your site, and you didn't fall into the trap of having your brother-in-law's cousin design the thing, you probably got a technically proficient Web site. Unfortunately, when they teach these "wunderkinder" the ways of the Web at the local community college, they don't teach them anything about business, especially anything about marketing.
A Manifesto for the Web
A bunch of guys a whole lot smarter than me wrote a neat little screed called the The Cluetrain Manifesto. What they said was "markets are conversations consisting of human beings, and the Internet enables these conversations."
Now here's the critical part, "conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice." Now does that sound like the Web you know? Does your site speak with a human voice? Does your site connect in a human way to your customers?
So what does this really mean, this so-called conversation? We are all aware of email, blogs, RSS and the instant messenger technologies that have enabled this conversation to take place. But with these informal conversations comes a danger—sometimes sloppy thinking and misunderstood intent.
Someone sends you an email, and you quickly respond by dashing off an email reply without carefully thinking about how, or what, you are saying. Even if the basic intent and content is accurate, have you really said it in a way that your conversation partner will understand, or will they misconstrue your meaning?
How many one-line, short-form emails have you received in response to a complex initial correspondence, and if you're anything like me you looked at it and thought to yourself, "What is this supposed to mean?"
We've got a conversation going, all right. But is this real communication?
The Meaning of Life (or at Least Web Conversation)
I never actually read The Cluetrain Manifesto, but I did hear it. Knowing that I would be laid-up for a few days, with nothing to do but too comatose to really concentrate on reading a book, I purchased an audiocassette books at the local mall. I had no idea what I was buying, but it sounded interesting.
What I heard was a revelation, an epiphany. Not that I agreed with everything Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger had to say... but, still, their voices stayed with me.
Breaking the Liquid Crystal Barrier
I realized then that the sound of the human voice is powerful, and it connects to the listener on a whole different level. It connects emotionally to the listener on a very human plane. It breaks through that liquid crystal barrier and says, "Listen to me, I'm here, I'm human, and I have something real to talk to you about." It's time to bring a human voice to your own site.
Forget all you've heard and read about bandwidth and search engine optimization. When someone takes the trouble to visit your Web site, don't waste the opportunity. Don't screw it up. Don't be afraid to say what needs to be said, in a way that will be heard.
If you do it right, your Web site visitors will remember what you have to say, and that liquid crystal barrier will be broken.
Continue reading "The Sound of Business (Part 1)" ... Read the full article
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