Last night as I was walking home, a man in his sixties collapsed in the street. Four of us went to help. Quickly it became clear that he had been drinking, was in a vulnerable state of mental health and was physically aggressive.
In most cases, this is not directly comparable to the usual working scenario so bear with me...
Our four good Samaritans were trying to establish if he was critically ill, his name, where he lived... I noticed that each of us was trying to communicate with him in a different way, all with varying degrees of success ...and the hour we spent with him before the ambulance arrived became fascinating.
The first man on the scene took a parental approach. Telling him off for using swear words, acting as an authority and setting him rules. This guy nearly got punched quite a few times and I’m sure at one stage was close to having his arm broken in a rather forceful embrace...
The second man spoke to him as an adult. He spoke rationally, fairly and with kindness. But our crumpled heap of man was clearly not in a rational space. With this approach, the barriers quickly came down and he told us nothing.
Two of us sat with him. Slowly and calmly listening and getting on his level. Using his language (swear words included), mirroring his tone, and gradually teasing out the detail we needed. By the time we handed him over to paramedics, he was calm and we had a good level of information for them.
And this latter approach is the ideal for marketing communications. Talk to people so that they hear you. Talk to people so they will respond. Get yourself in their mindset, approach them on their level, use their language.
Our crumpled sixty year old was told last night: we have two ears and only one mouth. (He clearly wasn’t listening to what he was being told at this point). But what if you only have one ear of the person you are speaking to?
First, you must talk so that your customers want to listen. Speak in a way that they can hear you. Crack this, and you’ve got the makings of a highly effective piece of marketing.