Almost all products that are available these days are the best to have, easiest to use, smartest by technology, most gorgeous, exceptionally cost-effective and the most affordable things you could ever buy. They all increase your profits, lower your costs and save your time.
You just have to make your decision to choose one and no matter what you pick, it will be the perfect thing! That’s what everyone whoever is selling something tells these days.
Our content is filled with such qualifiers as we constantly look around to figure out what everyone out there is doing to sell better. We compare everything, from websites to portfolios. Towards identifying how different our features and interfaces are formed our competitors.
After surveying everything out there, we try to be ‘special’ or ‘different’ from them by telling people how ‘unique’ we are. We also advocate how better we are than others. This is just like a consultant boasting about their unique processes.
Companies designing graphics which shows a comparative study of features and benefits of their products over their competitors. This results in the shifting of the context of the conversation towards factors that are external and beyond control. What others (your competition) do online is of no interest to your users.
To succeed, you have to have your user’s trust. Which can only be obtained through truth?. Which cannot be those fancy qualifiers that fill up your content or the design graphics on the differences between your products and others?. It’s honesty that builds trust.
We should stop us over-dependence on these qualifiers and graphics and start being real. Stop telling only how different you are and start telling what you are first, what you are capable of doing, what you are offering and why your users should choose you.
To establish trust with your users you should cut the unrealistic things out and be real throughout your content. I achieve this through ‘The Test’. And my mom is my judge in my version of the test. My mom brought me to this earth and she has known me all my life. She knows me well enough to tell point out whether am being honest or not. She always points out to me when am being unrealistic or bullshitting.
I was applying for a job and I had written a cover letter filled with jargons. I wasn’t getting any offer and one day I was whining about this to my mom and she asked me to show her the content of the letter. After reading it she asked me questions about a few of those jargon words that I had used in that cover letter which gave the impression of me being a smartass.
I realized the mistakes I made. I filled the cover letter with words which are only familiar among writers. Not the common man. I re-wrote the letter by replacing the jargons with appropriately simplified words.
To my surprise, I had responses from almost all the places I had applied to and got a job soon after. Afterward, whenever I was writing content I put my content through the Mom Exam to check whether it will pass or not.
The point is to get the content written in such a manner that is understandable to your users. There is no point in including technical or jargons when the content makes no sense to your readers. You are writing the content so that your users can understand what you are trying to convey and not show off how well versed you are with vocabulary. So always read out your content to yourself or a person who calls you on your bullshit.
It doesn’t always have to be your mom. For me, it was my mom and to you, it could be your Dad or cousin or wife or girlfriend. With their help try to learn whether your content makes sense to your users. That it conveys all the information to your users without clutter.
Make sure you put your content through the test and it comes out with flying colors. Otherwise, you have to start over or to tweak it enough for it to be understandable to everyone.
After many years I still use the Test. The only difference is that it comes to the beginning of the whole process of creating my content. Here is how I do it.
- I try to understand my audience/users.
- Through research, I figure out how my users behave.
- What all are their assumptions?
- Will they understand what I am creating?
- Will they like and approve of it?
- Dumb down the content as much as possible so that everyone can understand.
You have to understand your users/audience. Know what type of content they like and what they disliked and what makes them come here for more of your content. Figure this out and almost all your problems in content creation are over.
Analyze your user behavior. For example, assume the scenario where you are asked by your client to write some blog posts. You should go to the said blog and go through the content and look in the comments section to see how the users reacted to that particular content.
There will be all sorts of responses. Only take away what is relevant to your work. If the responses are good then understand that the users like similar content and crave for it. If the response is negative you should go through the content to figure out what caused the users to provide negative content and you yourself have to keep away from making such mistakes.
Here is where the test helps. I understand my users and create a mental picture where my mom simulates my users. I would create the content and go through it after I am done and make sure that my mom approves of it.
This helps in two ways. Firstly my mom will point out to me when am being too difficult to understand or in other words use jargons with my content. Also, my assumption about the user behavior will help me weed out any portion of the content that would end up being disliked by my users. Thus the test helps in writing appropriate and easy to understand the content.
This Will Help You Understand Better
For the time being, think that you are running a company which does web development. You want your potential customers to pick you. For that you put up a page on your website called ‘Our Approach’ to make your potential customers understand how great you are:
We don’t trust our solution unto you. Instead, we listen to your business needs. Afterward, our experienced team gets working to implement the appropriate technology to support your requirements and help you achieve your goals.
You have to understand one thing clearly. This page is to target your potential customers and to get them to trust you. Let’s apply ‘the test.’ For me my mom would be the judge and after reading it she would have felt these.
- I like this type of approach.
- I understand how technology is influential in my business.
- I think using a cookie-cutter approach is inferior to my website.
- I only hire teams with experience.
As a conclusion of ‘the test’, I can understand that these are very business oriented. My mom wouldn’t understand things like that nevertheless say them. Now she would be saying things more realistic like the following:
- I don’t want to feel like an idiot.
- I hire people who I trust.
- I want to have a say or two about the final output.
- I want to feel valued.
- I am nervous about making this decision.
After the test, my user assumptions are very realistic and I can rewrite the whole content on the ‘Our Approach’ page as follows.
Some Clients want us to take lead and deliver fast the results. Others want to work with us providing input and suggesting changes and getting things right. Whatever your preference is, we will accommodate you and perform our best towards delivering the desired result.
You think the content is Cheesy? Perhaps. But does it pass the Test? You bet your cash. Simple and easy for everyone to understand. To have the information conveyed to everyone is just what you need and so does your client.
Your person whom you are having a judge may not be your target, but that person is real. You can count on that person to call on your bullshit. That’s what this test is all about. Forming real assumptions and then writing your content based on those assumptions to be as close to reality to deliver the expected result.
Having real assumptions firstly enables us to write real content. But usually, we don’t follow this approach. We work the other way around. In doing so we are actually trying to answer a question which doesn’t exist. “If we answer first and question later, we aren’t trying to communicate anything.”
By assuming about your audience, knowing about their likes and dislikes, their turn-ons and turn-offs; you could write the content that is closer to reality and better conveys the message, if not already, it were the best method to do so.
Don’t Be One In A Million, Stand Out!
Don’t be the same as everyone. Sameness is a problem.
The challenge we face here is time. Building trust takes time. But we can’t wait around for the time. We are content creators and we are on tight deadlines. We only have a tiny fraction of our user’s time to convey our worth to them.
We can’t overcome this by applying any formula. Which is exactly what we have been taught since childhood. It’s because of this approach we are seeing every car company being the “best in class”, every communications network operator has got the “most coverage” and why all consultancies are at “full service.”
Why pressure your users to make choices based on the absolutes which are the same your competitors claim they have or they are?
Let me tell you about the time I went out to get a TV. I went to an electronics retailer in my locality who dealt with multiple brands. I listened to sales pitches which contained jargons like “smart technology”, “D.L.N.A” etc. I don’t know what they meant. Neither did they dumb it down. And when I asked an on-topic question like, “Does it come with a stand?” I got a reply from the sales person that I couldn’t go wrong whether I choose a Samsung or an LG.
I returned home exhausted and confused and very much embarrassed that I couldn’t make a decision about buying a TV. I felt like an idiot for knowing less and not being able to understand all the technical jargons that were thrown at me.
After a while, I got online and looked at TVs in Amazon and found one with thousands of positive reviews from users. There were all sorts of discussions about the particular model. Real people talking and exchanging information about that TV. I finally learned what those jargons meant and thanks to those people who were kind enough to have explained about it in the comments section.
I got that TV. White-gloved delivery after two days I ordered it and at half the price and twice the warranty period. I was able to trust myself that I was right when I was ordering it and I still stand by the decision. That made me happy.
Instead of what every other salesperson did, had that sales representative explained what features the TV had instead of jargon stuffing his statements I might had walked away with a TV form that shop. Instead, I left with embarrassment and feeling belittled because of my lack of knowledge on the technical matters.
The take away here is, “You should be very simple and to the point while creating content. Don’t just copy your competition.”
Write Real Stuff
Not every one of us has thousands of reviews to go through to figure out what you are supposed to do. But we do have our assets. They are not flashy. They are not perfect. But they are our assets and they make us stand apart.
For a designer, it might have been the sketch you created while at a coffee shop or the one you created while at a boring conference.
For a developer, it might have been the app that got downloaded 50 plus times and got 5-star review consistently.
For small start-ups, it might be the adorable blog post your ex-intern wrote acknowledging the amazing experience he/she had. All of us have our own assets. Find yours. Stop wasting your energy of creativity, on fluff. Write real stuff that passes ‘the Test.’
If you need the inspiration to ask for it. Ask your users or employees or clients or colleagues or your friends about this question. Ask them why they trust you? Why they trust your company? You can bet your cash that their answers won’t include confusing jargon like “cross-platform”, “portability”, “D.L.N.A” etc.
They will be using plain and simple language full of emotional adjectives that explain how confident or how happy they are. These are those words that end up making your day. It’s because people don’t get a chance to edit themselves when they tell you about your awesomeness. It’s the moment when they are being real and candid.
I once asked a client of mine, “You have been working with me for a long time? Why do you keep on working with me?” He told, “You understand what I want very quickly. I just need to have a very short conversation to convey myself and you work your magic. I suspect this involves mushrooms and other hallucinogens.”
The reality is something harmless entirely: I just work hard and make it look easy. He knows that very well and conveyed himself in an unabashedly funny way. He also described two of my assets. My ability to understand things quickly and to create great content.
Real things are simple and specific. People who real tend to be simple to understand and be specific. Use it as your hallmark at work. Be real, be simple, de-jargon your content, don’t look at your competition and copy their tactics to make awesome content. It’s in you. You just have to find your asset and put it to use.
Being real gains you others’ trust and you have to believe in that to succeed in getting it.