You may not have had the opportunity to choose your native language; however, you can choose with whom you wish to communicate and adopt other languages that make communication with them possible.
Speaking on behalf of your business is no different. You have a language that you typically use to communicate. Your ideal customers have a language they use, too. When those two languages don’t ‘match,’ communication barriers arise—and those barriers can be just as significant as the rift that exists between Italian and English or Spanish and Swahili.
Speaking the same language as your ideal customers isn’t enough. You must also speak the same vernacular. If you’ve ever learnt a new language in anticipation of a trip or a move, and arrived only to discover that the vernacular spoken in that part of the country is different than what you’ve learnt…well, then you’re seen as an outsider. Not only do you have the ‘wrong accent,’ you are using words (and forms of words) the native speakers aren’t accustomed to. You might be accepted, but you’re still viewed as an outsider, or as someone who couldn’t possibly understand the culture.
The same thing happens if you use the wrong business vernacular with your target audience. They have grown accustomed to speaking in a certain way about their problems, and unless you can mirror that language, they’re going to have a hard time believing that you understand their pain and their need for a solution. You’re going to sound like an outsider.
So what is a business owner and brand-builder to do?
I have a few tips:
- Immerse Yourself in the Industry Culture. There’s one sure-fire way to learn a language, and that’s to immerse yourself in the culture. Join social media groups and forums where your ideal customers are gathering. Attend the events they’re attending. Really listen to what they’re saying. You will not only get a better feel for the pain they’re experiencing, you will pick up the tone, phrasing and keywords that are central to their way of speaking.
- Test your Message. You know what you’re trying to say, and it makes perfect sense to you; however, it may not be landing the way you think you’re delivering it. Assemble a test group and ask them to comment on your brand messages. Are they hearing what you’re saying? You can also run a poll to ask your target audience members how they perceive your marketing and other communications.
- Take Note of How your Messages Land. What types of statements get the most positive engagement? And which ones are ignored or criticised? This might sound like a no-brainer, however, I see too many brand builders ignoring the reactions of their audiences. These reactions can tell us so much about how to proceed.
- Hire a Brand Language Curator. In an ideal situation, you will be speaking to your younger self when communicating with your audience, so you’ll know exactly what to say and how to say it. However, there are situations in which you’re not the best candidate. In your brand-building journey, you may have encountered someone who is your uber-ideal customer—the picture of client perfection who wholeheartedly understands the problem you’re solving. Consider retaining this person to act as a brand ambassador.
There’s lots of talk about establishing a branded language for your business. Few experts talk about the necessity of using your ideal customers’ vernacular as a basis for that branded language. Speak and write in a way that proves you understand their struggles, and that you’ve put yourself wholly in their shoes. Otherwise, they’ll find someone who will.