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Posts Tagged ‘instructions’

At a networking meeting recently we were all paired up and asked to sit with our backs to each other. One of us was given a piece of paper on which were diagrammatic instructions and the other person was given a plain sheet of paper. The ‘leader’ had to give their partner the instructions on the sheet. They weren’t allowed to show them what was on their sheet on the paper; they weren’t allowed to check that they’d understood the instructions, because their partners weren’t allowed to speak. No questions, no clarification. And we only had about a minute for this exercise.

So how did we get on? The thing that my partner and I managed to create looked a bit like a paper boat. It was supposed to be a hat, so we weren’t a million miles off, but it still wasn’t right.

So what went wrong? The first issue was that, as the ‘leader’ I never actually told my partner what we were supposed to be building! He didn’t know  what the overall objective was. Secondly, the instructions were one way, so I wasn’t able to check with my partner that he understood what I was saying to him. He wasn’t able to ask me questions about what I was saying or make any suggestions as to a better way of creating the hat.

So what does this have to do with marketing?

Do you know where you’re heading? Do you have a clear objective for your business and your marketing? If you don’t know that you’re trying to build a hat, you could end up with a boat!

Is your marketing a one way conversation? If you just keep pushing marketing messages out into the world, without asking for or receiving and feedback, how do you know that your message is hitting the spot? If you don’t allow conversation in your marketing, you won’t be able to get to know your prospective clients and find out more about what they need from you.

And finally, if you don’t let them suggest better ways of doing things, you could miss out on some really great opportunities. If you let them, your clients will tell you what they need you to do for them and how much they want to pay you to do it.

So the next time you think about your marketing and the messages you’re sending out, think about the paper hat that you’re trying to make!

Alice

Quite a lot of what I do is technical. There was once a time when I didn’t understand what I do, so I had to learn, usually the long and hard way, how to do this technical stuff.

Most of the instructions used jargon, and were written for people who were already technical. It infruiated me that, coupled with American words that had no relation to me as a middle-aged British woman, I sometimes didn’t understand any of it. Like most untechnical people, I explained it in words I knew, which the technical people didn’t understand because it wasn’t on their level. I often came away none the wiser, and feeling very stupid for not using the same language or understanding the instructions to solve my problems.

Eventually I began to understand, and put the information to good use. This was done by trial and error, after much swearing, tearing my hair out, threatening to throw the computer out of the window and shouting at my poor family. Now I do my technical stuff without batting an eyelid, but this is because I have done it several times, and much of it has become second nature.

Now it is me that has to explain what I do to others who aren’t technical in a way that they can understand. This is very difficult if I am to avoid using the associated jargon that goes with these technicalities; just because I now understand it, I should realise how baffling it is for others that don’t – after all, I was once there myself! So I use analogies. I explain using everyday words to get my point across, and I also use them to reinforce a point in another way to get my listeners to understand.

For example, I was explaining what FTP is to Dianne, my colleague here at Appletree, and how I use it with websites. I also tried to explain how I redesign Wordpress blogs for clients, which involves changing their appearance to suit their corporate styles. For Dianne it would normally be uncomprehensible, so I wanted to simplify things so she could understand.

I use FTP as a wardrobe, in which you store clothes. The various elements of a website are like the clothes you put in the wardrobe. Each kind of clothing has a different function, whether to cover certain parts of your body, or to keep you warm in the winter or dry on a rainy day.

Some of these clothes can be altered: change of colour, different buttons, lower neckline, etc, so their appearance can change for the better (this is changing the CSS: cascading style sheets). Some clothes benefit from added accessories, like jewellery or a silk cravat, that can be added to enhance the outfit (this is adding in plugins and other applications). Some clothes require different hangers or mothballs to protect them from harm (security against spam or hackers). Some clothes can be acquired easily from your local shopping centre or have to be ordered in from a catalogue (WordPress installation via Fantasico or via creating MySQL and editing the configuration files in WordPress).

Oops, lots of jargon there! But Dianne was quite satisfied with that explanation, which was my main objective. Now I can refer to FTP, etc, without sensing Dianne wincing from her corner and feeling left out of the proceedings.

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