Congratulations, you have survived yet another year as a business owner.
Now to survive the holidays with your relatives – a much more daunting task since, unlike clients, you can’t fire the difficult ones.
Which is why today, I bring you three pieces of advice, all guaranteed to improve the way you communicate with friends and family over the next couple of weeks:
- Speak very quickly. These are busy people with no time to waste.
- Stick to the facts. Nobody cares about you or your personal experiences.
- Keep it short. Limit all conversations to 500 words.
I hope you agree that with the possible exception of, “While travelling in a foreign country, talk loudly to help non-English speakers understand you,” this is the worst communications advice you’ve ever heard.
Clearly, when it comes to holiday gatherings, these guidelines seem (because they are) ridiculous.
And yet, this is exactly what many “experts” recommend when it comes to business communication – email newsletters in particular.
Let’s look at them one at a time…
#1. Speak very quickly.
I’ve never bought into the “nobody has any time” argument. There are precisely as many hours in the day today as there were thirty years ago.
And besides, if everybody is so busy, who are all these people watching Game of Thrones, posting incessantly on social media, and spending hours upon hours arguing that despite all evidence to the contrary, Tom Brady looks as sharp as ever (it’s possible this last one is only happening in New England)?
Yes, we all have more options for filling our day than ever before. But it still comes down to choosing how you want to use your allotted 24 hours.
As a newsletter publisher, you earn your five minutes of attention each issue by offering content that is good, relevant and useful.
#2. Stick to the facts.
The argument here is that sharing personal stories and information is “unprofessional.” So just give them the facts and data.
Two problems with that.
First, as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, facts are just a Google away. There are no insider secrets left to share.
Second, your knowledge (and experience and expertise) is no better than that of your competitors. The truth is, the only unique thing you have is the human that you are – your personal stories, experiences, style and point of view.
The more of that you include, the more interesting, unusual and compelling will be your communications, said the bald, middle-aged father of three who lives in a suburb west of Boston (see what I mean?).
#3. Keep it short.
Working from assumption #1 above, a popular solution to the “nobody wants to read long emails” assertion is to include a minimum of content in the email itself and link to a page on a web site where the rest lives.
Granted, this two-step combination does technically shorten the email itself.
But in terms of saving time, this is the equivalent of starting a conversation in one room, pausing, and then asking the other person to follow you to a new location to hear the rest.
To the extent your newsletter has a “too long” problem, cutting it into two pieces doesn’t fix that.
Here, too, don’t worry about newsletter length. 500 – 800 words is a guideline, not a law.
Here’s the bottom line.
If you want a simple rule of thumb regarding how best to communicate as a small professional service firm or solo, apply the “business lunch with a favorite client” strategy:
It’s friendly. It’s casual. It’s a mix of business insights and personal information – about the weather, your respective families, what you did over the weekend. It’s as long as it needs to be and it’s over when it ends.
It’s really no more complicated than that.
Now about Tom Brady…
- I’m west of Boston. Where are you located?
- Shouldn’t you be doing “real work” instead of wasting precious time answering irrelevant geography questions?
- What’s the worst holiday advice you’ve ever received?