I ordered the Vegetarian Stir Fry: “Linguine tossed with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms, onions, finished with sesame ginger sauce and homemade sriracha aioli.”
It seemed like a safe choice.
Only it wasn’t.
One bite and I knew that it was WAY too spicy for me. My bald head began sweating immediately (TMI?).
Was the description of the dish on the menu accurate? Absolutely.
After all, as anyone can tell you after they return home, dip their tongue in a bowl of ice water, and google the word “sriracha,” this is a sauce whose claim to fame is its spiciness.
But I had no idea. And, in my defense, none of the usual restaurant warning signs were present:
The waiter didn’t say anything; I saw no asterisks or chili pepper icons next to the item on the menu; there was not a fire extinguisher to be found within arm’s reach of our table.
Accuracy and Effective Communication Are Not the Same Thing
Were my tongue-burning complaint to go before the Supreme Court – wouldn’t that be a refreshing change – one thing is certain: I would lose.
The restaurant stated right there, in black and white, that there was siracha in the dish. The only problem was that I didn’t know what it meant.
The restaurant was “right,” but it missed an opportunity to fully inform its target audience. It may have been my fault, but I was still disappointed in the experience.
Your marketing works the same way: Your primary goal is not accuracy … it’s persuasion.
Consider this example…
Just yesterday, I was helping a client with the promotion of an upcoming event.
In writing the sales page, this question came up: Do we call it a webinar? A virtual event? A master class? Something else?
As of this writing, the question remains unresolved. But wherever we come out, the task at hand is not about finding the word that most accurately describes the event.
Rather, it’s about finding the word that will be most appealing to our target audience.
If, for example, this population equates “webinar” with “boring, PowerPoint-based presentation” – even if technically, the structure of the event fits perfectly within the definition of a webinar – then it’s the wrong word to use.
Persuasion, not accuracy.
How Do You Describe Yourself?
The same logic applies here.
Do you call yourself a consultant? Coach? Trainer? Freelancer? Business owner?
The “right” answer is overwhelmingly a function of what the various words mean to those who would hire you.
Does “consultant” mean “experienced, capable professional” to your target audience? Or does it mean “fast talking guy who takes your money and accomplishes nothing?”
If it’s the latter, instead of trying to convince others that consultants are good people (note: we are), you’re better off simply choosing a word that your prospective clients already feel good about.
Here’s the bottom line.
People don’t choose between options … they choose between descriptions of options.
You don’t sample the food at a restaurant before ordering; you don’t try out a webinar before registering; and you don’t work with a professional service provider before hiring.
When it’s time to make a decision, it’s the words – not the thing itself – that push us one way or the other.
Worry less about describing what is and pay more attention to what your audience wants it to be.
Time-Wasting Word Challenge
Sum up today’s newsletter in traditional haiku format: 5-7-5 syllables. (Alisa, this one’s for you!)
Share your answer below…
If you liked this article you’ll love the next one (I’ve been holding back on the good ones until you subscribe). Click here to sign up for future posts.
Chose your words with care.
Chose words people WANT to hear.
Then they will choose you!
Oops! Make that Choose! Good grief! My first post and I messed up!
We are very lenient over here. Thank you for posting (you never forget your first)!
teaches a painful lesson:
choose words carefully.
I can see why you excel in the education field, Vince. Well done!
Another good essay with a good message. And a fun challenge. My first time trying haikus.
Even Jane Austen
Knew that persuasion is best
At changing a mind.
Speaking their language
Makes your marketing efforts
Much more productive.
Don’t call your course a
“Webinar” if they’ll only
Buy a “Masterclass.”
Congrats to you on three. I love the last one, Laura!
Great, Laura! I love the last one too, but you had me at Jane Austen.
Very clever how you used the song title in your subject line this time. I’m sure you’re doing some kind of test with this!
This song always reminds me of Breaking Bad!
I’ve actually never seen “Breaking Bad!” But I was a big sixties music fan back in college (well post-sixties, I hasten to add) and this song along with several other TJ and the Shondells hits was always on the playlist.
Hating is someone
Mike, the siracha reference
Sissy tongue have you.
That Yoda pulls no punches. I’m sure he enjoys very spicy food!
This stir fry sizzles
Not like how momma makes it
Please warn me next time
Perhaps this haiku should be included in the menu?
Thank you Michael K
For this insightful lesson
It is wonderful!
Extra credit for making me feel so good!
My work will be great
so my words must resonate
to make it happen
A thousand points to you, Graeme, for the included rhyme!
Thank you, Michael. I would save the points to apply to my subscription, but your advice, though brilliant, is priceless.
I appreciate the detail you called TMI.
Reminded me of a spicy story. No, not THAT brand of spicy.
My former spouse’s sweating.. no… dripping bald head.
The waitress warned him. I guess she didn’t think an entree’ name including Diablo wasn’t warning enough.
My little story has nothing to do with your topic, but I felt like sharing it.
This newsletter was enlightening. I know it will help me. Thanks Michael.
The sweating head is the downside of the bald pate! No hair to soak things up (ewww).
Great article Michael. Thank you.
Each word is power
Do not become slave of them
Tame them to survive
Lovely, Brigitte. So well said, and syllabically perfect.
Thank you Graeme. I like the music in yours!
Your haiku feels like it should be carved in stone somewhere, Brigitte!
Thank you Michael. I’ll think about that…
Describe what you do
In how they want to hear
Then do what you do
Sweat Michael’s bald head
With spicy Asian dish
Become blog lesson
haha, love these!
A spicy lesson
Both in taxonomy and
Well done, Laura (hat tip for use of taxonomy!).
It is always best
To use ideas that work
For your audience.
Great post as always!
Sriracha is hot1
Very very very very very very hot!
Did I mention it’s hot?
Well done, Barry!
Sriracha’s too hot?
Then beware the curry scale
Three of five will burn!