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What Position Is Your Communication In

Jul 11, 2008
Many small business communications suffer from the same flaw - they appear more interested in themselves than the customers. What do I mean? Let's take a typical website introduction.

"Welcome to the ABCD website. ABCD have proudly been in business since 1987. We are a family owned company that prides itself of the great service we provide."

It is all about ABCD and nothing about the customer!

Other companies seem aloof and do not connect with the customer.

"People select ABCD to provide XYZ services because of their superior customer service and attention to detail".

Neither of these examples generates many sales nor builds strong connections with their customers.

So what is wrong with these examples? They are coming from the wrong position. What do I mean?

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) created a useful model to help people think about where their communication was coming from and termed the model Perceptual Positions.

The position you adopt reflects the perspective you are coming from when you communicate - from your own perspective, the perspective of someone else or the perspective of an independent observer.

First position is all about me and what I am thinking and feeling. It is very self-absorbed and only focuses on what is important to me and my personal goals and objectives. First position does not make sales! This was the case in the first example website we talked about.

Second position is all about you. This is where you put yourself in the place of the other person and get in touch with their feelings and emotions. You gain an understanding of what is important to them and focus on their needs.

Third position is the independent, impartial observer. In this position you observe the interactions as if you were a fly on the wall and have no emotional attachment to any particular outcome. It is very similar to a commentator on a horse race - commenting on the process of the horses racing but with no stake in which horse actually wins. It is a very useful position but can be seen as cold and aloof. This was the situation in the second example website we discussed.

These positions describe most human interactions, as most healthy functioning people swap regularly between all three positions. However, the most powerful marketing position is second position - where you walk a mile in your customer's shoes.

This is where you connect at a very deep level with your customer. One of the most attractive things for any person is to be truly listened to and understood.

If your marketing is in second position your words and focus will solidly be on your customer. You will be identifying problems they may be experiencing, you may describe feelings they may be having and your services only exist as potential solutions to their particular problems.

You will have spent a significant amount of time getting inside the head of your customer - finding out what they think, what is important to them and their lives and what values they hold dear.

The word "you" will be liberally sprinkled through your copy, with at least a 3:1 ratio of focus of sentences on the customer compared to you and your business.
Later studies on NLP have identified a fourth position - which is where you communicate as part of a system for the good of the group. This position can be described as the "we" position as the language used is often "we are", "us" etc. Fourth position includes all three other positions.

One of the things that define fourth position is that it comes from finding the deep links that unite all members of the group or system. Traditionally it has been hard to apply fourth position to sales and marketing, but the trend to being an active part of a social community either on-line or off-line and speaking as part of the group is an example of the marketing shift to fourth position.

So, now you have some homework. Go back and look at your marketing materials. Look at each sentence in your materials and tick off whether your words reflect 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th position.

If you don't have more 2nd and 4th position statements - you are not connecting as deeply with your customer as you need to do for maximum sales.
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter with her Brisbane Copywriting Business (Heart Harmony). Ingrid writes a free weekly small business newsletter packed full of articles and tips and Small Business Ideas blog for small businesses. www.heartharmony.com.au
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