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Start Sooner on Developing Your Profit-Expanding Communications

Jan 29, 2008
Planning your communications for the new route is a critical priority. Otherwise, all the hard work you did on developing a route to expand your business by 20 times will be wasted.

But deciding something is a top priority won't make that much difference by itself. You also have to employ a different approach to develop your communications sooner.

Here's what I mean: Assuming that you focus the whole organization on helping those who need it, you can still have delays from the sequencing of one task to follow another.

Designing an offering comes before working on how to produce the offering. Packaging may have to be redone after manufacturing has been completed. Until the packaging is finalized, no one spends much time on the advertising copy.

When the logos are done, someone may begin to write up some instructions for using the offering. At that point, everyone will most likely be in a great rush. There will probably be pressure to begin shipping the product or providing the new service before the end of the quarter so the revenues and profits can be recorded sooner. Chances are very slim that instructions for making the new route an easy one for beneficiaries and customers will receive much attention.

Naturally, it's tough to write directions for something you don't have. But there are important steps that can be taken in advance that will speed and smooth the passage.

First, assume that you need to learn how to best convey the message. In addition, any given approach is, at best, only going to be a partial solution. You can begin by seeing how well potential beneficiaries, users, and customers respond to simulated messages delivered in a variety of ways.

Let's imagine that you are creating communications for something that is a socially delicate subject such as education about avoiding an AIDS infection. Clearly, written directions with a few pictures aren't going to get the idea across powerfully enough to change behavior.

We know that some people have unscientific ideas about what causes AIDS, and those false beliefs have to be addressed by credible people. We also know that people have differing views about what's an acceptable avoidance method. You risk insulting or upsetting people if you suggest that their sexual partners should be assumed not to be trustworthy. People who are insulted or upset aren't going to pay much attention to your message.

Realize that any one approach won't be best for everyone. Think about people facing a fire. For some, any sign of flames will trigger an immediate reaction. For others, smelling smoke will not trigger any changed behavior. Some people will respond strongly to hearing a fire alarm and others will ignore the alarm. But if you put people in a room where they feel the heat from flames, smell smoke, hear a fire alarm, and see flashing emergency exit signs, it's likely that everyone will quickly exit. From that example, it becomes obvious that the right combination of multiple approaches can make quite a difference.

A good second step is to ask people how they prefer to learn about the subject. Although they may not be aware of all the communications methods they like, they certainly will know some that they prefer. This probing should be done as discreetly and pleasantly as possible. For very delicate subjects, sensitive people may only be comfortable with a limited number of learning methods. Pay attention if that's the case.

A valuable third step is to employ a variety of methods singly and in combination to see which methods affect behavior in the most positive ways. This is an essential step that many miss.

Back when your authors were learning to drive, schools favored showing new drivers gruesome pictures of automobile accidents. The schools hoped that seeing such carnage would make the teenagers more careful.

Often the approach backfired. The students saw this experience as being like watching a horror film staged for their benefit and didn't take what they saw seriously. The message was too strong for them. Anyone who only thought about the potential to harm others wouldn't ever drive.

A better approach is to have teenagers assist in emergency services for road accidents. After the first time the teens see an accident in which a young person is injured as a result of drunken or reckless driving, they get the message: They are careful drivers for life!

An essential fourth step involves simulating the final communications. You are using a simulation because you don't yet have either the final offering or your messages to share. To do this work may require creating a mock-up of the offering, an experience of using an offering, or demonstrating the process of using the offering.

Returning to the AIDS prevention subject, such simulated communications can help avoid lots of wasted time and effort. Imagine that the message you are working on is designed to encourage those who are unmarried to be sure that those whom they marry are free of the disease.

What you want these people to do is to be tested regularly for the infection, routinely share the results of their tests with those they might marry, and expect their potential spouses to do the same. Most people would agree that such a practice makes a lot of sense . . . but wouldn't feel comfortable initiating or conducting the first conversation with a future spouse.

Since it's a delicate subject, it seems like a natural for being a private conversation between the two individuals. But if one of the pair doesn't understand about AIDS, the conversation may not work well.

The simulation probably needs to test a variety of ways of getting the basic facts across to young people while preparing them for the idea of adopting this testing and communications practice . . . and helping them develop skill in securing agreement to do so. Given strong feelings among people of different religions, one site for simulating such communications would be as part of religious training.

For those who don't practice a religion, the simulations would have to be held in some other context that has credibility -- perhaps as part of the activities of a social club, during an annual examination by a physician, or by the person presiding at the funeral of an AIDS victim.

A powerful fifth step is to see how simulating the actual problem that the offering attempts to overcome can be helpful. One reason that the teens who help at accidents are so affected by seeing teens who have been injured by careless or drunken driving is that the teens can easily imagine themselves in the same circumstances.

Airline pilots train in electronic simulators that look and feel like a real cockpit. The instructors create mechanical and weather-related emergencies, and the pilots emotionally experience crashing their planes and probably dying in the process. The pilots return to the simulations with greater concentration and commitment after each such crash in the simulation. That unpleasant experience becomes one they will do a great deal to avoid.

If you cannot afford something expensive like a simulator, you can always use role playing. That could be powerful with AIDS prevention as you feel strong emotions during the simulated experience of saying good-bye to your loved ones, knowing that you have infected them and that they will die too.

Plan and prepare your communications ever earlier!
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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