I was prompted to write this post after receiving an email newsletter from one of my close colleagues that began by asking a fatal question along the lines of:
“Are you are finding my ‘insert subject of whatever you were writing about‘ tips useful?”
Now you might think that’s a quite innocent question and that it’s a good idea to get feedback from you audience, and on one level both are true. However, the problem lays in the underlying message in your question – which implies that you have some doubt about the content you’re sending out. This is what I refer to with my clients as an ‘unintended impact’.
Firstly, do you have some doubt? If so, then by all means seek feedback – but not globally from your whole audience – as this kind of question can undermine your credibility and create doubt in the minds of your audience about whether you really know what you’re talking about. Instead I’d suggest that you seek feedback from a few trusted colleagues (or clients) in your inner network who know their stuff, and see what advice the have. Or speak to a copywriter. That way you’re getting useful input from trusted sources and also ensuring your reputation and credibility remains intact with your audience. If you don’t have any doubt, then be more conscious of the language you use when communicating.
In the event that you do want to seek input from your audience, then it’s better to do it more explicitly. Send out a specific email asking them what their challenges are. Tell them that as a business you’re always looking for ways to add more value to your clients and subscribers and ask them what topics and support they’d really be interested in hearing/reading about. Again, no unintended impact and lot’s of useful information gleaned!
I notice similar unintended errors like this all the time when reading online content or out networking and meeting people in person. I frequently observe people promoting themselves and their business, yet at the same time apologising for themselves or their business in some way, or behaving/communicating in a way that implies that they don’t have total confidence in themselves or what they have to offer. They’re often unaware of it, yet it has a considerable impact and does them a great disservice . I’m sure you’ve noticed it from time to time to. Or even if you haven’t noticed that specifically you’ve walked away from a business conversation or communication with doubt in your mind about the person you’ve been engaging with. They might have even said all the right things, but something’s niggling at you that you can’t put your finger on. The sad thing is that when we do this, we rarely get feedback about how we’ve come across, the prospect will just go elsewhere.
Sometimes this happens as a result of an actual lack of confidence, other times is due to a genuine desire to provide valuable input, or some other equally innocent intention. Unfortunately it doesn’t really matter why it’s occurring, the impact is pretty much the same.
It’s natural that we all have doubts and good intentions, we’re all human after all. What’s important is being aware of how you’re coming across and ensuring that you’re always putting your best foot forward as much as possible. Use that trusted network to get feedback from and hash out anything you’re not 100% sure about, and be totally confident and consistent with the messages you’re putting out to your clients, prospects and your audience.
Remember what you say is important, but how you say it is even more important – the core message you’re sending out comes from a combination of both – but the latter always says more than the former!