Is your message sailing over people’s heads? Talk it out.

You’re in a sales meeting. Or maybe you just finished that new web site. You’ve put the message out there, but, for some reason, it’s crickets. People aren’t responding. They’re tuning you out.

It’s very possible that your message is too complex, and it’s sailing over people’s heads.

It would be easy to say that this happens mostly in technical industries, but I see it happen in the retail world, non-profits and even at universities. We get so busy explaining the trees that we forget to mention we’re in a forest.

The divide is between you and your audience: You’ve devoted countless hours to your product or service in an effort to make it as good as possible for your client (and your own standards). Your audience has done none of that.

Even if you work in a B2B or a highly-contextual industry, your audience is spending only a small portion of their week thinking about the specific problem your product or service addresses.

A common reason is that we’ve focused on features of our product or service and benefits. The difference is simple: Features are what you offer – the hard candy shell – and benefits are what value you offer to your customer – candy that melts in your mouth and not in your hand.

We underestimate simple messages in our society – mostly because people want to justify the cost of their college degrees.

Even if you work in a B2B or a highly-contextual industry, your audience is spending only a small portion of their week thinking about the specific problem your product or service addresses. The rest of the time went to grocery lists, budget cuts, interoffice drama and other outside noise that makes your product or service the absolute last thing on their minds.

Too often, we create our messages in a vacuum, and as a result, they aren’t strong enough to be heard over the other noise that drones in most of our ears. Your initial message should be a hook and repeated messages should help reel ’em in.

This is why even the most intelligent audiences need things simplified. It has nothing to do with our knowledge or their knowledge – it has to do with noise. In our noise-driven society, only the simplest and clearest messages get remembered.

A simple message should still be relevant, benefits-focused and audience-driven. But it should also boil down your simplest value proposition into something that captures people’s attention.

It should also be conversational. Don’t forget that David Ogilvy encouraged his followers to write like people talked. It’s still good advice. The reason so many of our message don’t sell is because we treat them stiffly and dryly – even the term “messages” – when in reality they are conversations, open to be colored by perceptions and shaped by other aspects of our lives.

If your message isn’t connecting, try taking it off the page. Walk around with your message and talk about it with people – especially potential customers. Learn how your audience talks. Too often, we focus on “writing” and “sounding smart.” The truth is, even the most sophisticated audiences value a simple, easy-to-understand message.

D. White & Company is a marketing consulting firm that helps organizations build successful brands. Want us to help simplify your brand's message? Schedule an appointment with us today.