Spoiler Alert: #1 is Most Important
Have you ever looked at something and thought to yourself, “who in the world approved that to be published?” Or maybe you got into a fight with a friend over whether the Kardashians deserve to be famous?
What defines effective verbal communication isn’t always black and white.
However, one thing we can all agree on – words matter now more than ever. Whether you’re posting on social media or being recorded on a smartphone during a presentation, your words are immortalized in today’s society.
As marketers, we are tasked with a HUGE responsibility: to write on behalf of our clients and their brands in ways that will lead to conversions. And we can’t afford to mess it up. It’s our job to communicate effectively, but effectiveness isn’t always objective.
There are fundamental cornerstones of great communication, and we will get into each of those, but sometimes marketing requires a risk. What makes a risk worth taking boils down to this single key component that every effective communicator must understand: do you know your audience?
Verbal communication can make or break your brand. But if you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to effectively communicate – even if the communication seems controversial, odd, or risky.
So What is Effective Verbal Communication, Anyway?
Verbal communication is any form of exchanging messages through words. It’s not only what you say; it’s also what you write. Although we may not think of writing as verbal communication, it is. Emails, books, and blogs are all examples of verbal communication. The word “verbal” only indicates that the message consists of words, and words are both spoken and written.
Now that we’ve defined verbal communication, let’s dig into why it’s important: Why should we communicate about communication?
The number one rule of communication is that you can’t not communicate. You communicate every day, even without realizing it. It doesn’t matter if you’re texting your best friend or giving a presentation at work, you use verbal communication daily.
If communication is at the heart of everything we do, it’s essential to learn how to do it effectively. Our words are meaningful. Anytime you use your words without intention, it’s a missed opportunity. So, what do you need to know to make your words intentional?
Here are five tips to help you master effective verbal communication, so that you can use your words wisely.
Effective Verbal Communication Tip #1: Know your audience.
This is the most important part of mastering effective communication…and where things start to get a little tricky.
What is “effective” for one group may be highly “ineffective” for another. Let’s take the highly controversial Kardashian Klan (see what we did there).
Look at these posts:
Some may roll their eyes and sigh, and still yet, others are absolutely obsessed with every small eye roll, duck lip, new product, and tweet they publish. Some claim that this is not effective verbal communication because there are typos, controversial topics, bizarre quotes – and yet, their message still sticks. Why? Because they know their audience. What would never work for the likes of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is working brilliantly for them.
Our team has seen this in action, and we often have to ask our clients to just trust that we know their audience. A prime example is our client, Olam Coffee.
We posted this photo on their social media:
Here’s some of the comments that people posted under the photo:
But guess, what? We weren’t talking to those people. We were talking to this guy.
So what did we learn? Marketing with effective verbal communication requires an intimate understanding of your audience. When you know your audience, your communication style may shift but the results are big.
Olam Coffee’s audience aren’t people who enjoy a hot latte from Starbucks every morning before work. Their audience is professional roasters, the people who actually grow coffee beans on a daily basis and distribute them to major retailers. Our team was aware that this post may not resonate with the average coffee drinker but we also knew that roasters would appreciate seeing fully-saturated, 100% organic green coffee beans on their social media feed.
And GET THIS, Olam Coffee had 22x ad return from that post. This means they made 22 times more in revenue than they spent to post this ad in the first place. *mic drop*
Tailor your communication to the audience you serve. Having the right message doesn’t matter if it’s not shared in a way that your audience can understand. Think of it this way: imagine you’re a chef and you have the best steak recipe known to man. What good would it be to put that steak on the menu at a vegan restaurant? The best way to get to know your audience is to listen to them. Take notes on your audience. Learn what they like and don’t like, so you can communicate with them in a way they understand.
Specialize your speech. Effective verbal communication requires writing and speaking in a way that is specifically catered to your audience. People want to feel heard and known, so show your audience that you care. When your audience feels like they’re being listened to and their needs are being met, they will come back to you when they need another solution.
If you want to write specialized online content that’s relevant to your audience, remember SEO is your friend. Optimizing your website through SEO creates tailor-made content that yields high performing results.
Effective Verbal Communication Tip #3: Be clear and concise.
The first step to concise verbal communication is to find the meaning behind your message, so you can clearly explain it from start to finish. Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about. Be patient with them. Using effective verbal communication means thoroughly walk them through each stage of your message: the what, the how, and the why. Your audience needs to know you’re on the same team, so don’t be afraid to invite them into your thought process. Clear communication builds trust which is hard to build and easy to break.
A practical tip for clear communication is to be mindful of using jargon. While jargon can be a great communication tool (it works best when everyone is familiar with the language), it can be a major communication barrier if someone isn’t a part of the ingroup. In other words, explain, explain, explain, and when you think you’ve explained enough, explain some more.
Effective Verbal Communication Tip #4: Be aware of your nonverbal cues.
This tip may not apply to written communication, but it’s definitely relevant to your spoken communication or signed language. Your nonverbal cues are just as important (maybe even more important) than the words you speak. They can make or break a conversational interaction. Some examples of nonverbal communication are facial expressions, gestures, and body language. Your body language affects how others perceive your message.
Remember: your nonverbal communication should always complement and never contradict your verbal communication. If your nonverbal cues don’t match your words, your audience can misinterpret your message’s meaning.
Effective Verbal Communication Tip #5: Always explain why.
Your message should answer three primary questions: what, how, and why. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the what and how we forget the why. If you want to motivate and inspire your audience to interpret your message and take action, you can’t just explain what to do and how to do it. You have to tell your audience why. Today’s market is very saturated. If you can’t explain why, your audience will find someone else who will.
At Marketwake, we’re committed to starting with why. As a team, we read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In this book, Sinek takes readers on a journey of explaining the importance of starting with why. When marketers, entrepreneurs, politicians, or any other person who influences others begins with why, their message has a different level of impact, because “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
But seriously, being intentional about your verbal communication is the key to connecting with your customers, clients and co-workers. Learning your audience, embracing authenticity, practicing precision, watching your nonverbals and explaining your why will help you take your verbal communication to the next level.
If you’re looking to communicate your brand to your audience, Marketwake can help you define your unique voice. We’re here to help you excel at telling your own story through effective verbal communication.