My friend Vicky is model-slim for a reason.
She has this bizarre ritual with restaurant desserts.
When her pudding arrives, she first takes a long, hard look at it, turning the plate and perusing it from all angles, like Hercule Poirot examining a crime scene.
If the dessert passes this initial scrutiny, she takes a single, small spoonful, and then sits back while she delicately chews.
Finally, more often than not, the plate is then gently but firmly pushed away while she exclaims with a flick of her wrist,
‘Not worth the calories.’
The woman has self-control of steel (just like her abs).
Now Vicky’s dessert decision-making reminds me of how our customers, prospects, colleagues and partners evaluate your (and my) content every single day.
(By content I mean everything we use to communicate – from emails, presentations and blogs to memos, social media posts and letters.)
And they give even less time to their decision making than Vicky does to her cheesecake. Yikes!
First, they judge it visually, asking:
- Does this look like something I should even bother with? Is it a thick soup of words that’ll have me reaching for the Gaviscon or a few short paragraphs that I’ll be able to digest quickly?
- Does it look tempting? Like an interesting treat or a bland waste of time?
If your content passes the looks test, they might take a little taste. A read of your headline. A glance of your first slide. A couple of minutes of listening to your webinar.
And after this taste they ask themselves this killer question:
Is it worth my while to continue?
Is it worth more than a cursory glance?
Is it more useful to me than skipping on to the next post/email? Is reading it more valuable to me than going off and making a phone call/cup of Lapsang Suchong/new ‘friend’ on Tinder?
And that’s our challenge. Not only to get attention in the first place, but to hold it.
So what do we do about this? How do we stay irresistibly delicious to our audience?
Well, here are 2 simple techniques to prove to your customers that your content IS worth the calories:
1. Care about looks – no-one wants to be faced with a wall of words in font so small you’re reaching for the ‘zoom in’ button on your keyboard. Instead try:
- short first sentences (they indicate ‘This is an easy read’)
- short paragraphs with one point per paragraph (easy to digest)
- lots of white space (creates a sense of calm)
- imagery wherever possible as well as words
2. Front load your value – wherever possible, don’t start with non-critical background information or stodgy-as-a-sticky-toffee-pudding introductions (‘Founded in 2008, we opened our first office in Birmingham in July of the same year…’ Yawn.).
Begin instead with a glimpse of the value to come to lure your audience in. ‘This proposal will show you how we’ll help you grow your business to £50m in just 5 years’ or ‘I’d like to invite you to be our keynote speaker in front of 250 partners of the world’s most prestigious professional services firms.’
These two easy techniques will make sure your audience can’t help gobbling up your content – it’ll be so worth the calories.