Are You Being Seduced by What you Think People Want to Hear?

by : Isabel Parlett

I meet so many people who are mystified by their struggle to find words to talk about what they do. “But I'm a good writer!" “Heck, I was even in advertising!" “I know I'm good at what I do." I've been pondering this for a while now, and I think I am finally really seeing to the heart of why, as small business owners, we end up writing marketing pieces that fall flat and bore us silly.

It's not that we haven't learned five copywriting secrets that glue eyeballs to the page. It's not that we haven't unleashed our inner sales beast. It's not that we don't know how to step in our prospect's shoes. What hangs us up more painfully and powerfully than anything else is a deep fear about what people will think about what we have to say.

Often before we are even conscious of it, we step away from what we really want to do, what we really want to say, and we start editing. “People aren't looking to feel like they are being dipped in an ocean of love," we say. “No one will understand what I mean by moments of transcendence." “People don't pay to be better communicators."

And so that thing we love, that thing we are out-and-out outrageously excited about bringing into the world gets shoved aside. It gets prodded and poked to become something safer or more acceptable without ever getting to land fully in our own consciousness, without ever getting words to honor that spirit, without language to really claim for ourselves “Hey, this is what I am here on the planet to do!"

And if that outcome we love to deliver, that's been a theme throughout our lives, never gets to live in a bold, bald, unadulterated state, then we lose forever that raw energy that could be channeled into a marketing piece that makes prickles stand up on the back of people's necks.

When I take people through my Work on Words program, one of the most difficult things I ask them to do is to write for themselves first. To capture that private language that expresses the bold truth about what they see themselves offering the world from the bottom of their hearts. Before they try to craft something for the rest of the world. When someone I work with feels stuck around their words, it almost always comes back to this - they are afraid that what they really want to say, what they really want to share won't be heard or understood. They don't say it and so they never come to life, nor do their audience.

Often this self-editing is accidentally reinforced by the marketing credo of “tell your audience what's in it for them." That's good advice. To write a great marketing piece, we do need to consider our audience and their surface wants and needs. But what I've found is that before we can respond eloquently to someone else's wants and needs, we first have to own what we have to offer, without apology, whitewashing, or sugarcoating.

If we don't get anchored in that true spirit of our work first, then we get pulled off center by what our audience wants. Instead of being grounded in our distinctive intelligence, our unique brilliance, we twist ourselves in knots trying to be what we think our audience wants, what we hope they will buy. We talk about how we can help them make more money or get the life of their dreams, or get promoted not because we want that for them, but because we've decided those are legitimate things to offer. We cut the connection to that wisdom and authority we possess in order to please.

And you know, our audience can hear it, can feel it. If our story is only about promising people a solution to their pain, we end up sounding like everyone else. (Makes sense, right? Everyone else is promising them the same thing.) It's great to touch on that pain, but what really makes each of us distinctive is how we address the pain. It's the sharpness, the clarity we bring to the solution that gives a prospect a gut feeling we can deliver. It's the focused passion and feeling we bring to talking about what we see is possible that moves someone to that raw place of “I want what you have to offer."

Capturing your prospect's pain, adding style to your words, that's easy. It's a question of technique. Telling the truth about who you are and what you want to offer, now that's hard. And yet, it's the only thing that ever has or ever will give your words their heart and power.