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Effective communication strategies: 5 essentials


Although this communication may have been effective in the 1950s, it’s certainly not today.

Effective communication strategies are essential to marketing success. Choose style, tone and medium to reflect both your brand and the audiences you must reach.

The strategies summarized below are based on extensive research into how people respond, what they’ll click on or how online traffic has increased.

In the world before the internet, direct marketing and direct mail were the only measurable forms of advertising–you could count how many phone calls came in or how many business reply cards were returned. The rest of traditional advertising inspired the quote attributed to John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Today most of what we create to reach our audiences is measurable in some way. That can be good or bad. Good because we can test to see what works. Bad because we may all end up using the same tested strategies. That’s where creativity becomes important.

But creativity to be “new” and “different” is rarely what works

True creativity isn’t random or even “inspired.” It’s thoughtful choices based on essential principles of human interaction, human communication. It requires understanding your audiences, what they’re looking for, who they are and how they prefer to take in information and respond. Build that knowledge into the design and content of your communications and you’ll be more effective.

Effective communication strategies require you …

Know your audiences

That’s always first. Understanding the people you must reach, those most likely to buy your goods and services, is the foundation. Who are they? Describe them as individuals. Create audience personas that detail age group, role in the purchase, lifestyle, reason they want/need what you offer, how they buy, how they communicate.

effective-communication-strategies-audiencesKnow why they buy

The old adage, “they’re not buying a drill, they’re buying the hole it makes” is still true. Dig into the “why” of your audiences, not just the “what.” Use that message in your communications, it’s much more powerful. Build in the “what’s in it for me?” perspective wherever your communication appears. Keep the focus on “you” and not on “here’s the stuff you can buy from us.”

Use compelling visuals to tell the story

Our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than words. Social media posts with visuals are shared 80x more than those without. Use pictures your audience can relate to, that show the outcome or result of what you offer. Keep in mind people online tend to scan instead of read. More photos and shorter text are essential on today’s websites and as part of your effective communication strategies.

Write short, easy-to-read copy

Attention spans these days are shorter and shorter. Yet long copy is still effective. If someone is really interested in what you offer, they want more information. But don’t lose them with industry jargon, acronyms or too wordy text. Use the Flesch Reading Ease test to score your copy for active voice and readability, whether it’s a blog post, an ad or a white paper.

marketing messageMake responding easy and obvious

One of my pet peeves is a website with “dead end” pages, where there is no direct call to action or links to other information. Or how about sites where it takes 3 clicks to find a phone number or address? Kind of a pain on mobile. Whether a print ad or an email or a website, give people a next step. Make it easy for them to learn more or respond. The old direct marketing rule–the easier it is to respond, the more response you’ll get. Still true.

These effective communication strategies are valid whether you’re creating an ad, a website or a piece of content for your marketing. Keep the communication clear and direct. Know your audiences and give them what they’re looking for while building your brand. Shift your language and perspective from “we offer this” to “you’ll get this result/outcome from what we provide.”

And of course, be relevant. It’s hard to believe that ad for doctor-recommended Camels was effective, isn’t it?

Use our worksheet to define your audiences and craft your message.


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About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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