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Why Your Customers Are Tuning You Out

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Learn how to avoid 5 common mistakes utilities make developing brochures, flyers and other customer communications.

There are typically only a a few times each year when utilities get to really connect with customers. With limited budgets and time, you can’t afford to make the mistakes that are actually encouraging your customers to simply tune out, and move on to the next distraction in their life.

The good news: Mistakes are easy to avoid.

Here are five of the most common along with tips on how you can avoid having them turn your brochures, flyers, emails and other critical messaging opportunities into missed opportunities.

1. Saying too much… or too little.

On one hand, some writers include absolutely everything they know about a topic in the materials they create. Your customers don’t find this appealing. They prefer scanning shorter bits of content, with key messages highlighted in subheads, different type styles, call-outs and infographics.

Tip: Ask someone who has not been involved in the development of a piece to review it before you release it. Find out whether they feel inclined to read it. Test it on maybe your neighbors or friends to see if key points come through clearly. If they find the piece too dense, unclear or unfocused, take time to refine it.

On the other hand, some writers end up missing out on delivering key messages in their pieces. Often, copy decks go through multiple rounds of edits with many stakeholders. This can lead to important messages getting scrambled or unintentionally cut.

Tip: Compare original outlines or strategy documents to final copy decks or layouts before pieces are published or printed. This will ensure the original intent of the brochure or flyer is maintained.

2. All about the utility… not the reader.

Sometimes utilities are so focused on what THEY want to say, they forget to explain what it means to their customers. In most cases, people won’t take time to learn about utility infrastructure projects, environmental initiatives or the importance of cutting usage. However, they will pay attention to information about how these things could affect or improve their lives. For example:
• Don’t just focus on the technical details of an infrastructure development project. Add information about how it could impact traffic or affect service and what your customers can do to limit inconvenience.
• Don’t just publish environmental impact statements. Add information on how the things local residents do could damage — or improve — the beach or park they enjoy spending time at.
• Don’t limit yourself to simply providing information about rate increases. Take time to explain how the infrastructure or service improvements paid for by the increases will benefit people in your community.

Tip: Ask someone who doesn’t work for your agency to review your copy. See if they find a benefit in reading it or whether it comes across as self-serving. If they find it self-serving, ask them to help you to brainstorm ideas to make it more benefits focused.

3. Too technical or industry focused.

People who work at utilities are steeped in industry knowledge and it can influence how they write. They often use technical language or industry-specific words and phrases that average readers don’t understand.

Tip: Review all communications and ask yourself: Would my aunt, neighbor or cousin “get” this? If the answer is no, rewrite the piece using words and concepts they would understand. This exercise is a good way to ensure your materials will make sense to the average person.

4. Home grown design.

Take an honest look at your agency’s brochures and flyers. Ask yourself: Do they look polished and professional? Or do they feel “homemade”.  Even though you want to ensure you are spending your dollars wisely, in a world where people are used to professionally designed pieces, they won’t find material created in your office using clip art and word processing software attractive. It’s important to find the right balance.

Tip: Using a designer with experience in developing communication pieces for utilities can be a very cost-effective way to polish-up your materials and make them look professional.

5. Headlines fall flat.

The toughest thing for most amateur writers to do is come up with catchy, interesting headlines. Look at your current inventory of brochures, pamphlets and flyers. Do the headlines and sub heads call out to you or do they seem a little bland? Pieces with unexpected, clever or benefits-focused headlines are more likely to be picked up and READ.

Tip: This is an area where a professional writer could help. They have experience with writing both long- and short-form copy that engages readers. It’s a skill set that can take years or even decades to develop.

Are you looking for fresh insights on how you can improve your agency’s communication materials? Goldstreet can help. We enjoy collaborating with new people. Give us a call. We’re friendly and fun to talk to and you’ll come away with fresh insights on how to take your brochures, flyers and other materials to the next level.

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