The Sound of Business – Part I

Breaking The Liquid Crystal Barrier

The Web is an emotionally remote hinterland delivered to us through an
impenetrable liquid crystal barrier. How then, can you as a business
owner, entrepreneur, or marketing executive connect to a target
audience that requires emotional reassurance in order to do business?

Willy Loman is Dead

Gone are the days when we sent out phalanxes of sales representatives
pounding the pavement, beating the bushes, and generally getting in
the face of prospects. Too expensive, way too expensive, have you seen
the price of gas? Enough said.

Hot Shots Are Us

So you hire some hot shot Web designer who isn’t as old as the shoes
you’re wearing. If you spent some money on your site, and you didn’t fall
into the trap of having your brother-in-law’s cousin design the thing, you
probably got a technically proficient website. Unfortunately, when they
teach these ‘wunderkind’ the ways of the Web at the local community
college, they don’t teach them anything about business, especially
anything about marketing.

Now if you’re one of those people who think websites are IT projects
then good luck, have a nice life, stop reading, because the rest of what I
have to say will mean nothing to you. On the other hand, if you believe
websites are about marketing, let’s talk.

A Manifesto for the Web

A bunch of guys a whole lot smarter than me wrote a neat little screed
called the ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto’ – very clever stuff. What they said
was ‘markets are conversations consisting of human beings, and the
Internet enables these conversations.’ Now here’s the critical part,
‘conversations among human beings sound human. They are
conducted in a human voice.’ Now does that sound like the Web you
know? Does your website speak with a human voice? Does your
website connect in a human way to your customers? I think not.

So what does this really mean, this so called conversation? Well we are
all aware of Email, Blogs, RSS, and the Instant Messenger technologies
that have enabled this conversation to take place. But with these
informal conversations comes a danger – sloppy thinking and
misunderstood intent.

Someone sends you an email, and you quickly respond dashing off an
email reply without carefully thinking about how, or what, you are
saying. Even if the basic intent and content is what you wanted to say,
have you really said it in a way that your conversation partner will
understand, or will they misconstrue your meaning?

How many one line, short-form emails have you received in response to
a complex initial correspondence, and if you’re anything like me, you
looked at it and thought to yourself, ‘what the hell is this suppose to
mean.’ We’ve got a conversation going all right, but have we really
attained communication.

The Meaning of Life or At Least Web Conversation

Now here’s the interesting thing. I never actually read ‘The Cluetrain
Manifesto’, but I did hear it. Knowing that I would be laid-up for a few
days, bored to death, with nothing to do, but too comatose to really
concentrate on reading a book, I purchased one of those audiocassette
books at the local mall. I had no idea what I was buying, but it sounded
interesting, after all the cover said ‘the end of business as usual’ which
really appealed to my unconventional, contrary nature.

So I bought it, and it was a revelation, an epiphany. Not that I agreed
with everything Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David
Weinberger had to say, but still their voices stayed with me, and are still
locked away somewhere in my head.

Breaking the Liquid Crystal Barrier

And that my friend is the message, the sound of the human voice is
powerful, and it connects to the listener on a whole different level. It
speaks the truth and connects emotionally to the listener on a very
human plane. It breaks through that liquid crystal barrier, and says,
listen to me, I’m here, I’m human, and I have something real to talk to you
about. Wow, this is good stuff. So tell me why don’t you have that human
connection imbedded in your website, delivering your message, your
story.

Forget about all the crap you’ve heard and read about bandwidth and
search engine optimization. When someone takes the trouble to visit
your website, don’t waste the opportunity. Don’t screw it up. Don’t be
afraid to say what needs to be said, in a way that will be heard. If you do
it right, your website visitors will remember what you have to say, and
that liquid crystal barrier will be broken.