A free, simple technique to see how often you say the right (and wrong) thing

6th August 2013

[A quick note about this week’s Tip: the company I describe below gave me permission to use their details here. In fact it was they who suggested I wrote a Tip on this. I’m pleased they did – it’s very useful and easy…]

A company recently asked me to review one of their proposals.

I quickly realised they had made the common mistake of talking too much about themselves and their proposition, and too little about its impact on the beneficiary.

So, I used the “find” function in word, and discovered their 22 page document contained:

  • Their company name 149 times (the customer’s name appeared 5)
  • “we” – 78 times; but “you” – 11
  • “our” – 51: “your” – 7

Not customer-focused… in what was supposed to be a customer-focused document.

It took me under 20 seconds to find this out. Their response: “We’re devastated. We had no idea. We’ll never write like this again.”

And they haven’t.

How many techniques are there that (1) change you forever (2) in only 20 seconds?!

Here are examples of what you can search for using “find”:

  • The word “You” and the beneficiary’s name. These should appear more times than “we”/your name. It’s worth checking every document for this – your proposals, brochures, website etc
  • “and” and “but”. People often use these words to join two short sentences into one long one. But long sentences are harder for people to read quickly
  • Words that you know you use a lot

If your searches uncover things you don’t like, the solutions are straight forward:

  • Change the focus from “We do X” to “You want to achieve Y. We can help by doing X”
  • Replace “and/but” with a full stop
  • Use a thesaurus to find alternatives

This is one of these Tips that you might feel you don’t need. But my customer didn’t think they needed it either. And since it only takes 20 seconds to do, it’s worth trying. You never know what you’ll find.

Action point

Choose a document that is complete/near completion. Search for the words that will show you what you need to know about your content. Make the changes you need, to transform its impact.

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