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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Fix this mistake or lose business!

Titles are an essential part of communications. They’re your ‘first impression’. Newspapers employ experts to write headlines. Advertisers and publishers know a poor title destroys sales.

Yet, despite titles’ importance, when preparing communications, people rarely spend much (any?) time thinking about them. Instead, their titles usually simply describe the content… ‘Departmental conference’, ‘Our credentials’, ‘Q3 review’ and the like.

Don’t believe me? Check the titles of emails in your inbox. How many grab you? Let me guess: none.

Uninspiring titles set the tone for uninspiring communications.

So, here’s a simple, effective remedy: add an audience-benefit to the title (or, at least, subtitle) and you change the context entirely. For instance, would you rather receive communications called:

'Departmental conference', or
'Ensuring next year’s even better'


'Our credentials', or
'Ensuring your product launch succeeds'


'Q3 review'
'Q4 preview: lessons we can learn, to ensure our year ends well'

Having a great title worked pretty well for ‘How to win friends and influence people’. How impressive are yours?

Action point


Review the titles of your recent communications – maybe skim down your Sent Items?

Could they be better? If so, spend more time thinking why your communications benefit your recipient(s). And include the main benefit in your title/subtitle.


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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Is your Covering Email costing you business?




I once helped a consultant write a proposal for a big project. It was worth a lot of money to him. It would have been his biggest contract.

The proposal we wrote was really good. But he didn’t win the work.

When he asked why not, they said they were so underwhelmed by his Covering Email, that they didn’t feel they could trust him with such an important project. 

Their exact words: “if you don’t take care of little things like emails when you know we’re watching, how can we trust you to take care of big things when you don’t think we are?”

Ouch.

I asked him to send me this Covering Email. It said…

Title: FYI

See attached

Cheers,
NAME


How utterly dreadful.

And what a waste.

We’d created this wonderful proposal. If the customer had just read it, the consultant would have had an outstanding chance of winning the business. But all our effort was ruined by the first thing they saw: his Covering Email. I wouldn’t have even noticed his email in my inbox. Would you?

So, what about your Covering Emails? How good are they? Do you put much time into making them brilliant? Do you put any?

The good news: there are many ways to craft a good one. Here’s one that works very well…

Title: John, here’s the email you requested about [insert topic]

John,

As [promised/requested], I attach the [communication] about [topic].

You’ll see it contains some critical points. In particular:
[highlight 1]
[highlight 2]
[highlight 3]


As agreed, I’ll ring you at [time] on [date] to discuss how we should proceed. If you want to discuss before then, please call my mobile – [number].

Best,
James

You’ll notice:

  • The title is compelling. This ensures she opens the email
  • It starts with “As promised” (or similar). This reminds her that she’s already verbally engaged with you, and that you’ve written the document she requested. (An important note: if you haven’t had this chat beforehand, it’s less likely that your communication will impress. After all, when you know what she wants, you’re more likely to write something she wants. But when you don’t…)
  • Briefly mentioning 2-3 highlights means she’s more likely to open the document, to read the detail
  • There’s a clear call to action – ‘I’m calling you on X. But call me if you prefer’ – so it’s likely there’ll be an action! Again, note that this has been verbally agreed beforehand
  • By providing your direct contact details, you’re empowering her to increase the pace if she wants to
  • The email’s short, but contains enough info to persuade her to open the attachment. You don’t need to re-write half your document. But neither can you write only “see attached”

Let’s face it: it doesn’t take long to write an email like this. It only takes minutes – seconds? – to do. But, if you don’t, you might find you’ve wasted the previous few hours you’ve spent on your document.

Action Point


What’s the most important attachment you’re sending today? Ensure your Covering Email impresses, such that they take the action you want them to.

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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Repetition - the Key to Change



A few years ago, it became illegal in the UK to smoke in public places. So there were notices everywhere – pubs, clubs, hotels, public buildings, stations, airports…

The logic was clear. If you want people to change behaviours in the long term, you must repeatedly remind them of the key messages until it sticks.

It’s the same in business. If you want your team/department/boss/stakeholder to change behaviours, you have to repeatedly remind them, too. But many organisations don’t do this. Or, at least, not enough:

  • One-off roadshows to explain your new vision won’t make your messages stick
  • Information cascades with minimal follow-up result in messages becoming diluted/lost
  • Single presentations don’t transform people’s ability, desire and confidence to change
  • Sending one email called “for your information” doesn’t change… well anything

When you want others to change behaviours, are you reminding them often enough?

Action point


For your next key communications, prepare both the communication and the follow-up, not just the communication.

For communications you’ve delivered previously – maybe before the Christmas break? – but not yet followed-up... follow them up! Ask how they’re progressing. Offer help. Share successes. Build momentum.



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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Quiz 2014 - Answers





As we countdown to Christmas, here are a few puzzles to help you get through your last week... Remember to check back on Thursday for the answers. :-)

Good Luck!  


Q1: There’s an ancient invention still in use in most parts of the world that allows people to see through walls. What is it?

A window.



Q2: What five letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?

Short.



Q3: How many animals of each species did Moses take into the Ark?

None. NOAH built the ark.



Q4: A man was pushed out of a small aeroplane, without a parachute but survived with no injuries apart from a few bruises. How was this possible?

The aeroplane was on the ground.



Q5: In what sport are the shoes made of metal?

Horse racing; or other horse sports.



Q6: How can you throw a ball as hard as you can, and make it stop and return to you, without hitting anything and with nothing attached to it?

Go outside and throw it upwards.



Q7: A farmer owns a beautiful pear tree. He supplies the fruit to a nearby shop. The shop owner has called the farmer to see how much fruit is available for him to purchase. The farmer knows that the main trunk has 24 branches. Each branch has exactly 12 boughs and each bough has exactly 6 twigs. Since each twig bears one piece of fruit, how many plums will the farmer be able to deliver?

None - It's a pear tree.



Q8: If the day after the day before yesterday was Tuesday, and the day before the day after tomorrow is Thursday - what day is today?

Wednesday.



Q9: A man comes to the border of a country on his motorbike. He has three large sacks on his bike. The customs officer at the border stops him and asks, “What’s in the sacks?”

“Sand” answered the man.

The guard says, “We’ll see about that. Get off the bike.”

The guard takes the sacks and rips them apart. He empties them out and finds nothing in them but sand. He detains the man overnight and has the sand analysed, only to find that there is nothing but pure sand in the bags. The guard releases the man, puts the sand into new bags, lifts them onto the man’s shoulders and lets him cross the border.

A week later, the same thing happens. The customs officer asks, “What have you got?”

“Sand” says the man.

The officer does another thorough examination and again discovers that the sacks contain nothing but sand. He gives the sand back to the man, and the man again crosses the border.

This sequence of events repeats every week for the next three years. Then one day, the man doesn’t show up. The border official bumps into him in a restaurant in the city. The official says “I know you’re smuggling something and it’s driving me crazy. It’s all I think about. I can’t even sleep. Just between you and me, what are you smuggling?”

What is the man smuggling?


Motorbikes.


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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas Quiz 2014





As we countdown to Christmas, here are a few puzzles to help you get through your last week... Remember to check back on Thursday for the answers. :-)

Good Luck!  


Q1: There’s an ancient invention still in use in most parts of the world that allows people to see through walls. What is it?



Q2: What five letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?



Q3: How many animals of each species did Moses take into the Ark?



Q4: A man was pushed out of a small aeroplane, without a parachute but survived with no injuries apart from a few bruises. How was this possible?



Q5: In what sport are the shoes made of metal?



Q6: How can you throw a ball as hard as you can, and make it stop and return to you, without hitting anything and with nothing attached to it?



Q7: A farmer owns a beautiful pear tree. He supplies the fruit to a nearby shop. The shop owner has called the farmer to see how much fruit is available for him to purchase. The farmer knows that the main trunk has 24 branches. Each branch has exactly 12 boughs and each bough has exactly 6 twigs. Since each twig bears one piece of fruit, how many plums will the farmer be able to deliver?



Q8: If the day after the day before yesterday was Tuesday, and the day before the day after tomorrow is Thursday - what day is today?



Q9: A man comes to the border of a country on his motorbike. He has three large sacks on his bike. The customs officer at the border stops him and asks, “What’s in the sacks?”

“Sand” answered the man.

The guard says, “We’ll see about that. Get off the bike.”

The guard takes the sacks and rips them apart. He empties them out and finds nothing in them but sand. He detains the man overnight and has the sand analysed, only to find that there is nothing but pure sand in the bags. The guard releases the man, puts the sand into new bags, lifts them onto the man’s shoulders and lets him cross the border.

A week later, the same thing happens. The customs officer asks, “What have you got?”

“Sand” says the man.

The officer does another thorough examination and again discovers that the sacks contain nothing but sand. He gives the sand back to the man, and the man again crosses the border.

This sequence of events repeats every week for the next three years. Then one day, the man doesn’t show up. The border official bumps into him in a restaurant in the city. The official says “I know you’re smuggling something and it’s driving me crazy. It’s all I think about. I can’t even sleep. Just between you and me, what are you smuggling?”

What is the man smuggling?



Click here to see the quiz answers!


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