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The Run-On Message

The Run-On Message

From Career Tips, 2015 Volume 5, May

In the last 3 issues, I've been writing about ways in which people 'abuse' their marketing message. (Catch up on Part 1 here.)

One common mistake made in sales that can also apply to interviews, career discussions, and networking situations is captured by this maxim:

Once you have the sale, shut up!

This advice comes from situations when you're having a really good conversation with a prospect, they say they want your service or product, and you continue to talk about other benefits, qualify your offer, talk about other options, add one more detail, etc. Often what happens is that you miss that moment of activation. Sometimes you are able to recover, and others you end up confusing the prospect or giving them more to think about that so that you lose the sale.

How does this apply to your marketing messages?

The longer your message, the weaker it tends to become. You give the listener or reader too much to absorb, and pass the point of true engagement.

Remember, the entire purpose of your message is to create engagement, and to get the other person wanting to know more.

In an extreme example, I recall a former senior manager at AT&T telling an audience that he wasn't a stickler about keeping cover letters short. He would be happy to receive a 13 page cover letter, as long as EVERY PARAGRAPH LEFT HIM WANTING TO READ MORE. As soon as he reached part that didn't meet that criteria, it was too long.

My own take is that it is very difficult to hold engagement with a long message. Even if the things you are saying are interesting, too much gets distracting.

I was giving a workshop on marketing messages recently, and at one point I started relating a message with lots of interesting points, stacked one on top of the other over the course of a long pitch. I quickly started to see people rolling their eyes or chuckling, because they were getting the point - no matter how compelling the individual statements, being concise will make the overall message much more effective.

In fact, having too many interesting statements can be distracting. One statement will tend to push the last one out of the average listener's short term memory, and by the end you will be lucky to have more than one point actually retained. Plus you will leave an impression that you are a bit long-winded.

So make your messages much more effective by keeping them short and simple, including one key point you really want to come across, and letting the rest just create a positive impression to support that. Save other key points for the follow-up conversation that you know will happen if you have created true engagement and left listeners (or readers) wanting to know more!

And here's a quick example of a 30 second pitch I might make to a networking group:

"Jim had been stuck at the AVP level for a long time, and now found himself working for a much younger boss who clearly wanted him gone. I coached him first on the graceful exit, then on how to market himself and network effectively. Within a few months, he landed as VP at another company in the area, at higher pay, in a job he loves, and where he is perceived as a superstar. I'm John Hadley, and I help job seekers who are frustrated with their search."