Meaning: Is Your Staff Communicating Relevant Truth?

by Jim Stein

What is the meaning of life? In our own way, each of us contemplates a version of this question. Think about it. We glide through life involved in our daily activities and, in a real sense, we’re guided by our own framework of meaning that we’ve formed and reformed over the years. Our own involvement with “meaning” usually runs in our mind in background mode during most of our waking moments as we drive to work, relate to our kids, pursue a hobby, please a customer or simply smile at a stranger. The clearer that meaning is, the easier it is for us to make what we feel are good decisions. That’s why our brains are hard-wired to constantly seek meaning in all information. When trying to make a really important decision, this “seek meaning” process is so great that it rises to a conscious level and we become aware of our quest.

Your potential customers are humans in a modern world. When faced with a vast sea of information about their potential purchases, their minds work to identify TRUTH and RELEVANCY within the information. I call this combination “MEANING.” Customers identify this meaning and process it within their current belief systems to formulate decisions.

Meaning = Relevant Truth 

Delivering Greater Meaning to Potential Customers
I believe that if you focus on delivering greater meaning to potential customers, you’ll gain a valuable perspective on how they view your company. Start with relevancy.

The Relevancy Assessment
Take a look at your company’s market signals, such as marketing materials, vehicles, phone answering scripts, staff appearance, headlines in marketing pieces, sales presentations, advertising, etc. From the point of view of a prospective customer, how relevant is the information you’re presenting?

Identify your signals and then answer this question about each one: “Is this information likely to be very relevant to potential customers?” I’ve asked you to answer this question, not your potential customers, because there are certain signals which people deny are relevant but are proven to be highly relevant. So, you have to listen to what people say, but also use good judgment of their unspoken feelings. Staff appearance is an example of this denial of relevancy. High-quality staff appearance signals high-quality work, even if a potential customer says it doesn’t matter (it’s not the only quality signal, but it’s a meaningful one).

The Truth Assessment
What is the truth? The commercial world we live in is swimming in shaded truths and outright lies. Your potential customers’ honesty antennas are on high alert as they process information about your company and your competitors. In this competitive world, it’s easy to justify using some shaded truths (truth combined with some hype or falseness) within marketing strategies. Yet, these shaded truths do more harm than good, because they signal that the information cannot be fully trusted. Identify your signals and then answer this question about each one: “Is this information truthful?” As Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” In your heart of hearts, you can determine what is truthful and what is shaded.

 Action: Increased Meaning = Increased Sales

After you’ve assessed all your market signals for relevancy and truth, you’re ready to take action. Start with relevancy. What information about your industry and company is highly relevant but isn’t adequately featured in your key market signals? As manager, write out the steps you need to take to reduce the noise of low relevancy information within your signals and increase the prominence of high relevancy information. You can’t be all things to all people, so make sure what you really stand for—your strongest competitive advantage—breaks through and shines. Second, correct any shaded truths you’ve identified within the signals. Make them clear, unvarnished truths. While this may appear to reduce the attractiveness of the signal, it will actually improve its performance, because the signal will be processed by your potential customers as authentic and believable.