Friday, July 31, 2009

When Challenged Use the Chicken Argument!

Today's topic is not a new one. I decided to write a few words about it, because I still face this issue from time to time. It is about speaking the right language, knowing your customers and knowing who is on the other side, when you are trying to get the message across. The problem was extensively studied by several authors Adele Revella, David Meerman Scott, Steve Johnson and others.

So, what is it all about? Years ago, when I started my work as a product manager, whenever somebody asked me if I can create a presentation of a product, I immediately knew what to do. My presentation was done in a very short time; it required no particular input from colleagues or customers (I knew it all, I was a product manager!) and it spoke a magnificent persuasive language.

Which language?

My language.

There was a problem with that. The customers were not product managers. They saw the product through their eyes. They were expecting answers to their problems, not an expose of my beautiful achievement. The message did not get to them, because there was no message for them.

I figured it out, eventually. In order to be listened to, I needed to convey the value of the product from the customer's perspective. Although there was a single product, there were as many perspectives as there were distinctive market segments. I needed a customized presentation for each market segment.

Since then whenever somebody asks me to prepare a presentation of a product, I immediately ask back "Who will be listening?" In some cases I still get a strange look questioning me "am I trying to avoid the task by asking annoying questions?" In these cases I need a simple persuasive argument to explain why knowing a listener is so important. Here is what I am using. You can try it too.

"Let us say you would like to present the value of corn to a farmer. How would you do it?

Further on, how would you present the value of corn to a cook?

Would you be more persuasive with two presentations or just one for both of them?

If you still think that corn is corn and there is no reason to present it differently to a cook as you would present it to a farmer, try this one -

- How would you present the value of corn to a chicken?"

Long pause.

"Are you kidding me?! You need a break - soon. Here is your customer profile."



Trevor Rotzien said...

I like the Chicken Story! Definitely a useful, quick way to get the point across (and can easily be projected to analogies that any particular skeptic will relate to).

I too had to learn to speak to different audiences differently. In fact, in cases where the audience is new to you, it is best to seek advice from someone who knows them well.

Matjaž Bevk said...

Hi Trevor,

Thank you for the feedback.

What do you do when the audience is not known to you?

Tryst Anderson said...

Too many presenters think presentation,PowerPoint animations and jokes before they think audience. I believe the most powerful reasons for knowing the audience before you develop the presentation is nuance and attention. What about the audience will make you tweak certain message points. When the audience is in the presentation, their attention sparks dramatically. Even on a "canned" presentation, I make an effort to chat with people in the audience before I speak. When I touch on certain topics in the presenation where audience members gave an anecdote or content, I relate directly to them.....However, I do like the chicken as well.