Are You Speaking Your Customers’ Language?

There’s a device on Star Trek called the Universal Translator. In reality it’s just a plot device to explain why everyone in the universe knows English. But on the show its function is to translate any language into the hearer’s own language in real time. It’s a useful idea (and one of the many Star Trek inventions actually becoming a reality).

When it comes to building websites, it seems a lot of them could really use a universal translator (or a Babel fish, for you Douglas Adams fans out there). Sure, there’s translation for different spoken languages. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean something to translate your point of view to your customer’s. It’s something that has to happen if your website is going to be the integral part of your sales process it can be.

Think like a customer

I’ve spent a lot of time recently reviewing manufacturing websites. One characteristic most of them have in common is that they tend to read like a parts list. They’re catalogues of products or services, often accompanied by huge amounts of tech specs and glowing descriptions of state-of-the-art machinery. And it’s not that those things are unimportant. It’s just that they don’t really communicate the value you provide for customers.

Here’s what I mean. Manufacturing customers are coming to your website to see if you can help them solve a specific problem. Maybe on the surface it’s a parts need. Or a custom machine. Or a fabrication technique.

From your perspective, your website might respond, “Here’s the stuff we make. Find the one you need and call us.”

Now look at it from your potential customer’s perspective. That parts need might represent a frustratingly long search to find a reliable partner in the face of a potentially career-deciding contract. That custom machine could mean cutting production costs enough to hire additional employees or get everyone a raise. And now they’re looking at a sea of potential vendors, all saying, “Here’s the stuff we make. Find the one you need and call us.”

It’s like you’re speaking two completely different languages.

But what if one of those manufacturers didn’t respond that way? What if one of them said, “We understand the challenge you’re facing. That’s why we make things to make your life easier. We’re here to take that worry off your plate. You can trust us. It’s going to be okay.”

Obviously, you’d never say those exact words. But the way you present what you do for potential customers on your website can mean that. And when it does—when you and your customer are both looking at their problem from the same side of the glass—you’ll be much farther along the path to creating the kind of trust that results in sales.

Start learning the language

So how can you start building that trust? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Find the value

There’s more value to what you do than “providing quality products at reasonable prices.” Customers need to know what’s in it for them if they choose you. Figure out what challenges your customers are dealing with when they come to you. Then replace features and dry, technical descriptions with an appeal to how your product can solve the real challenge at hand. You’re not selling products and solutions. You’re not even just selling better efficiency or higher output. You’re selling peace of mind. Or the ability to leave work at work. Or a happier company.

2. Show, don’t tell

You can spend all the time you want on specs and materials and tolerances. In the end, that’s not what really gets customers excited. But a case study or testimonial that shows exactly how a similar customer improved their business with your help—that’s a story your customers can identify with.

3. Don’t write to impress. Write to be understood.

Jargon, without fail, makes your website content harder to understand. Yes, you need to demonstrate an understanding of the industry. But you’re not selling the Turbo Encabulator. You’re selling a solution to a specific problem your customer is facing. Simplify your language so it’s crystal clear how what you have to offer meets your customer’s needs.

Boldly go where few manufacturers have gone before

Speaking your customer’s language requires you to get inside their head. To understand their challenges from their perspective. And then connect what you’re offering to those challenges in a way that alleviates their fears, worries, or concerns. When you do that, your website can change from an online brochure to an active member of your sales team. That’s where it becomes less about providing information and more about forging and deepening relationships.

Modern manufacturing websites have the potential to be one of your most powerful tools during the sales process. One study shows that 94% of B2B buyers research online before making a purchase. When customers arrive at your website looking for your help, make sure your real value isn’t getting lost in translation.

See more posts about Customer Experience

About the author:

John Behrens

John Behrens is associate creative director/lead copywriter at Imaginasium. He’s an idea-generator and problem-solver who crafts words and concepts into memorable experiences that build brand engagement for our clients. Follow him on Twitter at @johncbehrens.