A few people on our team (myself included) recently took a virtual improv class, encouraged by our CSO, Jen. It was, first and foremost, something to distract from the interminable hours spent taking Zoom calls from decidedly non-office places inside our homes, but we had also heard Jen talk many times about how the principles of improv have served her as a business leader. 
 
It was in the days after the final class, as I attempted (and failed) to write a new blog post, that I thought about the idea of self-awareness, and how crucial it is when it comes to content messaging–especially in times like these. 
 
There are plenty of articles out there about how best to go about generating demand and selling in the midst of–I’ll just say it, because ‘uncertain times’ seems way too trite at this point–a pandemic.  
 
Many of those articles ultimately inspired this one, in which we will share some best practices for nailing the tone of your content in this, the weirdest year, 2020. 
 

Let There Be Levity!

 
When all this first started, I struggled to find the line between acknowledging the ways in which our reality had changed and dwelling on it. Then, like everyone else, my inbox began to fill up with long-winded emails from every company I’d ever engaged with.  
 
The tone of every email was somber, and each one felt like a facsimile of the one before it. I stopped reading them, deleting them as soon as they popped into my inbox. In their place, I would have loved to find something lighter. Something relatable that made sense given what was happening but didn’t make me feel like I was heavy from soaking in it. For example:   
 
  • Video: With a short video, you can say what you need to, but in a way that feels more personal. Give the people a little home office tour! Have a virtual cup of coffee with them!
  • Humor: A quick, funny anecdote can go a long way. Regardless of what you’re about to say, it never hurts to lighten the mood a little by starting off with something random or funny that people can relate to
  • Recommendations: Read a great book lately? Heard a song that puts you in a good mood? Have a recipe that’s easy and delicious? Took a funny picture of your cat? Sharing is caring!

Stay True to Your Value Prop

This feels like it shouldn’t be that hard to do, but when the market dries up overnight, it’s just human nature to scramble to find some connection between your solution and everyone else’s reality—no matter how tenuous. 
 
Unfortunately, all this does is damage your credibility and signal to people that you’re putting sales ahead of experience. While companies and individuals certainly shouldn’t be vilified for this, it’s also not likely to help generate demand. 
 
Instead, be thoughtful about how you’re reframing your value prop to prospects. Don’t focus on the issue-at-large, but rather about the impact it’s having on the people you’re selling to. How can your product or service help alleviate those smaller, more specific pains? 
 
Regardless of what’s happening in the world, sales is not about trying to convince someone who doesn’t need your product that they do; it’s about finding the people who do need it and showing them why. 

 

Read It Out Loud

 
Doing this has saved me so many times, it should get a medal. 
 
It seems simple, but there’s magic to it. It is a fact that our brains close gaps for us when we read to ourselves–perhaps it’s their way of telling us that they love us no matter what. Regardless, reading out loud to someone (or no one) circumvents this handy little brain trick. As someone who is physically pained by her own grammar and spelling mistakes, doing this has brought a lot of discomfort to my life in the short term, but I am better for it. 
 
In addition to helping with avoidable grammar/spelling mistakes, reading out loud allows you to be someone else for a moment—your audience. That is who you want to be, ideally the entire time you’re writing, but this is the next best thing. 
 
Other stuff to watch for: 
  • Does the spirit of your words get lost if you read with a certain inflection? 
  • Could anything you wrote be misinterpreted as offensive, rude, or patronizing?
  • Is it tedious for you to read? If so, think about breaking up the text with images or just paring it down a bit. 

Be Generous in a Way That Makes Sense

 
We’ve all heard it said that in order to close more deals, you need to create equitable relationships with the people to whom you’re selling. In other words, you have to give before you get.  
 
We agree with this 100%. However, there are ways to be generous that don’t involve inadvertently hurting your own business. As much as we may want to, we can’t stop marketing and selling because something bad happens.
 
Not all businesses can afford to give their time or product away for free. For those who can, it’s a wonderful gesture of good faith; for those who can’t, there are other ways to be generous: 
 
  • Create content that provides value without having any other motive.
  • Listen to what your own team is saying and address those things externally, too.
  • Share tips that have helped your productivity or apps that have eased your stress.
  • Send Direct Mail that will make people smile. 

Finally, in the interest of practicing what I preach, here are some great examples of this I’ve seen companies and individuals doing: