Language is the currency of marketing. It may seem like getting clients for your business is about money, but communication is the real key. In order for someone to become your client, they must first understand what you are offering, relate your offer to something they want or need, grasp how your service can help them, and determine that you are the right person to do what’s needed.

To accomplish these milestones, you and your clients must be speaking the same language. But all too often, this is not the case. Here are four communication pitfalls to watch out for in your marketing.


1. Avoid industry jargon. A client of mine who specialized in writing newsletters and fact sheets for corporate clients was in the habit of introducing herself as a “communications consultant.” That’s the label professionals in her industry used to describe the type of work she did, and it had never occurred to her that others might not understand it.

I suggested she ask some people outside her industry what they thought this job title meant. She was shocked to discover that the majority of people she asked thought she taught classes in how to communicate, or helped people to become better public speakers. She started introducing herself instead as a business writer specializing in employee and customer communications, and immediately began connecting with more potential clients.

2. Speak to the need. It’s a common mistake of self-employed professionals to offer clients what the professional thinks they need instead of what clients believe they need or want. For example, coaching. Most clients are not actually looking for “coaching.” Instead, they are looking for something that working with a coach might help them get, like a new job or or higher earnings or better teamwork.

Offering help with specific goals that a client might already be seeking is more likely to result in a sale than promoting a service that clients may not even realize they could benefit from.

3. Put questions before answers. When communicating in writing or from a podium, you may need to guess about what clients are looking for, but in a one-to-one conversation, you can just ask.

I was speaking with a virtual assistant recently who learned that I had multiple WordPress websites. She immediately launched into an enthusiastic explanation of how she could help me keep them backed up and updated. Not once did she ask me about my own level of technical skill (which is probably higher than hers) or whether I already had someone to do this for me (yes, I do). What a waste of a conversation. Instead, she could have spent that time asking me what assisting needs I did have and how she could potentially be of service.

4. Establish your worth. Clients want to make sure you are the right person for the job, but they may not care at all about the qualifications you think are important. It’s not going to help you get a tax preparation client if you tell them all about your Enrolled Agent credential, but what they want to know is whether you have experience with multi-state returns and relocation payments.

Ask your potential clients what they are looking for in an accountant, web designer, ghostwriter, etc., before you start describing your background.

The key to good communication is usually not talking, but listening. Listen to the questions prospective clients ask for clues to how you may not be explaining yourself well. Ask your own questions about their needs and the deciding factors that will be important to them. When you and your clients start speaking the same language, your words might just turn to gold.

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