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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Your Employee Communication Tutor

great free tutoring is delivered to your door every day, so use it

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

If you are reading this, you are probably involved in changing the behavior of others. You may be a training professional, on your own or in a staff position. You might be a small business owner, looking to enhance productivity and efficiency in your company. Most likely, you work for a larger organization and are charged with spreading best practices in a particular function or department. Most training, after all, is in the hands of managers and staff who do training and employee communications as part of their jobs, who were assigned these roles because they were especially good at applying the best practices in question.

All of us can continually improve the effectiveness of our internal communications and training, of course. But particularly for those who don't have professional backgrounds in this area, some tutoring on effective communication could truly enhance results.

I know you are busy and your budget is limited. But what if you could study proven examples of change-producing communication, each one costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop, and get them delivered to you at no charge whatsoever?

Look in your mailbox.

What we call junk mail deserves another look -- not for what they are selling, but for how they communicate. Most people don't realize that copywriting for "direct mail", as it is called, is ruthlessly evaluated. Companies that mail huge numbers of sales letters to your homes invest a lot in testing one version of the letter against another, and they keep using the one that "wins", as measured in sales produced.

The best "junk mail" letters you receive have cost the sender tens of thousands of dollars just in writing fees, before you get to the layout and printing and postage. For example, in 2007 the insurance industry alone spent nearly two billion dollars on direct mail! They will continue to put that kind of money into clogging up your mailbox because they have collected the hard data to prove it works.

That's the first thing you can learn from direct mail: it is driven by results. And if you look closely at the mass-mailed sales letters, you will see that:

  • They are targeted. Companies send particular messages to particular audiences, they don't try to sell to everyone in the country.
  • They are tightly focused. They don't try to deal with several topics all at once.
  • There is always a "call to action". When you are done reading the letter you know what they want you to do next.
  • What is in it for you, the benefits, are highlighted. You know placing an order benefits the sender, but you may also see how it benefits you.
  • They follow up. There is an adage in the industry that it takes seven "touches" (contacts of various kinds) to win a customer.

Can you say all those things about your own communications? Are they focused, do they provide clear next steps, do they give a "why" in addition to a "how", and are they evaluated against real results in the workplace? And do your employees get the message just once, never to hear of it again? (For follow up tips, visit my "extend your impact" case study.)

For the next week or two, actually open and read your junk mail. Look at the structure (not the writing style), think about what they are trying to do, and identify methods -- not tricks, but sound communication principles -- that could apply in your world.

Now, if you end up with an extra set of knives that can cut a tin can in half, or several vegetable choppers ("But wait, there's more!"), don't blame me!

But if you learn how to improve your own employee communications along the way, it's worth it.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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