Tips to Avoid Information Overload

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I'm sure I don't have to explain information overload. You experience it every day when you open three pounds of mail, flip through 125 TV channels or dive into that teetering pile rising from your in-box. Personally, I feel it every time I walk into the supermarket cereal aisle and have to choose from 200 products that look exactly the same to me. It makes my head hurt.


There's just too much information to process these days. And when people feel overwhelmed, they react in predictable ways that aren't good for your marketing messages. They skip over or set aside difficult information for another time, they filter out difficult messages and look for ones that are easier, they try to deal with the information but make mistakes that prevent them from responding in the way you want or, worst of all, they ignore your message.


How can you avoid overload? Here are a few ideas:


· Make clarity your No. 1 objective. You can't persuade someone to respond if that person doesn't understand your point. Simplify your message. Make it easy to read or understand. Say what you mean to say. Good ad messages should be like a clean pane of glass in a storefront - you don't notice the glass, but you can clearly see what you want on the other side.


· Link information with familiar ideas. If there's any chance for misunderstanding, use a simple analogy that relates to something your prospect is familiar and comfortable with. For example, if you say your software utility program is like a doctor checking your computer for viruses and other software "illnesses," it's easy to understand what the program does.


· Inject emotional content. Ideas are easier to understand and remember when they are linked with emotional content or intense feelings. If you're raising funds to change the U.S. tax system, don't just explain economic theory and reel off dry statistics. Talk about how the IRS takes money from our wallets, how the government makes us work two hours every day to support a bloated government or how frustrating it is to fill out all those confusing forms every April. People process emotional ideas more easily than intellectual ones.


· Avoid making counterproductive associations. Clever analogies, puns and wordplay might make you look bright, but they sabotage clear communication. This goes for gratuitous graphics, effects and images that are used because they are trendy. One ad in my "bad ad" file shows a clown giving work to a guy sitting at a desk. The headline makes a pun about the boss being a clown. You have no idea this ad is about office equipment until you read the tiny body copy.


· Avoid interfering messages. Don't dump too many messages on your reader at once. Start with a simple, big idea. Then build and reinforce, adding information paragraph by paragraph, always talking about that one big idea.


· Present product benefits at the beginning and end of your message. People tend to remember what comes first and what comes last. Things in the middle usually are forgotten. If you have a list of benefits or features, put the best up front, but have a few good ones for the end, too. And in any communication, reiterate the main benefits when wrapping up your pitch.


· Present clear benefits of using your product. A list of cliché benefits won't rouse many people to action. "Low prices. Quality service." That says nothing. Give clear, tangible benefits that are meaningful and valued by your prospect.


· Decide what you want to say before you say it. Don't just hope something sensible will reveal itself as you write your copy. Plan and outline. Think about the point you want to make. Determine the tone or emotional feel. Know where you're headed before you start.


· Prove your trustworthiness in tangible ways. Make your intention clear. People not only ask, "What's in it for me?" They also ask, "What's in it for you?" Tell them. Also, speak the same language as your prospect. Flatter but don't lecture. Speak to your prospect's needs. Show you care. Give a fair price. Educate, inform and uplift. Give something away to prove yourself.


I'm not sure that cereal makers can do much to overcome my feeling of information overload at the supermarket. But if you apply these ideas to your marketing messages, I am sure you can reduce the feeling of information overload for your prospects and customers.


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