Years ago, in the spirit of Christmas, I wrote a Tuesday Tidbit called The Red Pen / Green Pen Test.
When I wrote the tidbit, I spoke about the mistakes companies make with their outbound communication to prospects and customers alike.
An executive shared an email with me the other day, sent from his management team for Thanksgiving.
The reader said he remembered the Red Pen / Green Pen tidbit and decided to put his company’s Thanksgiving memo to the test.
The result wasn’t pretty.
Spurred on by my recent Tidbit on The Great Resignation, he agreed that their company wasn’t doing enough to care for their talent and treat them well.
As a result, people were leaving in droves. The culture was poor, and people were unhappy.
Well, what was meant to be a message of optimism and thanks was nothing more than a sea of red pen.
This reader said he had contemplated leaving, was hoping to give management a chance, but now the evidence was sitting right there in front of him, staring him in the face.
Let’s revisit the Red Pen Green Pen Test from December 22nd, 2015.
As you read this, consider your internal messaging with your employees and use the same test. Again, you might be surprised by the message you’re sending.
The Red Pen / Green Pen Test
As I’m sure is the same with you, I get a lot of emails and phone calls from salespeople looking to sell me the next great thing.
Just the other day, I received a call back I had been expecting from a sales rep with a technology firm.
Immediately after exchanging pleasantries, he immediately jumped into a long spiel about why they were a great tech company, why their product is fantastic, and how they were far superior to the competition.
At no time did the representative take the time to ask any specific or direct questions about how my company specifically might be able to utilize their technology.
It was about eight minutes before I could get a single word in, but I had already tuned out after five. So he took eight minutes to talk about himself before spending thirty seconds asking about me.
After pondering the call for a while, and in the spirit of Christmas, I’d like to introduce The Red Pen / Green Pen Test.
The red pen / green pen test is simple.
Think about any time you’re communicating with prospects and customers.
For example, consider sales calls, customer service calls, website copy, social media, emails to prospective clients, proposal language, RFPs, etc.
Now review some of those communications with a red pen and a green pen.
Any time you use language like “I,” or “we,” or “our,” circle it with the red pen.
Any time you’re speaking something that benefits you and your company, but not the customer, you want to mark it red.
Next, look for the areas where you use language like “you” or “your.”
Look for all the times when you communicate beneficially to the customer – look for where you add value, and mark those green.
If you see more red than green, then you’ve got some work to do.
Here are a few examples from different industries. If you want a specific example of how you might do this for your company, feel free to contact me, but for example:
If you’re a tech company or an early-stage startup, spend some time going through your pitch decks and looking at how they’re structured and ordered.
Ask yourself, at what point do you start talking about how prospective clients might use your technology or how current clients have used your technology?
If you’re in the banking or wireless industry, look at your customer service procedures.
How often do you say things like, “it’s our policy,” or “we can’t do that” instead of saying something like, “I understand why you want this to happen, and it’s impacting you in this way, but unfortunately here’s why we can’t do that because of….”
If your company is a sales-driven organization, look at the sales scripts, listen to a few customer conversations or prospect calls, and pay attention to every time they use words like “I” and “we,” and “our,” and “us.”
For just about every other company, think about your overall marketing messaging.
If you send regular communications to your customers, look at how many times you’re talking about you versus talking about them.
Whenever you’re saying anything to customers, in any format, in any medium, always remember the red pen / green pen test.
Today’s Challenge: Try the red pen / green pen test on recent customer communication.
You might review your “About Us” page on your website, or you might check the last email you sent to a client, or you might decide to listen in on a couple of customer service calls today.
Whatever you decide, the next few days are the best time of the year to stock up on red and green pens.
But don’t let this be a once-a-year thing! Unlike December 25th, this simple rule can make it seem like Christmas all year round in your company.
Now that’s the essence of Evergreen!