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“What Does The Fox Say?” 4 ways to make business communication stick

5 min read


This post is part of the series “Communication,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership and the folks at Switch & ShiftKeep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter, SmartBrief on Leadership. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.

C’mon, admit it: this is one of those songs that just get stuck in your head, with nearly 400 million viewings, according to YouTube estimates.

I don’t think it much matters that this song makes absolutely no sense. What does matter is that the song’s writers, the brothers Ylvis, have been able to make their somewhat kooky message stick with us. If you’ve seen this trending video, you know what I mean. It’s whimsical! It’s bizarre! It’s evidently universal! That’s what I call stickability.

Don’t you wish you could make your everyday business communication have the same kind of stickability? I confess, I love TV reality shows (well, some of them) and YouTube. You’ve got to agree, some of these shows and videos simply stick with us — we watch them over and over again. What makes these ideas so memorable? I’ve done a little viewing on this subject to see just how today’s pop culture affects how we communicate in business. All in the name of, ahem, research, of course.

Here are four ways you can make your best business communication stick:

Make it catchy: Watch the video of “What Does the Fox Say” and you may just think these somehow believable animal characters dropped in from an alien world. But here’s the clincher: they’ve reeled you in, with a great big hook. When you watch it, it’s so, well, catchy, that you don’t want to look away. That’s exactly what you want to do. Whether you’re preparing your next pitch for a prospective client or an all-team meeting, think about your hook. Your first job is to create an opener that sells.

Think about it. People can read charts, reports and handouts for themselves. When you craft a creative way to open your next meeting, three things happen immediately: it engages the audience, establishes a connection and offers a glimpse of what’s to come.

So, take a cue from the stage: go for the hook and they’ll stay tuned in.

Make it relatable: As silly as this little tune is, it’s instant and it’s recognizable. Everyone can relate to it because there’s just something that tickles you. While it’s admittedly kooky, it actually creates rapport and conversation. Isn’t that what we want to do every day with our customers and with our teams?

In today’s world of instant everything, I think we tend to believe we “know” people better than we do — look at how many connections you have on LinkedIn or how many Facebook friends are on your list. Taking the time to actually create rapport and offer a relatable story first will pay off. Don’t overlook this one.

Make it different: What’s so great about this song? It’s unexpected. When you’re looking at ways to differentiate your company, think about the small things that really do make you different. Before I give a seminar or a workshop, I’ll often survey the participants about how they follow up with their customers to thank them for their business. You’d be surprised by how many follow up less than 50% of the time and mostly via e-mail.

Here’s a free idea: The next time you want to follow up with a client, pick up the phone and say thank you, or actually hand-write a note. It will stick with them.

Make it exceptional: Face it: people are going to talk about your company anyway, so you might as well give them something spectacular to talk about. You can cultivate this difference for your company by fostering a culture of exceptional service, from the top down.

Recently, I visited a colleague’s office for a meeting. I hadn’t met him before and had never been to his office. When I arrived, the receptionist was busy at her computer with her back to me. She didn’t actually acknowledge me but gave me a sidelong glance (as in, “I see you. But I’m busy.”).

I guess she figured I had time to wait. And I am a patient girl, so I waited — and waited. When she finally turned around, there was no greeting. Instead, she just said “What?” She didn’t know who I was or why I was there, but I’m pretty sure this was her standard response. Was her communication lacking? Absolutely! Did anyone in her office notice this? I’m not sure. Was this level of customer service an advantage for her company? Definitely not.

If you’ve seen situations like this in your own company, there’s good news: you can fix it. First, it’s important to recognize that having exceptional customer service is a lot like having a newborn baby — it needs your attention all of the time, and you have to be flexible. Is it always tangible? Nope. Is it complicated? Sometimes. Is it worth it? You betcha.

Who knows, maybe your next video will reach 400 million hits. But the next time you’re watching YouTube (or your favorite reality show), be on the lookout for some great ideas on stickability. Take it from me.

Shannon Alter is president of Alter Consulting Group where she offers strategic organizational assessments, training and leadership developments. Be sure to join the discussion on Alter’s blog at Connect with her on Twitter and with Alter Consulting Group at LinkedIn.