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Does your marketing have “readability”?

I don’t know a lot about robotics, but I have read a few articles recently about the biggest problem that robot manufacturers have in entering the home. They need the robots to behave differently so that people know how to interact with robots. For example, if a robot needs to open a door, it moves to the door and then must scan the door to locate the doorknob, identify the kind of doorknob, and then begin moving its robotic arm to open the door. Sometimes it takes a little time to do all these things before starting to move its arm, which to a person looks like it is frozen. But when designers began having the robot move its head up and down while scanning, people realized what it was doing. Having robots signal what they are doing to watching people is called “readability,” and it is important for your marketing as well.

NXT Robot
Image via Wikipedia

Why do robots need readability? Because a person who thinks a robot is frozen will intervene (resetting it, physically moving it, opening the door for the robot) when nothing is really wrong. Someone who realizes that the robot is simply scanning a strange door to understand what to do next will leave it alone.

So what does this have to do with marketing? More than you might think.

We talk a lot about transparency, by which we mean that we should be more forthcoming about what is going on inside our companies. And that is a very good thing, but I want to think about a related concept.

I want us to start thinking about readability, so that people will leave us alone when nothing is wrong. For example, suppose a prominent blogger reports a serious problem with your product. Instead of scrambling the jets to figure out immediately whether the blogger is right and figure out how to respond, immediately respond.

Not sure what to say? If you don’t know what is going on, how can you respond? Just say something! Say that this sounds terrible and that you’ll get to the bottom of it. That way, everyone can see that you are scanning the unfamiliar door and figuring out what to do. That’s readability.

Now, when you find out what is happening, you can tell everyone the truth, which is transparency. But readability comes first. Make sure that you aren’t a “black box” to the outside world. If you let people know what you are thinking, they’ll cut you more slack than if you don’t.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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