The golden rules of giving great feedback
Your ability to give good feedback can help make or break a project. If you follow these simple rules your projects will go quicker, run smoother and turn out better.
Listen carefully, and ask questions.
The first step to providing good feedback is understanding the rationale behind the decisions that were made. "I don't like the red." isn't good feedback. It's a personal preference disguised as feedback. Focus on giving feedback that is non-opinionated and provides an opportunity for the person that created the work to provide context. A question like, "This color isn't in our brand standards. What's the thinking behind using this particular red?", will help you understand the reason the decisions were made so your input will be more informed and valuable.
Start with the nice.
Try to accentuate the positive in the first part of your communication. If you always go straight into critiques/revisions then the person you're working with will adopt a defensive stance. The result will be a combative conversation in which you'll be attacking and they'll be defending. You're on the same team and should act accordingly.
Have you ever wondered why sporks never made it into sophisticated culture? In my opinion, they really do make for a better tool than using both a fork and a spoon. So why haven't they grabbed more than the cheap and efficient market? I think sporks need to tell a different story.
The Right Questions
If you're able to get the attention of a potential customer, it's important to make sure their attention isn't wasted. You have to make the most of that initial conversation (whether that dialogue takes place over the web, through an ad or on a call).
It's the natural instinct of a consumer to be a skeptic. They start asking questions about your product right away -- questions aimed at determining if what you have is something they need/want and if it will provide a payoff in the form of some benefit (either emotionally or rationally). They may ask the person next to them if they've heard of your brand, they may go to google to research what people are saying, and ever increasingly they're starting to hit up twitter to see what others are saying.
The Star Wars Surprise
I had a chance to have dinner with my dad last night. We're both nerdy film fans so the conversation naturally turned towards the new Star Trek film and, of course, Star Wars. (Mainly because Star Wars is better.) In 1977 My dad went to go see Star Wars. Actually, what he went to see was A Bridge Too far. What he ended up seeing was Star Wars.
In The Company of Samurai and Poets
Creativity and discipline are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many artists have promoted discipline as the basis for mastery and as the route which eventually leads to the highest forms of creativity. But discipline takes different forms.
In feudal Japan the bushi class, or samurai, began training in the way of the sword and bow around age five. The rigorous training that followed would shape them for the rest of their lives as warriors committed to the physical forms of swordplay and the mental forms of ceremony. These structures embodied the discipline of the samurai way of life in a practical and tangible way.
B2B copy doesn't have to suck
We end up working with a fair number of B2B clients. It amazes me how often they complain about their services/product being dry and boring. Most of the time they sit down and pound a few meaningless pages of copy, or they work with a mediocre B2B marketing consultant to develop their website content.
The result is almost always the same, boring copy that reads like a laundry list of ultra-generic product benefits. I can recite these by memory: increased ROI, lowered cost, lowered support burden, greater flexibility. Whether they're selling hosting, contract manufacturing, or consulting — the benefits always end up being the same, regardless of what the product actually does.
The reality is that too many B2B companies are scared of actually having a personality. They confuse being interesting with being controversial. They forget that their target audience is made up of ordinary people who desire nothing more than to learn a little bit more about what their company does in as clear and conversational a manner as possible. A website shouldn't try to dazzle customers with bullsh*t and buzzwords.