I was looking for a particular type of ice-coffee maker for several minutes, struggling to find what I knew was out there, each minute growing more aggravating in a particularly annoying kind of way.

This felt like other situations I had experienced far too many times . . .

We all spend an incredible amount of time ‘searching’ which draws to us to a reasonable and logical question to ask: “Are we searching in the wrong way or is the information not being made available to us in the right way?” I’ve concluded it’s not us, it’s them! The ‘them’ of course means the brand owners who are presenting their products and services for consideration.

Their goal is not the same as ours. Theirs is to sell us their stuff. Ours is to find the right stuff we would like based on our needs. Herein lies the disconnection between potential customers and brand owners and explains why the majority of people are frustrated and confused during their web searches.

We spend an inordinate amount of time, and a substantial amount of energy, trying to locate whatever we need for our every day situations. Is this a silly set of issues? Maybe. But what’s not up for question is the amount of time wasted during these searches and it all boils down to how brand owner’s talk to the people they want to attract.

So what can we do to improve our communications? We need to aim for clarity in three areas:

1.) Clear objectives. The first step in any communication is to know what your main point is. This occurs by understanding the nature of your audience. During one of our strategy sessions our creative director said he could get any person in the room to read a 1,500-word, three-column, all text ad. That’s a ridiculous claim since most ads have roughly 35 to 50 words but then he put money on the table and Laura took the bet! He went to the board and wrote these words:

Laura Larson’s Life

Boom! Point made. If a brand talks in the other person’s interests and in their first person they’ll read and read and read. But if the copy position is reversed, which nearly all copy is, the person searching for a specific product they would like ends in frustration because it doesn’t sound or feel like something they’d like to own. Why? Because it’s not about them, it’s about the brand owner’s endless features and benefits. Brand owners need to get below the surface and find out what is meaningful to their customers and present their products from this perspective. So you see, it’s not about the length of the copy that matters so much as the perspective that it takes.

2.) Clear visuals. There is an enormous need to optimize for all devices. Over half of all Internet searches are performed on a smart phone or tablet yet the vast majority of websites are not optimized for mobile devices. Adding to this is 83% of people searching own more than two devices and bookmarking is a common practice. So when someone first searches for something on their desktop computer and then comes back to it on their mobile device, if the website hasn’t been optimized a major disconnect usually occurs and the potential customer clicks off the site.

3.) Clear Invitation. Always ask for permission to do something such as make predictive recommendations. Don’t be a party crasher! That was okay during high school, and maybe college, but it is not appropriate now that you’re a grownup. Trust mapping shows that the majority of people are willing to trust brands over time that have respected their privacy and usage based on what they have opted into. The same holds true in reverse so beware of capturing data on people and over-marketing products they did not ask you to track. Today this is still a regular practice but as privacy issues mount you will see much of this fall by the wayside and be replaced by “Opt-In Safe Website” signs assuring visitors that their search privacy will be protected.

These are some foundational building blocks for a culture of healthy conversations. The key is they need to work together in one cohesive system. If you exclude one, a communications gap will result and call into question your brand’s integrity.

Remember the question we began this discussion with, “Are we searching in the wrong way or is the information not being made available to us in the right way?”

Well here’s an answer. Maybe. Have you been practicing the three areas listed above?

*Names have been changed.