How Puppies Help Us Communicate

Get on their level, don’t make them come to yours.

My wife and I just got a puppy.

He’s cute and floppy and wants to play and have fun all the time.

And he has no idea what we’re saying.

Katie and I have had dogs our entire lives. After you’ve had a dog for awhile, you kind of figure each other out. One of our dogs, Sami, is 13 years old and I’m convinced she knows English. We’ll ask her to do something we never taught her and she’ll get right to it. Or she’ll come in and give Katie a look (she’s had her since she was eight weeks old) and they’ll have an entire conversation through their eye contact. I’ll watch and try to guess, but have no clue what was just said.

“She needs to use the bathroom,” Katie will translate.

“I just let her out,” I respond.

“She didn’t go. She just sat by the door and waited for you to let her back in.”

“Oh. Sneaky bugger.”

Getting this puppy reminded us that it hasn’t always been this way. Even simple commands like, “Come here” don’t work. We keep running off without him, expecting him to follow like our other dogs.

It reminds me of what so many of us do to our customers.

We talk to people in our circles so much we begin to understand each other well. We come up with words or phrases that make sense to us, even more sense than what those “other guys” are saying. It’s not a code or a secret handshake. To us, it simply feels more clear.

It’s like that look Sami gives my wife. It makes sense to them, but the outside world doesn’t get it.

And then we try to market our products or services using that language that only makes sense to us. No wonder people don’t buy your products!

In some ways, it’s the same as Katie taking a picture of Sami’s face and saying, “Can you pick this up from the store?” Uh, no. I don’t know what that means.

So what are you supposed to do?

First, go get a puppy. Everyone needs a puppy.

Then, communicate with your customers the same way you communicate with that puppy: get on their level.

You can’t expect your puppy to learn commands overnight and you can’t expect your customers to figure out what you’re trying to say to them.

Instead, put yourself in their shoes. How do they communicate with each other? What are they feeling? What is it like to be them?

Our puppy keeps chewing on our hands. At first, we tried saying, “No,” but he kept chewing. Apparently, he wasn’t born speaking English. How inconvenient.

So we watched what happens when one dog hurts another. They yelp. Immediately, the other dog backs off.

Next time Puppy came over to chew my hand I gave a quick yelp. I tried to make it sound as much like his yelp as I could.

He let go. It worked!

I didn’t ask him to learn English; I spoke his language. And we have to do the same thing with our customers.

If you’ve been in your industry for a long time, this can be especially hard. You’ve spoken insider-speak for so long it’s difficult to remember what you were thinking and feeling before you were an insider.

But it’s worth it.

One great way to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, is to go through the StoryBrand Framework. Donald Miller asks brilliant questions to find out how they see the world so you can learn to connect with them better.

You can also do something revolutionary: talk to your customers. Ask them why they’re in your store. What problem are they experiencing? What did a friend tell them? Or, if it’s a repeat customer, what would they tell a friend about your products or services?

However you do it, get in their heads. Figure out how they think, why they do what they do. Even if you disagree, even if it’s not why you would buy your product. There is no judgment here, only understanding.

When you spend the time to get in your customers’ heads, it will change the way you communicate with them. And when you speak your customers’ language, more people will understand you and buy your products.

Imagine what you could do with that extra revenue.

Go get ‘em, Tiger.

Many business leaders find it difficult to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. I use the StoryBrand Marketing Framework to help you recognize what story your customers are living and communicate in a way they understand. I’d love to jump on a call with you and see how I can help. Click here to schedule a call.

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