Outcomes Not Outputs

Mug by Chris Lysy (click to buy)

Mug by Chris Lysy (click to buy)


This article originally appeared in Amalgamate: A Mix of Ideas for Your Business, Summer 2015

Your team of marketing professionals are expert communicators. Plying their trade in semantics. They love the discussion around the differences found in words like Outcomes and Outputs. To an industry outsider, those words may be synonymous to results. When it comes to the real world however, if your firm is selling Outcomes but charging for Outputs, it’s going to cause real problems. For one client, this disconnect showed up in pricing and retention problems.

However, this article isn’t about pricing strategy. It’s about taking control of the language we use to communicate.

Communication tools will change over time, but the principles of effective communication will not.

In order for your people to accurately and persuasively communicate your company’s perceptions, they need to be effective communicators.

I’m going to ask you to take in the beauty of my talking icebergs below. But before you look, imagine the popular image of a sole iceberg surrounded by icy blue ocean. The iceberg visible both above and below the water.

If we’re on the same page, 20-30% of your imaginary iceberg is sticking out of the water and 70% is under the surface of the water out of view, right?

Okay, you can look now.

iceberg effect of communication

Linguists tell us that when people communicate, there are not only the Words/Inflections/Gestures/Syntax at work, but a world of Thoughts, Beliefs and Values are working just under the surface. Just like an iceberg.

In those Thoughts, Beliefs and Values there will be overlap (the Common Underlying Proficiency) but it’s not complete. It runs on a spectrum of strong commonality with, say, a family member, to near zero overlap if you communicate with a Pygmy tribesman.

That’s how I end up with two talking icebergs that touch under the surface.

My point is this.

You have a department inhabited by people with a natural inclination for defining terms and repeating messages. Expert communicators that can build commonality. Your customers want Outcomes. Direct your marketing team to be sure they are communicating Outcomes to customers. Then ask them to focus that effort internally.