Leading business communication with “What’s in it for me”

Business Communication is all about what's in it for me

Check this out from Forrester on the “customer service ecosystem:”

People participate in the ecosystem if they get value from it. Each actor in the CX ecosystem is asking, “What’s in it for me?” Employees want things like professional development, recognition, and advancement. Business partners want access to customers, sales support, and strong revenue growth. And the customers expect quality products and services that meet their needs.

The idea of the customer service ecosystem means you have employees, partners, and customers. You need to interact with all three of them, ideally in somewhat-consistent ways (i.e. rooted in trust and respect), but ultimately the goal is to make money and/or keep employees happy and engaged. Very few companies get even 1 of the 3 pillars right, much less all 3.

I think that first sentence of the pull quote is the dirty little secret of all interactions that happen in a job — “everyone is asking what’s in it for me.” That seems selfish on face, but there are evolutionary reasons behind people being selfish, so I mean … it makes sense that selfishness would creep into organizational dynamics, doesn’t it?

In the years I’ve been working, this is something I almost never understand. Ultimately, most people in most jobs are looking for rewards, kudos on a project, more money, or something tied back to them and their team. Yet we have so many communications — especially e-mails — that skirt those core issues.

Like, why can’t we just lead e-mails with “This is what’s in it for you if you do this?”

I wrote once about people needing to contextualize their e-mails more. When I wrote that, I was talking more about leading e-mails with “Hey, this isn’t urgent, but 96 hours would be a good window.” People write almost every e-mail with an assumption that it’s incredibly urgent and has to be done that minute, and that’s terrible for any true effectiveness in business, you know?

But maybe this idea of context behind communications could extend to this “What’s in it for you” concept. I mean, people really want to know what’s in it for them on almost every interaction, no? Isn’t that often the backbone of decision-making, especially at work?

So what if you opened an e-mail this way?

Dear Roger,

Working on a new project with Tim. We need you and your team looped in. Here’s what’s in it for you:

  • Benefit 1
  • Benefit 2
  • Benefit 3

Sound interesting? E-mail me back and I’ll fill in more details.

This seems pretty logical to me, because now you got Roger interested and excited that his team can enter a project with three distinct benefits to them. That seems cooler than “Hey Roger, this is now a priority so I need X, Y, and Z from you immediately, plus your time.”

If most decisions in a business context are going to be made around this idea of “What’s In It For Me,” then why don’t we just push communications over to reflect that?


Ted Bauer

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