Communications can be tricky. Unless, of course, you’re conversing with yourself.

More often than not, you are not your intended audience. It’s a bit more difficult to write copy or come up with a relevant campaign for your business’s consumers, especially when you can’t identify with the targeted audience. (And for some of us, we have two audiences! For me, that’s our lawyers and our clients.)

Like jokes or sarcasm, great advertisements are sometimes lost. Sure, some of your audience gets it, but that leaves a gap between consumers who are free to interpret as their experience sees fit.

When you’re writing or designing anything for an audience, make sure you spell out what you want your audience to do. Don’t make them guess—that’s where we lose them.

Here are some suggestions when thinking of your advertising or marketing campaigns:

  • Tell them what you want them to do, explicitly. Don’t give them clues and expect them to find the solution. Audiences won’t go for it (like they have time).
  • Don’t include too many action items. Yes, we’re all great multi-taskers, but when it comes to the buying process, it needs to be easy. One-step kind of easy.
  • Create an audience. Single-out your ideal demographic. Age. Career. Family. Lifestyle. Concerns. The epitome of your audience—and then name him/her. Seriously. Try this out sometime—it works.
  • Watch your language. Don’t opt for complicated words with a lot of syllables. Use simple, easy to read and easy to understand sentences. It’s not meant to be insulting, but for quick reading and wider audiences. There are tools you can use, like Microsoft Word, that count and track readability statistics. The rule-of-thumb is to write at an 8th grade level.

(P.S. Some of these tactics work in interpersonal communications. If you work with another employee or outside vendors, you know how hard it can be to communicate your vision to another.)

What tactics help you help your audience? What keeps you on the same page?