Communication. We all do it on a daily basis, yet so often we tend to misinterpret each other with even our closest friends. It only gets harder when you're trying to explain something to an audience that doesn't even know you in person.
In this episode, you'll learn how you can apply the "Bento Box Thinking" to the way you communicate that will help you get your point across easier and faster both in speaking and in writing, save time on coming up with a draft or script, and sell your product our service better!
This episode is not only going to give an awesome boost to your marketing skills but you'll be able to use what you're about to learn even in your personal life!
Subscribe & Download
Listen on the go! Subscribe to the ActiveGrowth Podcast using your favorite app:
Hello and welcome to Episode 25 of the ActiveGrowth Marketing Podcast. I'm Shane Melaugh and in today's episode, I'm going to give you kind of an inside look at something I did to train my own marketing team from Thrive Themes.
I'm going to teach you a skill that was one of the main focuses of training for my marketing team during a three-month apprenticeship that they did with me. The great thing about what I'm going to talk about today is that this is an undervalued and overlooked kind of skill. What I'm talking about is your communication skills, more specifically, your ability to clearly and succinctly explain something.
Now at first glance, this may seem like it doesn't really have anything to do with marketing or entrepreneurship. So why am I talking about it here on the podcast? Well, here's the thing. Your ability to explain something and your communication skills are actually something that affect your marketing work on many, many levels, but even on a personal level, it's something to really think about.
In a way, if you lack this communication skill, it's almost like you're trying to communicate in a foreign language, and maybe you have experience in this, maybe you learned a language, a foreign language in school and of course in school, you probably never reached a level of mastery of that. If you ever tried to explain something to someone in that language, it can be very frustrating 'cause you can't really translate your thoughts into what you actually mean in this language. You lack the words and the phrases and so on.
It can be frustrating and in a way, it also it kind of hides your intelligence. You sound like a bit of an idiot speaking in a foreign language because you know so few words and you just can't express what you actually mean. Lack of communication skills is exactly the same thing, just minus the foreign language. The worse you are at translating your thoughts into clear statements and sentences, the more you're basically hiding your true intelligence and also hiding the actual meaning of what you're trying to say and the more likely it is that people might just ignore you or dismiss you as an idiot, even if the ideas you're trying to communicate, even if the thoughts in your head are actually on point and valuable and valid.
Beyond that, clear communication skills translate into marketing and entrepreneurship on many levels, and that's one of the things we're going to talk about in today's episode and I'm going to teach you my number one communication technique called Bento Box Thinking. This and more in today's episode.
To get the show notes for this episode, which includes a summary of the Bento Box Thinking Method and of all the tips I will be giving you in this episode, go to activegrowth.com/25. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, you may have noticed that we don't have any sponsors. We don't do any advertising. We don't do long drawn out intros talking about what mattress or pillow you're supposed to buy or something like that. We try to focus exclusively on actionable practical content.
What's important for us to do this though is that we get some feedback from you. So I encourage you and I appreciate it if you do head on over to the show notes, activegrowth.com/25, and leave a comment. If you have any questions, you can ask them there. We answer all the comments. You can also click a button to leave a voice message. You can leave a review on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen to this podcast and any kind of feedback about what you like, what you don't like, what you'd like to hear more of, what questions you have are very, very valued and help us make better content for you. That's it. That's my pitch for supporting the podcast simply by communicating with us and you can do that at activegrowth.com/25.
Like I mentioned in the intro, one of the reasons I'm making this podcast is because communication skills and the ability to explain something clearly turned out to be the main focus of my second marketing apprenticeship. This took place about a year ago in Lisbon where I got a group of apprentices together and taught them online marketing skills for three months in an intensive setting. So we were all basically living and working together everyday grinding our marketing skills.
This wasn't planned in advance, but pretty quickly as we started working, I realized that this was one of the things we had to focus on, the communication skills in general and simply, the ability to clearly explain something. We ended up doing many exercises, many rounds of feedback, and a lot of work on this one thing over the course of three months because I saw it as one of the greatest leverage points, one of the greatest things we could do to improve these people's marketing skills in the time we had.
If you can explain things clearly, it really benefits you on many, many levels from marketing itself, so any marketing material you make usually consists of words on a page or words spoken into a microphone and the clearer your explanation of things are, the better your marketing material is going to be. It also really helps with product creation, but it also goes to a higher level where it helps you manage people. It helps you with entrepreneurship in general because whenever you are talking to a group of people, trying to explain to them what the purpose and vision of your company is, whether that is your employees, for example, or whether it is you pitching to a group of investors, in all these scenarios, being able to clearly communicate your ideas makes a huge difference and can make the difference between winning and losing.
Another reason why clear communication is so high on my list of priorities is because clarity is a major conversion factor. I'd like to reference the LIFT Model by WiderFunnel, this is a conversion optimization company. They've created this model, which is an excellent conversion optimization model. I will link to that and I will show an illustration in the show notes as well, and I highly recommend that you check this out. If you don't immediately know, oh, yeah, LIFT Model already, definitely check this out. This is super, super valuable.
But just as a quick summary, the LIFT Model basically says that in order to increase conversions, here are the things you need to do. You need to reduce distraction on a page. You need to reduce anxiety, anything that makes your prospect maybe worry or makes them feel unsure about something. You need to add urgency and you need to increase relevance and you need to increase clarity.
In fact, that's one of the top things here and one of the first things that often you need to tackle when you do conversion optimization is increasing clarity. Another way to put that is that a lack of clarity is one of the big conversion killers, a lack of clarity. Someone comes to your whatever, home page, landing page, sees an opt-in form, whatever it is, they see that and they go, "Wait, what is this? What is this about? I'm not exactly sure what this company does. I'm not exactly sure what I can get here," that's a lack of clarity and that chases people off unlike many other things. So it's really a huge, huge factor to increase clarity in order to improve conversion rates.
If you've been following my content for a while, you may have heard me speak about this before because this was a kind of a secret weapon for me early on when I mainly made my money by selling information products. Because I chose to focus on my ability to explain things clearly and this communication skill 'cause it really helped me in two ways that are very supportive of each other. 'Cause, first of all, using this skill, I can create good courses. I can create good teaching content that provide a lot of value because again, of course, if you were watching a digital product, whether you're reading an eBook or watching a video course or something like that, the less clear the explanations are, the more frustrating it is and the less happy you will be about your purchase. Really, the ability to explain things clearly is a major factor in what makes an information product valuable.
Then secondly, I can clearly explain what my content or my course is about and I can convince people to buy it. On the one hand, it's explaining the subject matter itself and that creates the product, that creates the course. On the other hand, it's explaining why this course is important, explaining what is so good about this course and why you should buy it. This is really a two-birds-with-one-stone kind of situation for me where I just noticed that the more I invested in developing this skill, the more it helped me create better product and sell more of them.
With all that said, let's get into how to make this happen. To start, the first thing you need to understand is something that takes us back to the example of speaking a foreign language. When you're speaking a foreign language, you have trouble expressing yourself clearly, the cause of this frustration is obvious. You don't know the words. You don't know the phrases. Everything takes a long time to translate in your head and so on. But here's the thing, this kind of translation is actually always happening. Whenever you communicate, there's always translation happening, except it's not from one language into another. The translation that's happening happens in several stages.
The first one is translating your own thoughts into language, whether that's spoken language or written language. Because your thoughts about things are not made up of clearly structured, fully formed, correct sentences. Your thoughts are some very intangible mixture of yes, some words and phrases, but also memories, and images, and feelings, and mental representations or basically shortcuts. There are certain things where you can recall an entire complex abstract that's a theory, for example, but you don't have to think through the entire theory every time you think of it. You have a shortcut or a mental representation that gives you immediate access to all of this stuff that you've learned and experienced over time. Those mental representations are in the mix and along with that, associations and so on and so forth.
If you actually look at the contents of your mind, it is very intangible and it's kind of messy and it has to be translated, all this stuff in your head has to be translated into language and language is to take all of this and transfer it into a medium that can be transmitted to someone else. In our case, we're talking about written language or spoken language.
Now the next step in the translation process because even though this is already where a lot of this breaks down, communication, a lot of communication breaks on this step, translating all this stuff in your head into language, but then there's more translation to happen because now, the language that you've created basically collides with the thoughts, and feelings, and associations, and memories, and images, and mental shortcuts and so on of the person receiving the message, so there's another translation step.
Of course, a lot goes lost in those translation steps. A lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding is simply that. It's a failure to clearly translate the things, the thoughts in my head into words and it's also a failure of the listener to translate those words into the same kind of thoughts.
Good communication is about getting as close as possible to a clean translation so that ideally, in an ideal scenario, in the receiver's mind, we would end up with the exact same thing as in the sender's mind. You would end up with the exact same thoughts and ideas in your head that were originally in mine when I started with my message. Of course, this never happens, but good communication is about making that difference as small as possible so that my thoughts and ideas end up being communicated in such a way that your thoughts and ideas are at least similar to them.
This is the first step. You have to be mindful of this. The greatest mistake you can make in explaining something is to think that what you say is automatically, no matter how you say it, a good representation of what you mean and you have to realize that in most cases, no. In most cases, what you say is not a great representation of what you mean, unless you put some work into it and also even if it is a good representation of what you mean, that doesn't guarantee that it will be translated successfully on the receiver's end. This is what you must be mindful of in order to even start being a good communicator.
With this, let me give you my number one technique for clearly communicating. This is one technique that takes care of most of the issues that people have and most of this lost in translation problem in poor communication. I call this Bento Box Thinking.
First of all, what is a bento box? Bento box is a Japanese lunch box, and I'll put a picture of this in the show notes as well in case you can't picture this right away. Basically, it's a lunch box that has little square compartments and everything inside the box is neatly separated so you have one little box with your rice and another little box with some beans and another one with some veggies and so on, instead of having just one Tupperware with all of the ingredients all mixed together. Really, it's just a neatly organized and quite nice looking lunch box.
The reason I use this term Bento Box Thinking is because what I'm talking about here is the idea of neatly separating ideas, points, and thoughts that you want to get across before you start communicating them. This is something that I very deliberately do in my mind. I have like boxes, each little box has one idea or one thought in it, and I'm aware of these boxes, and I move through these boxes as I communicate. In other words, this is how I systematically translate all the stuff in my mind into language. Instead of just letting it pour out of my mouth and hoping that the result is good, I have this step, this is how I do the translation. I create the bento box in my mind.
Now let me give you an example of communicating something poorly and then, what it sounds like when we use Bento Box Thinking. I'm going to just give you a very brief explanation of something your probably familiar with, content marketing. All right, here goes example explanation number one.
All right. Content marketing is a great way to bring organic traffic to your website. Now when I'm talking about organic traffic, usually, we mean SEO by this, which stands for search engine optimization. Although really, it's all about Google since Google is by far the dominant search engine. Other search engines exists as well, but it's not really worth optimizing for those when 90% of your traffic will come from Google, your search traffic.
Now that's not to say that it's all just about Google. Organic traffic can also reference something like social sharing, people sharing your post, other people clicking through from Facebook or Twitter or whatever. That's also an example of organic traffic. Although, there's this problem with social media, many companies find that the returns for their social media marketing are getting lower and lower each year. So that's why maybe talking about organic traffic in terms of search traffic makes a bit more sense. You see, most social media platforms aren't really that interested in promoting your stuff and sending you traffic unless you pay them for it. So economically, it makes sense that the reach in social media has gone down.
Now I'm going to stop there because as you can probably tell, this could go on for a long time. Interestingly, this explanation actually moves further and further away from the topic of content marketing as it goes on. Why does this happen? This is simply how your brain works. The brain's basic way of functioning is through association. You start explaining something and as you're speaking, one of the phrases you use as you're speaking reminds you of something else. If you're simply speaking as things are coming to your mind, you will jump on a side track, start explaining this thing that you just thought of, and as you're talking about that new thing you just thought of, again, you get sidetracked because your brain is constantly associating and associating and associating.
Another way to think of this is that your brain is not really built to finish sentences or to finish ideas. It's built to jump from one thing to the next to the next. Another example of this that I'm sure you've experienced is that some people will start telling you a story that involves people and every time a person's name comes up, they will give you some background information about that person and then in this side story, background information about "Oh, you know, Bill, I met him in high school, and I went to high school with Bill and Sarah, and Sarah," and so on and so forth. Basically, every time a name is mentioned, we get sidetracked to explain something about that person and we get further and further away from the main story branch. These are simply examples of how we can muddle up the clarity of our explanation by simply following our brain's way of thinking.
One of the things we need to do then is to counter this intuitive way of communicating, which is simply following the brain's leaps from one thing to the next. Bento Box Thinking is the solution for this. It solves this problem of kind of rambling on and on about things and things getting less and less clear over time. Although, that's an extreme example. This is not the only problem to Bento Box Thinking.
Now even if you don't have the tendency to ramble, this will still help you because most forms of unclear communication are something like that. They contain these mental leaps from one thing to the next and they contain things like you making statements that you think your counterpart, the person receiving the statement must know, must understand even though they don't. So Bento Box Thinking is a solution to this and many other communication problems. Here's what the same explanation, a brief explanation of content marketing sounds like when we apply the Bento Box Thinking Method.
Content marketing is a great way to get more traffic to your website and to establish yourself or your brand as an expert in your market. Let me quickly explain what content marketing is and the three most important things you need to know to get started with it right away. What is content marketing? Basically, content marketing is just publishing content on a regular basis. Typically, you would want to be publishing things like articles, podcast episodes, and videos that provide useful insights for people in your market that provide useful how-to guides or news or tips for people in your market and keep doing that on a regular basis. Over time, this will establish you as the expert in the market and it will bring people back to your site again and again because they want to read or hear or watch the latest piece of content.
If you want to be successful with content marketing, here are the three most important things you need to know. Number one, the content you create must be relevant and useful. Don't just create generic content. Don't cheaply outsource the writing of content. Instead, you should have a very clear understanding of who the people in your market are and what questions they have, what problems they have, and what is important to them. That is what your content needs to be based on.
Number two, content marketing only works at volume. Don't expect to get great returns from content marketing if you just publish a blog post every once in a while. Plan ahead, schedule, make sure you publish at least two or three times a week.
Number three, don't fall into the fallacy of build it and they will come. If you just crank out content, that alone will not help. You have to plan how you will promote your content as well. Reach out to people, ask them to share your content, do contests and more so you have an active promotional part in your content marketing as well.
If you want to learn more about how to do content marketing as effectively as possible, go to thrivethemes.com/university and sign up to get our free courses.
All right. That was my bento box version of talking about content marketing. Let's take this apart. Let's look at what the elements were that I put in here. The first element was that I announced what I was going to tell you along with a benefit statement. This is basically here's why you should pay attention to me. Next I gave a very brief explanation of what content marketing is because if I'm talking about something like this, I can't assume that everybody already knows what I'm talking about.
Then I gave three specific things, three tips, three things you need to know. I listed them and each of these things represents one box. That is in my head is like okay, this is point number one. This is point number two. That's point number three. I gave very brief tips of what you should do. Finally, I added a call to action.
The immediate benefit I think is very clear. The message is much, much clearer, and it actually stays on target. It's also more specific than the rambley explanation that I started out before. Let's dig a bit deeper and look at how to actually do this. How can you use Bento Box Thinking to communicate clearly?
The first step is to think about what you want to explain or communicate, and to distill it down to core points you want to get across. What is the core message here? What is the most important thing you want people to take away from this? Can you break this down into a series of maybe three to five tips or three to five core points, core ideas to get across? This is very important because each one of these core ideas is going to be one box. You're going to neatly put that idea in a box.
Doing this, I used the term distill down what you're thinking about into a few core points. That's important. It means that you're removing things. It means that when you communicate like this, you're not demonstrating all of your knowledge of something and that can be difficult sometimes. It means that you have to be okay with leaving gaps ...
No, did I give a complete explanation of what content marketing is? No. I could write a book about what content marketing is, but do you need to hear that? But it's not as useful as if I can give you three practical tips, right? So I have to be willing to, first of all, not let's say flex my knowledge and try to show off everything I know about this and I have to be willing to say, "Look, of course, this is not a complete explanation. Of course, there are some ifs and buts and caveats that I didn't mention, but that's fine." I'm sacrificing those in favor of a clean explanation. I'm not writing a scientific paper here. I don't have to cover all the possible bases.
This can be the most difficult part for many people. This is very difficult, to cut things out. This is whether you're speaking or writing, got to cut things out, and it's very difficult because we're attached to our own creations. But remember, people will forget 80% of what you tell them anyway. If you bore them or you confuse them, they'll forget 100%. They'll zone out before you even finish. The more boring an explanation is or the more confusing it is, the less people will remember anyway.
The way I see it is that if I present you with a short list of core ideas that are clearly communicated, chances are maybe you'll even remember half of it. Really if I say less, but I say it more clearly, I end up actually communicating more. More stuff remains in your brain at the end of the day than if I ramble on and on, and I try to explain everything about everything.
All right. We have a list of three to five core ideas to explain. Those are our central three bento boxes. To the beginning of this, add an introduction, add a hook. The hook in the beginning, we've talked about this before when we were talking about copywriting, is basically give people a reason to keep listening or to keep reading. Don't just launch in with, "Okay, number one ... " Just very briefly tell people, "Here's the benefit you get if you pay attention for two minutes and keep reading or keep listening." That's what you put in the beginning, in front of your three to five core points. Then add a call to action to the end so after you've explained your last core point, tell people what to do next whether it is, "Okay, go and do the thing I just told you or go to this website and sign up or buy my thing," whatever it is. In the end, you tell them here's what to do next. That's it. Those are your boxes.
Here's the really important thing. You have this in your mind. You can also, of course, make notes, but eventually, the idea is that you use this type of thinking whenever you communicate. In your mind, you have these boxes and you start with box number one. You give a brief explanation of what's in box number one. You finish that explanation and then, you move on to box number two.
Here are two things to keep in mind as you explain your way through these boxes. Number one, whatever box you are currently explaining, always think of what is the most succinct way to communicate this? Again, we're trying to cut down on the noise. We're trying to improve the signal to noise ratio. Always think about how can I explain this as fully as possible in the fewest words possible? How can I waste people's time as little as possible getting this point across?
Number two, don't skip back and forth between boxes. This is where the real value of Bento Box Thinking starts to shine. That's why I call them boxes in the first place. I open the box with one of my core ideas. I give a brief succinct explanation of what's in there and then, I close it and move on. This, if you learn how to do this eliminates so much confusion and eliminates so much of the feeling of someone rambling and meandering from thought to thought. This, if you learn how to do this, open the box, explain what's in it, close the box, move to the next one, learn how to do this and it will take your communication skills to another level and that's it. That is how to apply Bento Box thinking to your communication.
Everything beyond this, I could keep talking about this for a long time, but everything beyond this is really just practice and that is the one thing you have to realize here. This only works with practice. This is not something you'll be able to just switch on like a light switch. You have to try this out and the more you do it, the better you'll get at it. Trust me, this is worth doing.
One example is how long do you reckon it took me to come up with the explanation, with the Bento Box explanation of content marketing? I timed it. It took me 112 seconds. In under 2 minutes, I came up with that entire structure and also importantly, I made barely any notes of it. I wasn't reading off a script when I was doing this explanation. I simply had a couple of bullet points that made me remember this little structure I'd come up with and then, I talked through that.
Now I don't want to overpromise here. The reason I can do this in under two minutes is because I've been thinking like this, I've been training this way of thinking for years. I bring this up because I want to show you that this is really worth doing. Think about this. This structure I just came up with about content marketing with the three points and the call to action at the end, I can turn that into a mini explanation like I gave here. I can turn it into an elevator pitch. I can turn that into a blog post. I can turn that into a video. I can turn that into a podcast episode. How good would it be for you if you could come up with a good solid piece of content with a clear structure and a clear call to action at the end in under two minutes?
And it goes further than that. A lot of people ask me whether I read off of scripts when I do videos or podcasts like this. The answer is no. I almost never use a script. It's basically only when I do a sales video do I use a script. So people ask me, "How do you do that? How can you just sit down in front of a camera and record three to five minutes of content requiring very little editing with very good structure, clear communication," so on. People often ask me, "How the hell do you do that?"
This is how. This is the way I communicate. I've trained myself to very clearly map out what are my core ideas, how am I going to get this idea across before I start talking? I even use this in basically live one-on-one communication, so in a discussion with someone. Before I start speaking, I will basically have here are the core points in my mind and I will use Bento Box Thinking on the spot to explain something or make a reply or debate a point.
Bento Box Thinking like this, of course, applies very heavily to spoken content. Audio, video content, a live presentation or just talking to someone one on one. However, it also applies to written content. We don't tend to be as rambley when we write as when we think or talk, and that's because writing is slower. But still, this is how I lay out the structure for my content. Before I start a blog post or whatever it is, I create these bento boxes or I have the idea, this is the core message I want to go across. These are my main points. Then those are the headings basically and I'll go count the headings in my post. Those are my boxes.
All right, to close this off, let me give you some more bonus tips about this type of communication. Now the first is I'm showing my hand a little bit and if you pay attention to this, you will see me do this all the time and I did it in the example explanation as well, which is announce the number of points you're going to make and I usually do this after the intro. Sometimes I do this on several levels throughout the content, but I'll say something like, "I'll tell you the three biggest mistakes you need avoid or I'll tell you the five steps to do X or I'll tell you the three things you must know." When I make this announcement, the three things, the five steps, two mistakes, whatever it is, that is me talking to myself as much as to you. It's me talking to myself like these are the three core points that we're going to get across.
It also really helps the listener because it communicates right away that I'm not going to ramble. You know that I'm going to make three points and I don't just start then keep going and going and going, and you don't know where the end of it is. By making this announcement, "Okay, I'm going to tell you three things. Number one, blah, blah, blah. Number two, blah, blah, blah," it gives you the sense of orientation, like you know how far through the list we are, and it gives the whole thing a very clear and explicit structure. This is a big part of how I use Bento Box Thinking and like I said, pay attention to how I communicate and you'll hear me do this all the time.
Here's another super hot bonus tip for spoken communication. Learn how to end your sentences. I talked before about how the brain tends to think by associatively skipping from one thing to the next. This, together with our general inability to end sentences is like a one-two punch for unclear, rambley, and boring explanations. It's very simple. When you're speaking, then you have to end a sentence with a downward inflection. Otherwise, you have to keep going like I've been doing now because every time I basically end a sentence, but I go upwards with my inflection, I can't just leave that hanging. It's just not possible. It feels so weird.
Try this out. Try this out deliberately. End a sentence with an upward inflection and just let that silence hang. It is so awkward. By doing this, and a lot of people have this habit of always ending in an upwards inflection, by doing this, you force yourself to keep going and it can be kind of comical. You just have to keep talking until someone interrupts you. You have to learn how to come to the end of an idea and basically say, "Okay, this is as much as I'm going to say about this topic and here the sentence ends."
There are two things you can do to practice this. The first is simply to pay attention to it, to catch yourself doing it, and practice ending sentences with a downward inflection. The second is that you have to pay attention to whether you're afraid of being interrupted or not. Maybe you come from a family where people tend to interrupt each other all the time and where you basically have to defend your speaking time. That can be a cause of never ending sentences and always wanting to go on and on because as soon as you insert a little break in what you're saying, someone else will jump in and start grabbing the spotlight for themselves.
If that's the case for you, if you notice that you're afraid of being interrupted and if you notice that you basically let people interrupt you whenever you leave a pause or end a sentence, then simply practice telling people off for it. If I'm in the middle of an explanation, I end a sentence and there's a short pause and someone jumps in, I will just tell them, "Hold on, I'm not done yet. Please let me finish my explanation." Again, that's just a habit. You just do that to make sure that you can say what you want to say about a topic, that you can finish your statements, and that you don't let people trample over you verbally.
This tip about ending sentences also applies to writing, although in a different way because, of course, we end our sentences with a period in writing and that's not generally a problem. However, what we'll often find is that ideas are not neatly separated. So we might have a sentence that kind of transitions from one thought to another thought without ending the sentence in between. We might have a thought, an idea, what I would call a box kind of being spread across from half ... It starts halfway through one paragraph and it takes up half of the next paragraph. So you end up with a lack of structure in the way you write. It's quite similar to someone rambling on and on in speaking, and the cause of that is the same kind of thing where you don't have a clear idea in your head of this is core point number one. I make this point in a few sentences. I end the paragraph and I start with core point number two or something like that.
Now that's something we can talk about in future content. In fact, that's something I would write about. It's better to explain this in writing I think than in speaking, but that's also one of the things like if you're interested in this, if you want to know more about this kind of thing, just let me know by leaving a comment. So for now, I leave you with that. This is Bento Box Thinking, one of my secret weapons for better communication and better marketing, and I hope you will put it to good use.
Get the show notes, which includes a text summary of everything I talked about of the Bento Box Thinking Method by going to activegrowth.com/25. There you can also ask questions, leave a comment, leave a voice message or otherwise get in touch, and I really appreciate if you do that. It really helps us immensely whenever we get feedback from you and we know what kind of stuff we can do and what to do to keep on track to get this podcast as useful as possible for you.
That's it for today's episode. Thank you very much for listening. I hope you found this useful and I hope you come over to the show notes to leave a message.
What You'll Discover in this Episode:
- How being able to explain something clearly and concisely will help you not only in marketing but also in your personal life.
- What Bento Box Thinking means and how it will help you create better content, faster - whether it's a product description, a blog post, a video, a podcast episode or even a book.
- Why teaching the Bento Box communication skills to our marketing apprentices turned out to be the most important and useful lesson to focus on.
- The background to how our mind works when it comes to articulate ideas and why it's so hard to stick to a single idea instead of jumping from one topic to another.
- How you can record videos without using a pre-written script or wasting hours in front of the camera.
- Example explanations - compare the 'usual' way to the Bento Box way of explaining the same concept and analyze how they are different so that you can learn the method.
- Bonus tips to how you can get your point across as quickly as possible while making sure that your audience understands your message.
Here are the resources we mentioned during the episode:
- Bento Box Thinking will help you write better copies. Learn what else you need for good copywriting in this ActiveGrowth podcast episode
- Read about the LIFT Model by WiderFunnel to learn how to increase your conversions effectively by eliminating distractions. Here's an illustration on the LIFT Model:
- As promised, here's an image of a Bento Box, the Japanese-style lunch box that has a compartment for each food:
Step Up Your Communication Skills!
Try the Bento Box Thinking method next time you create content and see what happens! Does is make the process faster and easier? Can you get your point across better? Test the method and share your experience!
Join the conversation in the comments section or send us a voice message by clicking on the button below, and share your stories, questions, suggestions with us.
Also, if you have a question that you'd like to be answered on the podcast, send a tweet to @actigrow or leave a voice message below.
The next episode is coming soon!
Shane, that was great self-improvement content. As you point out, the reach of Bento Box thinking applies to all aspects of a person’s communications – from marketing and selling to personal communications. That’s the kind of skill that comes across as very impressive to people on the receiving side of the conversation.
Until you described the technique, I think it’s hard for people to discern what you’re doing to achieve a “smooth flow”, a polished presentation.
Therefore, I would be very interested in learning about other techniques you practice in the self-improvement realm.
Thank you for your comment, Randal!
It’s a great skill to have, indeed. And once you know about it, you’ll recognize it easily in my content. But for those who don’t know about the technique (which is basically everyone) it just seems like you’re really smart. :D
That’s exactly what I was thinking, Randal! I have long respected Shane for the professional way he explains and teaches, and have attempted (unsuccessfully) to deconstruct how he does it. I assumed it just came naturally. This podcast was amazing to hear that deconstruction. Bento Box Thinking is something I will work on. (In fact, I have been really struggling with the content for one of my products, wondering why it has been so painful to create and not feeling good about it at all, and during the podcast I realized: I made a stir-fry out of my bento box meal. Time to go back and separate it out.) Thanks for sharing a trade secret, Shane.
Great episode, I love the idea of Bento Box Thinking. I already tend to be quite organized and structured in my writing and speaking (or so I think :), but applying Bento more deliberately will hopefully improve my communication skills. Gonna try it out, thanks!
Thank you, Michiel! I hope the technique will serve you well.
This is a valuable and worthwhile listening experience. I’ve been thinking along these lines and the ‘Bento Box analogy just brought it all together. Great podcast!
Thank you, Mike!
This is an excellent article on communicating with a clever way of explaining the organization. I’d never before heard of a Bento Box yet loved how effective it was.
I’ve taught sales training for decades and as a believer in heart-centered selling have also taught that selling is about communicating. I personally warn them about being very careful with jargon because it can be confusing. Nevertheless, I don’t recall ever being as clear about the issues as you were when you talked about “words we use are based on our experiences.” That is so very true. And since experiences are individual, the understanding of those words are individual.
Thank you for your comment, John!
I’m not surprised that you’ve never heard of Bento Box Thinking before, because I made that up. :D
I agree that the basis of selling and marketing has to be good communication. There’s more to it than just good communication, but without good communication, you can never sell well.
I once heard a funny definition of good communication: To talk as closely as possible past each other. The presupposition in this sentence is, of course, that it is impossible to really understand each other. You can only hope to talk as closely as possible past each other.
I have got great benefits from using Mindmapping to clarify and identify the different boxes of the Bento Box which helped me in communicating more clearly. My challenge at the moment is to make my communication less boring and more compelling.
About the downward inflection: I have done research with a large call center (1200 heads) about why some agents always scored a high NPS while other agents always scored a low NPS everything else being equal. One of the key differences between both groups of agents was how they ended their sentences. The agents who end their sentences with a downward inflection scored much higher NPS than the agents who end sentences mostly upwards. Apparently, the first group of agents was perceived much more skilled, knowledgeable and authoritative in the eyes of the customers. After I had trained the second group of agents to end their sentences with a downward inflection, their NPS increased significantly!
That is super interesting. Thank you for sharing, Harry!
It’s amazing that such a seemingly small thing can make such a huge difference.
Bento box thinking is a fabulous metaphor to structure one’s thinking process and as you suggest training one’s self to subconsciously assembly thoughts will take practice. I particularly liked your comment to be assertive regarding interruptions from others when applying an inflection at end of a sentence.
Thank you, Christopher! From experience, I can say that it becomes automatic. Bento Box Thinking is something I developed over the years, without really noticing. Only once I had to explain to someone how I create content and how I communicate did I really notice the process that I had trained myself to follow.
Shane, would you say that the Bento Box Thinking method is basically an outline? It seems to at least produce the result of a (mental) outline.
In any case, it sounds really useful, I’ll try it out :)
Yes, the Bento Box Thinking leads to having an outline of the content in your mind. Or in your notes, for that matter. I recently recorded a video showing how I jot down an outline as bullet points and notes. I’ll be publishing that soon as well.
Great information and so well — and clearly — explained & demonstrated! Love the Bento box analogy!
I can certainly identify with the “telling everything” problem instead of just distilling the key points…
I’d certainly like to see you go more in depth with this topic in a future article or podcast, or even Thrive University course!
Somewhere (either here or on Thrive blog) you wrote about “epic content.” My niche is teaching “beginners” how to use specific software… I’ve been working on several “epic” posts, but I’m unsure how *deep* into the topics I should go…
They would lead to paid content (membership & tutorials), so I’m wondering how you would extend the Bento Box thinking to these longer articles… Is it just a matter of including more (i. e., a broader selection) of points — similar to your “15 Reasons You Need to Create & Sell Your Own Product” post?
Thank you for your comment, Karen!
Yes, the same principle extends to longer pieces of content. Even in an epic post, you don’t cover every aspect of everything. Writing and teaching always involves a certain selection process, no matter at what level. Also, in larger pieces of content, clear structure becomes even more important. There’s only so much that can go wrong in the span of 500 words, but if we’re looking at really long content, lack of structure makes it really unbearable. For this case, two things about Bento Box Thinking are especially relevant. First, to have a clear idea of which points to address and to put them in a good, useful order. Second, to make sure you don’t blur the lines between your points. Explain the first one, finish it, move on to the second one etc.
Thanks for your input! :-)
In retrospect (after my original comment) I was reflecting on the increased importance of Bento Box thinking in longer content, and especially the flow… I think one of the hardest things to remember — as a “natural teacher” — is to filter some information out! I want to teach my readers “everything” and that’s use not possible! I will definitely be much more focused and intentional about using this method for all of my content!
(btw…I have been struggling with one single “epic” [cornerstone content] article for months! And…I had an outline! But I was still “all over the place” when I started writing it! It’s definitely a hard habit to break!)
That was an amazing episode. I would love to learn more about these kind of strategies to optimise my communication skills. I’m especially struggling creating good hooks, so what’s your secret weapon here, Shane?
Thank you for your comment, Jean-Christoph. I have a lot more to say about communication skills – in the context of marketing and otherwise. So, since this episode seems to be well received, I’ll probably revisit this topic in the future. However, regarding hooks, I don’t have any secrets to share. I don’t think I’m very good at coming up with a hook, myself. I shared some thoughts on this in this episode about copywriting, but I don’t consider myself an expert for crafting titles and hooks specifically.
Great job! I took a look at your themes and just purchased Thrive Architect 5-pack to use with my new project. You have earned lots of credibility.
Thank you, Mike! I hope our products will serve you well. :)
Thanks for this Shane.
Hanne once told me you use boxes to structure your videos, now I know exactly what she was talking about.
Just have to remember to actually DO this before writing, and I’ll spend way less time spinning my wheels.
I especially liked the point that people will remember MORE when you say LESS.
I tend to want to cram too much in.
Thanks for sharing your secrets.
Thank you for your comment, Jim!
This will definitely help with your writing. Remember to think of this as a habit. It’s something that you can make part of your process and part of the way you think in the first place. That will give you greater benefits than if you treat Bento Box Thinking as a one-off strategy to apply every once in a while.
I’m totally guilty of randomly associating as I explain stuff.
This episode was very, very insightful. The Bento Box analogy made it perfectly clear as well. Using visual examples like that help understanding what one wants to convey much easier, too.
Actually, I’d be very interested in what else you talked about with your marketing team :)
On a random side-note: What about the headline contest from 2-3 episodes ago?
Thank you for your comment, Tim! I’m glad to know you found this useful.
Regarding the headline writing contest: I’ll have an update on that in the near future as well. :)
It seems to me that people are seriously challenged in communicating ONE main idea at a time. Figuring out the one point or purpose of an article, speech, video, etc. is difficult. Thanks for this article. Any other thoughts and tips you have on this subject would be appreciated. Thanks.
Yes, that’s definitely a problem! I think it’s also because of the associative thinking that our brains do automatically. Even if we try to stay focused on one idea, our brains will offer up related ideas and topics as we’re presenting.
Well it looks like it’s time to write a book called Bento box Communication. I would read it. Is this something that you came u with on your own or are there other books or articles you would suggest to go deeper into this topic?
Thank you, Terry! I may write a book about this at some point. I don’t think the concept is refined enough, though. I would spend some time teaching and coaching the method, before writing a book about it.
I really enjoyed this episode Shane. I hope you do decide to dive deeper into communication skills in the future.
I’m doing a training presentation next week with a focus on communication skills. This episode couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks
Thank you, Len!
Hello Shane, thanks for your post. It can be really important for us to apply. Here is a short story of what happened to us some months ago. We launched a new product that costs 250 usd. I noticed that after viewing the landing page some people was asking strange questions about the product. I did not give much importance. We had few sales, but after giving an ultimatum, we sold 4 or 5 units. Just to later realize that people had no idea of what product they bought. I guess that by using this technique, we had had more sales, or at least more happy customers. And at the same easier to do presentations when you know that you just have to convey a limited number of ideas (2 or 3) that after all, is everything can be remembered. Thanks for sharing. Best.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Raul. I recommend you redo that sales page, then do some user tests on it, to confirm that people actually understand your offer. Then, sell it again to the same audience/list as before. I bet you can get far more sales.
And by the way: it’s a surprisingly common problem that people create sales pages or offers where the main problem is that visitors just don’t know what the offer is. This is how we’re affected by THE CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE. To us, it’s so clear what we’re offering that we often forget to explain the very basics.
Very useful, Shane. Thanks for this. I admit I tend to ramble on and on and feel that I have to share everything about the topic. Of course this is bad like you said, as people will tune out eventually.
This is a helpful reminder. Thanks again!
I’m glad you found this useful, Welly!
That has been very Shane, thanks! It made me more aware of how much I actually ramble during a conversation, going from one topic to another related and so on (same for my writing.)
Glad to hear this was useful for you!
I appreciate the content of this podcast very much.
I have developed a product that everybody “seems” to know everything about when in reality they don’t have the foggiest idea what it is or more specifically what it does.
So how do you suggest I should go about – where to start out – shedding some light on the product and its health benefits?
For the time being this is for me a “what to do about nothing”.
Your reply to Karen was very helpful.
I have “my” bullet-point-list but I still don’t know where or how to start.
Your input highly appreciated.
A good place to start is to verbally explain your offer to people who don’t know anything about it. See what makes sense to them, what questions they have etc.
To find candidates for this, join a local Toastmasters group, go to a coworking place or join an entrepreneur meetup.
This was really helpful. I work in a culture where everyone interrupts each other and it has made all of us never-ending speakers. With the information you shared, I can work on my own effectiveness. Thank you again.
Shane, that episode was hugely insightful and extremely valuable, thank you.
I discovered it by chance when searching on YouTube for info on Trello and found your superbly explained video on the benefits of using Trello and examples of how it can best be utilised; that led me to this blogpost and the podcast. Have now subscribed and looking forward to receiving more content of this exceedingly high quality.
Thank you again.
Thank you for your comment, Tony! I’m happy you found your way here and that you’ve gotten use out of the content. :)
Can I ask Shane, is there any software of app’s you use to compartmentalize the different points or ideas you plan to talk about? I know you are a fan of trello, and I have started using it for planning content, but I wondered if you might actually draw an actual bento box and plant the ideas in? Or maybe just pen and paper?
If it’s any help, I have used Trello boards in rather “unconventional” ways! ;-)
I’m currently using several boards to organize an online course I have planned (from Shane’s ‘Course Craft’ course)…
I like the way you can drag things around in Trello to get the “flow” just right…
I see no reason why you couldn’t use that for Bento Box planning/organizing as well… IMO, it’s easier than using a word processor — because of the drag-and-drop functionally —& it’s easier than using Evernote or another note-taking app for the same reasons…
Another feature of Trello I use a LOT is the checklists on the cards… You can set up multiple checklists on a single card AND you can rearrange the checklist items! This latter feature functions like a mini-outline on a single card…
Hope this helps a bit! :D
I use Trello to plan my content (tutorial here), but I’ve never visually drawn a Bento Box representing my content or structure. I also prefer working digitally rather than with pen and paper, but that’s just down to personal preference. I know some people swear by pen and paper, which gives more freedom to draw and sketch.
Hi (again) Helen,
Not sure if are familiar with Evernote (I use it for everything! :-) )
When I left my earlier comment about using Trello for Bento Box “planning” content, I hadn’t yet tested a new template I made in Evernote…
I’ve now tested it out and it worked great for me!
I’m happy to share it with you if you’re interested in trying it out! If so, let me know & I’ll post a link or put it in Google drive or something… (It would probably work best if you already have Evernote, but I’m sure there’s a work-around of some sort… :-) )
Hope to hear back from you soon!
Agreed 100% that clarity is critical in all forms of marketing, and breaking down the quest to achieve said clarity via the ‘Bento Box’ model makes total sense. Looking forward to more on the topic – well done!
Thank you, Rod!
This is the best thing that’s happened to my writing life this year. Thanks, Shane!
I made one adjustment for myself: I think of a Tiffin instead of a Bento Box. That image works best for me.
The principle is unbeatable for simplicity and utility, though. If you wrote an ebook around this post, I’d buy it.
Thank you for your comment, Ali! I’m really happy to hear that. :)
This is a great article. I’m putting together lessons right now for my business using thrive theme tools and the habits you’ve talked about. My question is that for a lesson or article when you are going to provide written text and video. Do you write the content first and make a video around that or vice versa? Or do you just create your outline and just talk?
I usually start with notes, then record a video and then do the written portion. This works well for me because I have done more video work than writing, so that comes more naturally to me.
Hello Shane! I was referred to this podcast by a colleague and was amazed (obviously) by the immediate cross-over between Bento Box Thinking and my new agency, Bento Box Communications. Honestly, when I listened to you explain Bento Box Thinking I realized I was already doing that in my corporate day job, and I naturally cultivated that thought process into my company and how I help my clients. Thank you for sharing this wonderful approach to communications and now I am hooked on listening to more of your podcasts!
About 20 mins into the podcast, still don’t know about bento box thinking, apart from how great it will be, and at this stage, you’ve just moved onto what is content marketing.
I must say I will come back to listen to this when I have the time, but for me, I’m all dialed out at this stage. I guess, maybe, you didn’ apply bento box strategy to the content of the podcast?
Thanks for the content, though!
This was super helpful.
When I’m working on a client’s project – (as a copywriter) I use my own variation of ‘BBT’ – always looking at the structure of the piece & how to ‘chunk’ the content.
With my own communications – both spoken and written – I see how I fall into most of the traps you talk about…
> yes – I am attached to including ‘more’ (mistakenly thinking that that adds value)
> yes – I like to ‘flex my knowledge’ (more than is helpful sometimes)
> and yes – I LOVE to go off at tangents (oh boy!) – and show just how far my mind can leap! (ahem!)
The point you made at the start about this BBT approach being ‘counter-intuitive’ was particularly helpful… so I can notice my brain’s pull to ‘go off track’.
And I am now wondering if, in speech, I avoid downward inflections (in case I have another impromptu association to add!)
As I now start planning something of a reinvention for myself – and a series of content pieces (for videos, blogs and workshops) and a new website (Creative Mindset) – what you have shared here is priceless – and hugely supportive. Thank you.
It gives me the simple focus I was looking for. (I realise I can be slow to take my own creative medicine.)
So you know, Shane, I heard about you via word of mouth. Tony Winyard (who posted one of the comments above) sang your praises loudly in a recent small group Zoom – and shared the link to the BBT SoundCloud page. (Maybe mostly with me in mind – given the challenges I was expressing.)
Many thanks, again, Shane. (And as a ‘thank you’ for what you’ve given me tonight – if ever you need some ‘hooks’ for anything you’re offering, I’m happy to help out.)
all the best
I will be practising BBT thinking & let you know how I get on…
Thank you, Jonathan!
I’m excited that you found this as a guide to help you improve and that you’re embracing the method. I’m sure this will make a huge difference for you, as it has for myself and many people I’ve worked with. I’d love to get an update on your progress, down the line. :)