I have been contemplating how I should put together my own marketing products over the last few months. I love words and linking them into meaningful strings. I have been focusing on getting the words right in order to get my business message across. I was brainstorming all the steps to communicate effectively in and out of business, as well as the potential barriers to communicating effectively with my clients. Would you like to read on and see what I’ve come up with? Please do.
We need to listen to what our Facebook Fans, our Twitter Followers, our Blog Readers and our clients who we meet face-to-face are saying (verbally and non-verbally). Our businesses are fueled by our clients. Without them, who are we providing a service for? Listening means you are open to opinion, feedback, new ideas, support and new channels of communication.
Respond, Don’t Ignore
You hand out a brochure to another small business owner at your local mall. Two weeks later, you get a negatively-charged email asking when was a good time to contact you about your service as you still haven’t replied to the first email sent. Respond in a timely manner to your clients, using appropriate language. Don’t ignore issues they feel are necessary to address. If your clients are picking up on issues in your print or online material, you have skimmed too lightly over the fine details of your business material. Ignoring issues and client queries closes the two-way channel of communication and can make clients feel neglected and less inclined to keep you a resource.
Ask for clarification or further explanation. It shows you are in tune with the feedback your clients are providing you with. It shows you are open minded. Feedback allows you to improve on the relevant aspects of your business and the ways in which you present your business messages to the public.
Combine Methods of Communication
There are hundreds of different types of communication out there. Email your clients, send them direct mail, respond to Facebook posts, reply to Tweets, note comments on your blog, keep communicating. Not enough communication with your clients is a big problem. Just know which type of communication will effectively reach your clients and tap into forming a professional bond with them. Different type of business documents will be given to different clients- the language and wording needs to target the individual or specific business. It needs to be personalized. So if one means of communication doesn’t engage your client, try another.
Focus on Providing Exceptional Service
Clients remember what you say and what you do. Never create business documents in a rush to meet deadlines. There is no excuse for poorly edited text in business today, with the variety of spell checking and thesaurus-type tools at your fingertips. If you can’t find the words to convey your message, ask for help (ask Little Red Writing Solutions!) Exceptional service means your client will remember you for a long time, will you refer your service to others, will provide you with the highest quality feedback and will no doubt be highly impressed with the work you have created for them.
Make Use of Feedback
Utilize feedback in a positive way. All criticism is a necessary part of improving your work and doesn’t mean you are failing. Use the positive to motivate you to soar to new heights and reach a new part of your potential and use the negative to reassess your goals, business message and who you are targeting your work towards and why.
Use clear, simple language. Language that is universal will be understood by the majority and less time will be wasted on clarifying meanings. No two people or perceptions are the same and words clearly mean different things to different people in different situations. Make use of appropriate tone in the language you use and avoid things like contractions (YOU ARE instead of YOU’RE) when writing formally. Again, I can’t stress the need to PROOF READ, EDIT and SPELL CHECK enough.
With all this in mind, you can provide a focused message or set of ideas ad your mind will be open to feedback.
When it comes to barriers to communication, there are a few to consider when communicating formally, informally, from business to business and from business to community.
Always view your work from your client’s point of view, especially in the editing phases. Communication, in particular the written form, must be pertinent to your client and their needs and must always reflect your business ideals.
Be courteous and use your manners. You would think this would be common place in business dealings between adults but this isn’t always the case. Some people respond hastily and nastily to criticism, especially when it comes to work they are proud of and spent a great deal of their time on.
Your clients will appreciate good communication skills and timely responses to their inquiries. By keeping your clients informed (by emailing, tweeting, using Facebook updates, blog posts and direct mail), they will understand where your business is at and will be more inclined to engage with you and your service. Effective communication in all forms is a cornerstone of small business through the use of marketing and PR skills and it is important to invest time and money (where appropriate) into this kind of connection with your clients.
It is also important to make sure that clients have access to all the information they need about your service. You can provide written and verbal information to them about your service but more often than not, the written documents will be the “saving grace” when it comes to retaining clients. Well written documents clients can refer to will bond you professionally in the long-term.
The majority of formal communication in business is written and requires the transmission of detailed information between businesses, to clients or to a targeted population. The majority of business letters are marketing tools in nature, whereas the bulk of a small business owner’s informal communication with clients and the community are opportunities to spread word of your business via word of mouth. In saying this, as a small business owner, you still need to be articulate, relate to your clients and convey your business message.
Finally, I find it helpful to believe that all assumptions I make in business (and in everyday life) are false so that you can then determine how valid they are before you can anticipate questions from your clients, encourage conversation about your products and or service you provide. Just be prepared and rehearse your answers! If you have little to no belief in yourself or the words you have written, you may not be able to make your intended point clear enough. You will lose confidence in your service and so will your clients.
Be humble, honest and accurate in your communication with other small businesses, your local community and your clients and you’ll be one step ahead.