Posted: Wed 6th Feb 2013
As we've pointed out in previous posts in the Be seen and heard series, good business communication isn't just about using the right words and selecting the best communication channel, writes Simon Wicks. It's also about the timing and frequency of communication.
How often should you get in touch with your customers and contacts? What triggers can you use for your communications? Here are 10 tips to help you get it right.
1. Go to your customers and contacts; don't wait for them to come to you
Successful businesses aren't built by people who sit around waiting. Be the one who initiates contact and keeps the relationship going. If you want to make sales and good connections, it's up to you to make the move.
2. Be pertinent
Before getting in touch with anyone, think about why you're speaking to them. What do you want from them and what do they need that you can offer them in return? This should influence the channel you use and the format of your message. For example, if you're an artisan business, short video tutorials for customers are a great way to add value to what you sell - especially if you finish them with a link to the products they'll need for the project.
3. Be consistent
We all have friends who get in touch only intermittently. They're friends, so it's ok. But, admit it, it can be annoying, can't it? In your business dealings, don't be that friend. For example, if you use Twitter or Facebook, daily communication is a good idea. Email newsletters should be weekly or fortnightly. If you start updating your blog twice a week, stick at it. If you've promised someone a reply to a message by a certain date, send it. Be reliable and people will trust you.
4. Pick your moments
Think of your business communication as a campaign or series of campaigns. When's the best time to communicate? What are the seasonal trends in your industry? When do your customers spend their money? When are they likely to be fairly quiet and have time to respond? These should all be factors in the timing of your communications.
5. Sell yourself
Offers, promotions and new products and services are obviously very good reasons for getting in touch with customers. But it's also worth selling yourself and your expertise, and exploiting opportunities to meet your customers and industry contacts face to face. For example, tell them when you're going to be attending events, especially if you're speaking or presenting. Don't be shy - put yourself out there and find reasons to make contact.
6. Be responsive
Deal with complaints immediately and specific questions quickly. Make it easy for people to contact you using the appropriate channels - ie, your email address and telephone number, Twitter handle and so on. Give them choices so they can use their preferred communication channel.
7. Don't expect immediate results
Experts tend to estimate that it takes five or six contacts for a customer to make a purchase. The general rule of thumb here is that whoever you're contacting, for whatever reason, don't expect a response first time. There are a dozen reasons why people may not have responded to your message. Be patient and gently persistent - trust is the most important aspect of any business relationship and it takes time to develop.
8. Make the time to communicate
Think of communication as an operational task and build it into your schedule. For example, this could be 20 minutes a day for social media or half an hour each evening to respond to queries. It could be a couple of hours each week for a newsletter or half a day each month to catch up with contacts. If you're organised about it, it needn't swallow up other jobs that are demanding your attention.
9. Prioritise and don't try to do it all
Some things require an immediate response; others don't. Some communications produce better results, so focus more attention on these. You can only do so much. What are the most important and effective means of communication? What actually makes you money?
10. Keep track
If you have more than a handful of customers, it's important to keep track of your communications with them. Some form of customer relationship management (CRM) system is essential. Simple, cost-effective CRMs include those provided by SpinLess Plates, 37signals, Pipeline Deals and Base.
You can also use these to analyse trends revealed by your marketing campaigns and refine your approach to communication by learning more about what your customers and contacts respond to. Good luck!
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