Communication may be hard, but good communication is really hard. We're working with several organizations that share a common need: We need more people to know who we are, and we need the people who do know us to more deeply engage. Sound familiar? (And oh, by the way, we need people to understand what we do and why we're different, and why they should engage with us in a 3 word tag line. That should do it, right?)
There are no magic bullets in communications - it takes discipline, hard work and perseverance. Did I mention perseverance? So often CEOs (in particular) and CMOs get frustrated when a given communication or marketing activity doesn't produce an immediate results. Good communications are not transactions — they are the building blocks of relationships. Sticky relationships are your best friend. Sticky relationships require investment and constant communications.
That said, we still need to focus on and produce results. So here is a short list of a few principles to apply to your corporate (and maybe even your personal) communications to help build sticky relationships that turn into real revenue and growth.
Rule #1: Know your audience. There is nothing more important than this principle. If you don't know your audience — what they care about, what their real and felt needs are — you will never build a relationship (and therefore struggle to drive revenue and growth). Good communication (and good relationships) involves asking questions and seeking to understand — not just talking about yourself. It may seem counter-intuitive in a business/marketing setting, but it works. And, don't just do a cursory review of your different types of audiences - really dig deep to understand specific segments, then communicate with each of those segments individually, and in the way(s) they want to communicate.
Rule #2: Know yourself. We are frequently enamored with ourselves. With our products. With our "unique way of doing business". I encourage you to take a deep look at what you do, how you do it, and take the time to do an honest assessment what you do well, and not so well. Define what it is that causes people to want to engage, and keep engaging, with you. Then hone your message around that uniqueness, and position it as "what the customer gets", not "what you do". Words matter. Fewer words are better. Make them count.
Rule #3: Be realistic about your achievable outcomes (and how long it may take to achieve them). This is a tough one in the fast-paced universe we all live in, but being realistic will save you time, money and a lot of headaches. And CEOs, I'm particularly looking at you here! If you have an even slightly complex product or service, this challenge is exacerbated. Getting to know someone who doesn't know you, and doesn't understand your product or service takes time. Building trust takes time. Give it the time it needs and you will be rewarded. Here, perseverance is paramount. Don't give up when you get a limited response. Stick with it. Relationships take time, but pay off big dividends in the long run.
Here's a simple example. We have a client that has traditionally allowed a partner to own the customer relationship, but wants to start co-owning that relationship. So, when they started communicating directly to the customer, there was a lot of "who are you?" responses. This caused them to want to pull back and stop communicating. Converting these "should know us but don't" audiences does not happen through one email, one sales call, or one donor pitch. It takes time to build trust, (and in this case, not alienate the partner that is critical to the relationship).
Bottom line, be focused, be patient, and don't get discouraged. With the right strategy, and a good dose of perseverance, your dedication to effective, consistent communication will produce long-term benefits..
Steve is a husband, father, and business exec. He loves anything outdoors, anything that is a hard challenge, and enjoys working with anyone who wants to continually improve. And golf. He loves golf. Steve is the founder and CEO of Executive Advisory Partners.