It’s not what you want to hear

I started my career at British Airways in the days when it was the ‘world’s favourite airline’. I loved working there and loved talking about how great it was. How I must have bored people!

If we’re not careful, it can be the same with business. We love what we’re doing and want to tell people about it, but other people don’t always want to hear. Perhaps they have different interests and needs.

That’s why, when producing promotional material, it’s best to consider what customers find exciting rather than what interests us. Something which appears mundane to us, such as a way of reducing costs, could excite our customers considerably and that’s what we should focus on.

We can only find out what our customers are interested in by building relationships and developing conversations. We can do this through activities such as web site forums, printed and online newsletters, questionnaires, surveys and, of course, speaking directly on the phone or face-to-face.

Perhaps our interests are the same as our customers, perhaps not, but we have to find out. Once we know, we can tailor our communications to meet what they want.

After yesterday’s blog, have you started or reviewed  your communications plan?

z2zine next week: Finding your voice

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Starting conversations

So much can start with a conversation. In fact, no business can survive without conversations to communicate with its suppliers, employees and customers.

Communication is the basis of all business.

Whatever your business does, you have to communicate with banks or lenders to obtain finance, with staff to enable your business processes to operate smoothly and with customers so that they buy your product. A conversation ensures communication is two-way, enabling you to receive feedback from the other person, which can help you to improve what you do. One-way communication, when you tell people whatever you want, can risk deterring supporters and suppliers, upsetting staff and driving customers away.

z2zine today looks at a different aspect of communication every day to see what businesses can do to converse more effectively. Better communications can lead to better business, so there’s a big incentive for us all to develop and improve our conversations.

But where do we start?

Take André Preneur, an imaginary business owner, whose company is stagnating. He’s got a stationery cupboard full of brochures designed and printed six months ago, a web site that was launched two years ago and an order book that’s not very full. What can André do instead of sitting in his office with his door closed, worrying about how to get new orders to pay his suppliers’ invoice and his employees’ wages? He doesn’t have much of a marketing budget and he’s already placed adverts in local directories. What else is there?

The answer is: a lot.

And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Just updating the web site is a start. Is the information current? Are prices correct? And what about those brochures? Do they promote products or services new to customers? When was the last time customers were contacted? Could they be sent a brochure to jog their memories, excite their interest and continue the customer conversation?

Simple examples, perhaps, but there are many things that every business can do to keep conversations flowing.

And it’s not just with customers. Conversations with employees need to continue as well. When markets are challenging, businesses depend on their people more than ever before, so treating them well is important, especially if additional flexibility and co-operation are needed.

What can I do today?

Conversations require effort to develop over the long term, but there are also quick, easy actions we can take every day. One thing we can do straight away is to make sure everything is up to date. So how about looking over your web site, deleting expired offers and old events, checking prices and current offers? And how about your printed material and stationary? Are addresses, prices, offers all current? Do you have new products you’re not promoting, but need to promote? And if you have boxes of brochures doing nothing, how about distributing them, either by mail or by your sales people or customer service staff?

All these actions are a start. Once begun, it’s much easier to continue conversing.

 

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