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As a copywriter, I’m passionate about communication.  Remember the old adage which says, ‘businesses don’t plan to fail, but many fail to plan’?  My take on this is businesses should plan to communicate, and effective communication can solve many a business problem.

I was pleased to meet a local small business marketing expert called Jez Hunt through Twitter, and it was an article on his blog which prompted me to write this one.  His message (and ours) is that marketing isn’t rocket science … marketing doesn’t need deep pockets, and there is a great deal you can do to promote your business, simply by communicating with people.

Let me tell you a story … a few years ago I was attending the local rugby club’s junior section AGM … and jolly boring it was too!  The club had several problems:

  • Not enough children playing
  • Not enough income
  • Not enough coaches

After an hour of lengthy discussion they were still going round in circles, and I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer.  Couldn’t they see the answer was simple?  Start communicating!  Reach out to the local community.  Recruit more children … they come as a package deal with parents (potential coaches) … more children would mean more membership ‘subs’ … problem solved!  What was difficult about that?

So we produced flyers which were distributed through the schools, the coaches ran ‘taster sessions’ in the schools, we put up posters, we got coverage in the local press, and we contacted old members.

Just 3 months later, several new coaches were being trained and the club coffers started to fill up.  And I knew the problem was solved when the under-7 coach took me to one side and hissed … “Will you please stop!  I’ve got 27 b***** kids round there and I don’t know what to do with them all!’

There are a lot of businesses out there with similar problems:

  • Need more customers
  • Need more sales
  • Need more income

Sound familiar?  So how many ways could you communicate with people to solve your problems?  Do you communicate with your existing customers, or do you abandon them and move on the next hot prospect?

Why not try this communication lark for yourself and see what happens?  My guess is you’ll be surprised at just how simple and effective it really is.

Now … how about bringing the kids along to rugby on Sunday …

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

I read an interesting blog this morning entitled ‘Customer service key to Christmas’.  It was music to my ears!  Is good service more important than discounted prices?  Yes – every time.  Of course we all like to get a bargain, but if a lower price means the level of service is compromised, it’s not a good deal.  In my opinion, communication is the key to great customer service.  What’s more, it doesn’t cost a lot in terms of time or money, but the rewards are huge.

As the executor of a will, I’ve recently had dealings with a fairly large firm of solicitors.  If you were to look at this company’s website and listen to the recorded phone messages, you’d probably be delighted to hear that I, as a client, am the most important person in the world.  At least that’s the theory … until it comes to communicating with me, that is.  My emails have gone unanswered and phone calls unreturned.  Eventually I couldn’t take any more and I made a complaint.  After a couple of letters, the gist of the senior partner’s reply was … ‘it wasn’t their policy to communicate because it cost too much money!’

How many small businesses can afford to take that sort of attitude? WORD-right certainly can’t.   Will I be recommending that firm of solicitors to anyone?  Not in a million years!  Will I be telling everyone about the poor service?  Of course I will!

It doesn’t take too much imagination to work out that, if your client, customer or prospect sends an enquiry, it’s because they need information … ignore it at your peril.  If you don’t respond and at least try to provide the answers, they’ll pretty soon find someone who will.  And that someone might just be your competitor.

Imagine this scenario … you’ve just walked into a restaurant or a café.  You find a table and sit down.  If, after 15 minutes nobody has acknowledged your presence, let alone given you a menu or taken a drinks order, what will you do?  It’s likely you’ll make a fuss or walk out, and you’ll tell everyone who’ll listen about the appalling service.

On the other hand, providing you’re welcomed with a smile … told they are very busy so there might be a delay in fulfilling your order … you’ll sit there quite happily.  In fact, if they keep communicating with you and perhaps offer you a complimentary glass or two of wine, there’s a good chance you’ll wait for hours and still rave about the service!

Communication doesn’t cost a lot.  If you haven’t got time to answer that email in depth, at least acknowledge it.  Send a reply saying you’ll answer fully after lunch or the next day … and be sure you do!  If you’ve promised to phone someone back at a given time, make that call.  If you haven’t yet got the information they want, at least phone and tell them so.  That way, you’ve fulfilled your promise, the client knows they are not forgotten, and you’ve bought yourself some time.  Apart from being good practice, it’s just common courtesy.

And finally, if you have got it wrong and someone complains, hold your hand up … admit you’ve got it wrong and do something to put it right.  Good communication skills will help you win new business, increase your professional standing, and most importantly … keep your existing clients and customers coming back for more.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

The old adage says ‘few businesses plan to fail, but many fail to plan’.  I’ve got a different take on this.  In my experience it’s more like ‘most businesses plan to communicate … but how many actually do?

As copywriters and marketers, we try to look at the bigger picture.  We could write you the best direct mail letter or website copy in the world, but if there are gaps in your marketing activity, you need more than just good copy.  And when we are out talking to people, the most common problem is the failure to communicate … “but I don’t have enough hours in the day” … or “I send Christmas cards every year” … or “well, I keep meaning to send a newsletter”, to name but a few of the excuses!

It might just be my opinion, but I think the success of many a business can be put down to its levels of communication.  For so many people, actually getting in touch with existing customers or prospects is shelved in favour of the quest for new sales.  But it is often said it takes 5 times as much effort (not to mention cost) to make a new sale than it does to make a repeat one.

Think of your customer and prospect base as a bucket of water.  You need to keep the bucket full, but inevitably it’s got a hole.  As fast as you can put new sales in the top, the old ones are pouring out the bottom.  While you’re never going to keep every customer or client for ever, you can stop some of the leakage.  All it takes to plug the hole is a bit of communication.

Communicating with your customers needn’t take long.  It doesn’t have to be a major exercise, or cost a lot of money.  So how can you keep in touch and make sure your company name and profile is the one which is in the fore-front of their minds?

  • Pick up the phone … as BT once said ‘It’s good to talk’.  A quick call now and again could result in a sales opportunity
  • Send an email … just a quick ‘how are you’ or ‘I thought you might be interested to hear …’ could make all the difference
  • Run a newsletter campaign.  It isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t need to be expensive.  Systems such as Constant Contact are efficient and low-cost.
  • Think about PR – it helps you communicate with a much wider market
  • Send text messages.  You can do it yourself or use an online texting service.

If you’re one of the countless companies which hasn’t quite got round to developing the art of communication, why not give it a try.  You don’t need a fancy CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system – just a bit of organisation.  If you’re going to make phone calls, a good old-fashioned card index is as good as anything.

However you manage it, remember: by staying in touch with your business contacts, you’ll find it much easier to keep that bucket full!

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

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