Effective communication is an essential part of business! From networking to the sales process through the transaction, you will be in constant communication with your customers. When communication between you and your clients is effective, it leaves everyone feeling satisfied and accomplished. Delivering clear and concise messages will help avoid misunderstandings and potential conflicts with your customers.
Without an effective communication strategy, your business will struggle to reach new audiences and convert potential customers into life long fans.
What is a Communication Strategy?
A communication strategy is a plan to help your business get from where you are to where you want to be. As a business owner, you set goals for growth and have a long term vision. Your communication strategy is a key part of achieving those goals! There are 4 types of communication and an effective communication strategy will utilize all of them.
The 4 types of communication are:
Developing your communication strategy will start with evaluating where your business is at, who your target market is and what needs to be done to get your business to the next level. Once you have determined where you are and where you want to go, then you can use one of the communication strategies below to put your plan into action.
Types of Communication Strategies
There are 3 main communication strategies that businesses rely on to help them grow their business. Having a strong understanding of the three strategies and why you would use them will help you build a successful communication strategy for a business no matter what stage you are in.
Strategies to Promote Awareness
This strategy is used to help spread the message about someone or something. This is the communication strategy you would want to focus on when you first launch your business or when you release a new product or service. Even after the initial launch of your business, product, or service, it’s still important to put time and effort into your promotion awareness strategy.
Some common tools for promoting awareness could be social media, local media, news publications and even word of mouth. Everyone has a network! Even if you are just starting out you can still reach out to people you know to let them know about your business. You never know – someone in your network could be looking for your service or they may know someone who is.
Another great way to spread awareness is to use a cross-promotion strategy. Do you know another business that has a similar target market that offers a complimentary service or product? You can reach out to them to collaborate on a blog post, podcast, or video. Then both parties can promote it to your audience/network to grow awareness. With this, you now have exposure to a whole new audience! Also, because they learned about your business from someone they already trust, you now have instant credibility and trust built. It’s a win/win for both businesses!
Strategies to Promote Understanding
The goal of this communication strategy is to deepen the customer’s understanding of a topic, product or service. This is important because people will not buy something they do not understand. If they don’t understand your product then they won’t see the value in it. Remove that friction by creating educational content or guides, such as written or video guides.
Depending on what you offer will determine the type of content that will work best for you. If you have a physical product, then creating a guide showing customers how to use the product or any special features it has will benefit those customers. Your goal is to educate the customer while also showing the benefits of your product or your service over the competition.
Promotional strategies work well when first launching a new product or service. You want to help your customers understand how your product/service helps solve their problem. Your goal with the content you create is to make a logical connection between their pain points and how your product solves them. If you have a digital product that continues to receive updates, then you have a never-ending supply of topics for this communication strategy.
Strategies to Promote Action
The goal of this strategy is to create content that will get your customer to take action. That could be something as simple as signing up for your email list or booking an appointment with you. A landing page for your product or service would also be an example of a promotional content strategy. Without the proper implementation of this strategy, your business will never grow to the level that you want it to.
When creating content to promote action, you have to start with the end goal in mind. What is the action that you want the reader to take? Once you know the desired outcome for that piece of content, then you can work backwards to create the outline. Your content should be focused on your customer and their pain points – not your product or service. You only want to mention your offer after you showed them how it will solve their problem.
You should include a Call To Action (CTA) in every piece of content you create. If you can capture someone’s attention long enough for them to read your content, then you should provide them with an action to take. Email opt-ins and promotionally priced items work great as CTAs for other pieces of content.
How to Communicate with Customers
As a small business owner, communication with customers is key! From the initial conversation and through the entire sales process, it is important to have effective communication. Customers want to feel heard and understood. Keeping in communication with you customers can be the difference between a 1 and 5 star review.
First Impressions Matter
People don’t forget how you make them feel. This is especially true for first impressions! If you are not polite and friendly from the beginning, then your potential customers will go somewhere else to find someone that is friendly. A few simple phrases can go a long way towards building a relationship with customers. When first meeting someone say things like “It’s nice to meet you” or “Thanks for getting in touch!”.
Have A Timely Response
The sooner a potential customer gets a response from you the more appreciated they will feel. Providing a fast response lets the customer know that you are excited to work with them. This is especially important for service-based businesses. This does not mean that you have to respond to every email or social media message within minutes. A good rule is to respond within 24 hours.
Use your email autoresponder if you won’t be able to respond for a longer period of time
Treat Clients As Real People
Avoid using scripts on calls and emails. It’s hard to not sound like a robot when reading off a script. Plus, not every customer will be in the exact same situation. You need to be able to adjust the conversation based on their needs. Using a template for your emails is fine if your template consists of information that doesn’t change, For example, details about your product, what your service offers, next steps in the process, etc. Still, you should customize these emails more than just including the customer’s name. For example, a follow-up email template might consist of the next steps in your process along with some links to articles to help them learn more. You can personalize this email by referencing something from your call or by referencing something going on in their personal life.
Be empathetic. If a customer is unhappy, it’s important to understand where they are coming from. An unhappy customer wants to be heard. The majority of customer complaints can be avoided by listening to the customer and doing what you can to fix their issue.
Ask a lot of questions to make sure you understand their goals. Start with the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and expand from there based on where the conversation goes. Asking clarifying questions shows that you are actively listening to the customer.
Schedule Regular Client Communication
It’s important to set expectations for communication with your customers. Setting the expectation of how often you will be in touch (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) does a few things. It shows that you care about the customer even after you have started to work with them. It helps you avoid the random “checking in” email because they know when they can expect to speak with you. It also helps keep your business at the top of their mind. Having regular client communication helps provide a better customer experience. If your customer is always thinking of you and your business, they are more likely to think of you for a referral when they know someone needing your services.
How to Avoid Poor Communication
Having poor communication skills can lead to lost sales, customer complaints and decreased productivity. Avoid those mistakes by being aware of the most common reasons for poor communication.
Difference in knowledge level
One of the most common reasons for a breakdown in communication is due to differences in knowledge about the topic. Don’t make assumptions about what your client knows. Instead, ask clarifying questions to determine their knowledge level and then fill in the gaps.
Lack of common language
Avoid using industry-specific jargon without explaining it first. You don’t want to make the other person feel dumb for not knowing what you are referring to when you rattle off a bunch of letters. Avoid the awkwardness and explain any industry-specific terms before using their abbreviations.
Having weak writing skills
You don’t need to be a best selling author, however, you should be able to clearly communicate your point. Create an outline of what you want to say and then expand upon it. Have someone proofread your work and provide feedback. Ideally, ask someone that isn’t involved in your business or industry to read your content. They’ll be able to tell you if you are making assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of the topic.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills
Just like all skills, communication is something that you can improve over time! Below are some areas to focus on in order to improve your communication.
Active listening is important for two reasons. First, you need to know your customer’s pain points in order to provide them with the product or service that best meets their needs. Second, it shows that you are listening and care about the customer. Ask questions to go deeper into certain areas of the conversation. Paraphrase or restate what the customer said to confirm your understanding. Use non-verbal cues like nodding your head that you understand or agree with them. Don’t forget about eye contact for in-person meetings.
This goes along with active listening. The worst thing you can do when speaking with a customer is to get distracted. Not only is it rude, but it shows that you don’t care about their time or what they have to say. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and put away anything else that might distract you from your customer.
Be Clear and Concise
People are busy, respect their time by giving clear and concise answers.
Prepare for Important Conversations
Have an important sales call or meeting coming up? Practice ahead of time, try to think of what the other person might say and how you will respond. Make a list of important topics that you want to cover during the conversation. Practice by yourself or with a friend, sometimes you just need to get your reps in to feel more confident.
Effective communication is an important part of every business. Without an effective communication strategy, you will not attract the right customers which lead to lost sales and wasted time. By practicing all forms of communication (verbal, non-verbal, written and visual) you will be able to provide better service to your customers which in turn will help your business grow from referrals. If you would like to learn more about developing your communication skills, sign up for my newsletter! Learn about upcoming events centered around communication, sales, networking and more to help you grow your business. Sign up below.