Communications matter to business success for so many different reasons. I couldn’t possibly cover all the angles in a single blog post. I think the best way I can illustrate the value of communications in business is to tell you a story. I call it the The AgroTeam experience.
The AgroTeam experience
Straight out of university I worked for an Italian consultancy firm engaged in delivering an EU funded project in South West Nigeria. This was probably my first – ‘real’ job. I had had vacation jobs (as you do) as a young man. But it did not really feel like one had a proper job in that sense of the word.
Anyway I digress. What struck me the most about the role and has probably stayed with me since then is the value of communication. Why do I say this? My experience at AgroTeam made me realise that without proper communication, a business leader could hardly over achieve his or her objectives. This is especially true when delivering key performance indicators required through your interaction with other people. These may be work colleagues or people from external firms or agencies.
You’re probably thinking – ‘what was this experience and why was it so valuable?
Okay I’ll tell you. The firm I worked for was engaged by the European Commission to deliver an aquaculture project in Nigeria in the mid 80s. Here’s the interesting bit. Most, if not all of the initial plans to execute the project were drawn up in Italy with very little local input. On arrival, the firm had to engage local expertise to combine with their’s in order to deliver a viable project.
One of the challenges at the time was that , there was a relatively short time frame to complete the project – As I recall, it was about 12 months.
Bear in mind also the following: the fax machine was a relative novelty at the time. telex machines were the vogue and they were really expensive to run but run the firm did. So communication between Nigeria and Italy was through regular telex messaging.
Telex messaging was like advance morse code – okay i exaggerate a little. But it was this huge device that enabled you to type up text in one location and it appears at another location with a similar telex machine.
Looking back now, with email, FaceTime cloud sharing being the norm, that period (in today’s context) now feels like the ‘dark ages’. But technology has brought us this far.
The key in all of this is that, the project team in Italy and the Nigerian team were able to run a seamless operation by remaining in constant communication.
Today we take communication for granted, but one cannot understate its value. Without stating the obvious, there are various forms of communication and we use the appropriate channels or modes to get our messages across to others.
For instance, by posting blogs, bloggers keep in touch with their audiences. Banks send statements to their customers to communicate information about their accounts. Students are taught by means of video, audio or written presentations.
A company’s leadership must always communicate its vision to it’s staff, the staff must in turn engage with customers.
How do businesses do this?
1. Find out what your customers want
One of the easiest ways of engaging communication is probably to tell your audience what they want to hear and be believable. But how do you know what the audience wants? Most businesses that communicate well have powerful CRM software that help them manage their customer communications that help them ensure that their marketing is effectively targeted
This is not a post about metrics and measuring conversion or engagement. However a good way of finding out what your audience wants is to look at their interests. Google Analytics is a very useful tool to find out audiences’ interest. Julie Neidlinger wrote this superb post on how to use Google Analytics to write smarter content. Google Analytics is an amazing tool if used properly. You can appreciate the value of tools like this in helping you communicate better with your audience
2. Give them what they want – Keyword research helps you to understand what your customers want. Speak their language to enable you target them more effectively.
I read one of Neil Patel’s articles recently on this subject. It struck a cord with me with his in-depth analysis of this feature. Well worth a read. The key is that engaging with your audience in today’s online world can be easier than most people would have you believe. There are tonnes of useful tools out there that help gain audience engagement.
If you know what types of conversations they are engaged in you can join in.
3. Reach out to them in ways they least expect
Successful businesses value communication, engagement and commit to it in ways that others tend to pay lip service to. When you reach out to your audience in a a way they least expect, you invariably take your relationship to a deeper level of trust and acceptance. The element of surprise almost always works a treat. Brad Johnson gave some anecdotal evidence of how the element of surprise helps strengthens relationships. As he puts it – ‘if people know you’re thinking about their lives, they are more likely to want to do business.
4. Show them you appreciate them
Showing appreciations can come from the simplest statements or gestures. Just a tweet to say thank you goes a long way, because it demonstrates that you appreciate them. Some companies take the business of showing appreciation a little further. A good example are those that remember your birthday and send you a birthday card. I used to have a season ticket at the best football (Soccer – I hate that word, but it’s what Americans call the beautiful game) club in the world Tottenham Hotspurs :). On my birthday without fail, the club sends me a birthday card signed by the players. Did I appreciate it? You bet I did. Did I renew my ticket the following year? Of course I did. I am not suggesting that everyone does exactly the same thing. Look at your business and find out what your customers will value and give it to them. And guess what, they will appreciate you too.
5. Keep your ear to the ground – Listen
Communication is a two way street. A good conversation is hardly ever a monologue. Remember it’s not about you, it’s about your customers. Listening to your customers is equally as important as, talking to your customers. Listening helps you build a mental profile that helps you serve them better, keep them longer and help you deliver more value to them. How do you listen to your customers? I guess it probably depends to some extent on the type of business you run. Conducting surveys, asking for customer feedback, suggestion boxes and product reviews are all good ways of finding out what’s on your customers’ mind.
I cannot overstate the value of understanding your customers’ needs. You probably have heard people talking about building your ‘typical or ideal customer persona’. Pamela Vaughan writing for Hubspot, says and I agree, that ‘having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention’.
For example, if most of your customers use smartphones for internet access and buying, it makes sense to have a mobile responsive site that enables them to make their purchases from your site.
Being authentic, clear and simple in your communications with your customers will almost always ensure you engage better with them. When you actively demonstrate your gratitude to your customers, they reward you with their loyalty and continued custom. This will invariably result in wins for your business.
Have you or your business benefited from good communication with your customers? Please leave your comments below or on my Facebook page.