One of my favorite movie lines comes from the classic “Cool Hand Luke”:?“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
Business owners and managers often make the mistake of failing to communicate, or they communicate the wrong messages. This is a mistake that will almost always costs you money.
Why? Good communication is good marketing. Poor communication – or none at all – leaves customers, employees, vendors and others in the dark about you. That can hurt not only your reputation but also your bottom line.
The constant pressure of “staying in the black” can cause tunnel vision. You make excuses: “It’s my company; I know more about this than anyone else. With the economy suffering, I need to make money to keep people employed. I don’t have time to stop what I’m doing to let others know what’s going on. I don’t have money to market the company.”
It’s time to break through that tunnel vision and position yourself for the expected economic recovery. Here are six steps you can take to improve communications within your company:
• Identify all of your audiences – It’s a mistake to focus only on your customers. Other important audiences include employees, investors, board members, family and friends, vendors and suppliers, and local business and trade media. Make a list that spells out each audience, plus how you communicate with them. If your audiences are consistently updated about your company, they help you spread your business message – and become your advocates.
• Showcase your successes – In a down economy, a successful business becomes a news story. Take opportunities to tell the news media – and your other audiences – about new business, contracts, a successful program, etc.
• Create simple business messages – If you had only 20 seconds to sell your company’s products or services to the country’s top CEO, what would you say? What makes you different or unique from your competitors? You have to create those messages. Then, you have to ensure they are prominent on your marketing materials, your Web site and in the minds of your audiences. You have to be able to say you are better than your competitor – and back it up with your performance.
• Beef up your marketing plan – Admit it. When business slows down, you normally cut the marketing budget first. Then you’re surprised when business slows even further. Duh. To grow your business, invest in a comprehensive marketing program. It doesn’t have to break the bank, but it has to be targeted to your potential customers.
• Pick low hanging fruit – Your existing customers should be a priority. Consider loyalty programs, special deals, perks and e-newsletters with coupons for customers who already know you. They’ll tell others about how great you are.
• Recognize your limitations – You are an expert at running your company. However, you are probably not a trained communications specialist. If you have a trained professional on staff, listen to him/her. If you don’t have someone on staff, contract with a professional to provide recommendations.
The present can be a time of business revival and recovery. You may have the best product or service, but if people don’t know about it, you won’t sell it. Don’t let others accuse your company of having “a failure to communicate.”