The great Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats, once made the astute observation that we should “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people”.
Good point Bill. This applies as much to the business world as it does to any other human aspiration. Indeed, when it comes to the often complex world of buying, adding value and selling information and communications technology, it should be a mantra.
Quality communication with all stakeholders in your business – and that includes both up and down the supply chain plus internal resources – is potentially the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. In a competitive, mature market it can be the difference between business success or failure.
Of course, the definition of communication is broad but, fundamentally, I am talking about letting your existing customers, suppliers and staff – and potential new ones – know who you are, what you do and how you can add value to their world. Your long-term sustainability is dependent on getting that message across.
This modern world of constant connection and social networking is re-defining a lot of the rules about communication but in the end the fundamentals remain the same. The bottom line is that every decision maker that you want to reach is a person and they need to be communicated with in a way that attracts their attention.
When you are reselling products or integrating a range of technologies and services into a business solution, it is very easy to get caught up in a vendor’s hype and bluster and hand-ball it onto customers with your tweak on top of it.
Some ad agency has sat down with well-funded marketing operations and been paid a lot of money to invent words such as “optimisation”, “virtualisation”, “distributed computing environments” and “proactive solutions management for continual improvement”. Sorry. I’m getting a little carried away.
To the great unwashed majority – the decision makers at your customers - these are weasel words that don’t really mean anything at all. They have no relevance to the real world where you are trying to forge business success. To borrow a great piece of Australian vernacular; they can often just make you sound like a “wanker”.
Believe me. I’ve been in some of those messaging workshops (hey, they paid me to do so and ignored my advice) and often the desired “strategic business outcomes” of this sort of communication is to say as little as possible about what it is that you actually do.
Smart people – and it is they that you want to do business with – can see right through the buzzwords and it can be a tremendous turn-off. A really simple way to see if your message is going to cut the mustard is to show it to one of your best customers – the type of customer you would like to have more of. Ask them if it carries any relevance to their world.
Whether it be advertising copy, marketing collateral, website content or a regular newsletter for staff, customers and/or suppliers, there needs to be consistency and realism in the messages you put in the public domain. Sure, communication always needs to reflect your value proposition as a business but it should also be in the type of language that you would use if communicating with them face to face and really explaining how you are going to help them.
Creating an effective communication strategy doesn’t have to be a difficult exercise. Nor does it have to be a significant drain on your time. It is, however, something that every business at some time or another has to engage in to capitalise on opportunities.
Start by just thinking about whom it is that you wish to influence and what do they want to hear? Each communication type (suppliers, buyers or staff) will be different and there will be different objectives you are hoping to achieve in communicating with them, so also start by prioritising which group raises the most immediate need to make contact with.
Suppliers want to hear that you are going to represent them in a way that complements their values and they want to be reassured that you are going to be easy to do business with. Customers want to know that you are going to deliver on the promises you make about services or products. Your staff wants to be reminded that they are important to your success and that their efforts are appreciated.
Communications should be about celebrating your successes, demonstrating your capabilities and highlighting your value proposition. They can be delivered in any number of ways so long as they get through to the target audience and informs them why they should want to engage with your business.
Speaking “the language of the people” should be the mantra underpinning all your business communications, not “Baffle them bullshit”.
Gerard Norsa is a former ARN editor who now is a director of Schmooze Communications. He can be contacted via: firstname.lastname@example.org