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Published 02 August 2012 18:08, Updated 03 August 2012 05:34
Business owners and managers tend to underestimate the importance of communicating with customers.
That’s not to say they don’t communicate with their customers and prospective customers. They do, of course, because that’s what being in business is all about. But rather than treating communication with customers and prospects as a formal or strategic discipline it’s something they do intuitively, on the run or in an ad hoc fashion.
A new book by Franziska Iseli-Hall and Christo Hall, founders of Sydney marketing firm Basic Bananas, which specialises in marketing for small business, emphasises the importance of “speaking your clients’ language”. Their self-published book (in this case, very professionally self-published) is Bananas About Marketing.
“Marketing and sales are both methods of communication – communication with the intent to attract clients and get them to buy your product or service,” the authors write. “Effective communication is crucial in business and can help you positively influence your prospects.”
Here are some worthwhile tips from the book:
01 Get to know your prospective customers
Building rapport with prospects creates a sense of familiarity, which builds trust, and trust equals sales. (The authors go into some “neuro-linguistic programming” tips for building rapport, which is a bit mumbo-jumbo for my tastes, but the basic premise holds.)
02 The way you communicate should change, depending on who you are talking to
Some people are good at details and love talking about the nuts and bolts; theirs is a small-picture view of the world. Others are visionary and want to talk about the big picture rather than the details. Both may be interested in your product or service, but they engage at different levels.
“If you are selling something to a big picture person you would mainly talk about the purpose, benefits and the big ideas. If you talk to a detail person, you really want to be prepared with the details of how it all works,” the authors write.
“One of our clients sells gorgeous jewellery made in Uganda that supports local people. A big picture person would want to hear about the purpose of the jewellery and how buying them is supporting women and making a big difference. Detail people would want to hear how the jewellery is made and the tools that are being used.”
03 Tell a story (preferably true)
“People love listening to a good story. It is something we have all loved from a very young age when we were read fairytales. As listeners, we often identified with the heroes in the story,” the authors write.
“Using stories in your communication and marketing is extremely powerful for the same reason. Your prospects will identify themselves with the hero. You can use stories to communicate a message or reassure your client by giving them an example of somebody else that was in a similar situation, bought your product or service and got fabulous results.”
04 Relationship or trust-based marketing: make it personal
Maintain regular contact with potential clients to ensure that you remain front-of-mind with them. This is not about hard selling; it’s about building a relationship. You can do this by inviting prospects into your “community”, whether it’s to receive mailouts, be part of your social media network or receive your podcast or blog as a subscriber.
But a word of warning: “Make sure you do not spam prospects with constant sales emails and messages or they will leave your community in no time. You need to give them a good reason for being in your community and make them want to stay.”
Here’s how: “Create something of value for your prospects, maybe a free guide, weekly tips, recipes for success, product reviews, videos, audios or a free trial. Be creative and think about what would be valuable for your clients.”
05 Share your expertise
This is a useful approach for businesses that can talk about a topic that prospects will find practical and relevant.
“The purpose of these talks is not to just sell something, but to educate and get attendees to walk out with new ideas and solutions to a problem,” the authors write. “A talk is really about providing value, educating people about a certain topic and giving them some ‘cool’ tools to walk away with.”
Alternative events include workshops, business networking and information events, multi-speaker forums and open days. Whatever the event, think about the purpose of the event and keep in mind what will best suit your target market.