I heard that June is National Effective Communication month which got me to thinking about my various inboxes. While I like to grouse about the volume of e-mail I receive, the truth is most of it is there because I invited it in via my sign-ups, my sales orders, my browsing or some other passing indication that I had an interest in that particular business.
Yet some of those e-mails I delete without reading, some I give no more than a cursory glance, and others I look forward to. Hmmm … why is that, I wondered. It seems the ones that draw me in rather than repel me have a few things in common. They’re expected. They’re short. And they’re useful.
One of my favorites is a “daily tip” format. Another is a weekday offering with an easy-to-remember name. Think along the lines of “Tuesday’s Tip” or “Wednesday
Web Finds” or “Free Advice Friday.” I know I’ll only spend a minute reading it, so there’s no hesitation in opening it.
While some firms may have customers that place daily or weekly orders, others conduct business less frequently. How do you ensure that an “occasional” customer thinks of you when that sporadic need arises? How do you up the chances that such a customer thinks of you when an acquaintance has a similar need?
The right answer for you might be a regular e-mail campaign … something that reminds your infrequent customers that you’re out there and that you have the expertise they need.
Make it memorable. Make it brief. Make it impressive.
We ALL know better than to use OMG or TTYL in our business correspondence (um … we DO know that, don’t we?), but it’s dismaying how today’s social media habits have had a negative impact on our business language nonetheless. In our haste to communicate in as few key strokes as possible, we’ve grown dangerously accustomed to abbreviating and purposely misspelling our words.
In our transition from formal business letters to interoffice memos to emails to text messages and tweets, our communications are starting to resemble compacted cubes of trash. Thoughts, paragraphs, sentences, words and letters go in … small tight rectangles come out, rarely resembling the original content. We’re in a hurry. Say it and send it.
The laxity of attention to our language isn’t just in our instant communications … it spills over into many products that contain the written word. I sometimes attend networking events and typically return to my office with a number of business cards. In visiting the Web sites of many small business owners, I’m often aghast at the typos, grammatical errors, style inconsistencies and other evidence of not taking the time to proofread one’s work.
Before you visit your next customer, turn a critical eye toward your written communications. Ask someone else to study your Web site and your collateral materials. Ensure that your business content reflects your knowledge, your experience and your attention to detail … because it also reflects your reputation.
I love to learn … I could be a perpetual student if I found someone willing to finance my never-ending education.
But I’ve discovered something just as appealing … free Webinars!
Granted, nearly every Webinar is associated with a “call to action” … translation, a buying opportunity. But that’s okay. If you’re browsing through Web sites of interest to you and up pops a notification of an upcoming free Webinar that’s right up your alley, why not?
Yes, you’ll get added to their e-mail list. So what? What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll send you more free information that’s right up your alley. Or perhaps they’ll ask you to invest in purchasing a deluxe version of offerings that are right up your alley. It’s okay to say no. It’s also a great way to see other entrepreneurs’ marketing plans in action.
I like going to school on someone else’s dime. Every Webinar, every e-mail campaign, every press release, every blog is an opportunity to judge what works and what doesn’t.
Are you taking advantage of this for your business?
One of the favorite parts of my business is meeting … and getting to know … some very interesting men and women. At times, it’s made me want to exclaim, “How does the world not KNOW about you??”
But here’s what I’ve learned … EVERYONE has a story to tell. And personal stories are fascinating. For example, I’ve met a man who is both an accomplished chef AND a retired professional opera singer. He’s combining those unique talents in a themed dinner presentation called Food for Love.
Another chance acquaintance told me of his dad … one of the few people in this world who repair ships’ compasses. What a unique talent!
There are plenty of entertaining biographies written about people of fame. But I’m betting the entrepreneurs in our own communities have captivating stories to tell as well.
I want to hear yours. I want to write yours. I want everyone to read yours.
I was savoring a cranberry orange muffin and a giant mug of black coffee in my favorite coffee shop the other morning, when I heard a couple raving about their breakfast crepes.
A woman at the next table chimed in about how thrilled she was with HER breakfast selection. Then a gentleman looked up from his laptop and announced that if those customers thought breakfast was good, they ought to come back for the tapas offered on the evening menu!
There, before my eyes, was a mini example of viral marketing in action.
How wonderful it would be, I thought, if the owners of that shop were able to capture those smiles, those sincere words, those unsolicited recommendations on a video. A YouTube of satisfied customers!
I mused about how this might work. An owner could ask customers if they’d be willing to be a part of a montage of happy customers ad-libbing about their experience. If yes, they’d be provided with a pre-printed release form to give permission for the images and words to appear in a YouTube supporting the restaurant on their Web site.
I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take long for the “How was breakfast?” video to be up and running. Followed, of course, by the “Enjoy those tapas?” video!
The spontaneous appreciation of a business deserves to be heard by the entire community of potential customers … not just the writer at the counter with her mouth full of muffin.
Silly me. I went to an outdoor spa experience and neglected to bring a towel. I strolled through the gift shop, willing to pay for my forgetfulness but was stunned that the only towels stocked were cheap Florida tourist towels. I would have gladly paid a handsome price for a thick, quality towel with the spa logo on it.
This was important information for that business owner to know. I mentioned it to the sales clerk, but somehow I doubted it would ever make it back to the person who needed to hear it.
Do you ask for your customers’ opinions, comments and suggestions? And, if so, how? Like me, you’ve probably been to plenty of restaurants that asked you to fill out a customer comment card. Quality of food? Speed of service? Pleasantness of staff? Those ratings may have some value to the owner and managers, but do they really go far enough?
I’ve spent a lot of time writing, analyzing and reporting results of surveys and, while the statistics can provide a quick snapshot, the most interesting feedback has always come from the write-in comments.
I found myself leaving the spa and still wanting to find a blank line in which to write, “Add logo towels to your gift shop inventory … I would have bought one today.”
You have a wealth of knowledge! Don’t be afraid to share it with your Web site visitors. So many business owners tell me they’re afraid of “giving away the farm” with their blogs. Instead, they think it’s safer to just rattle on about common business topics simply for the sake of having a new post. There seems to be a reluctance to put personal expertise into words that are free for the world to see.
But what better way to demonstrate your value to current and potential customers than to give them a peek at the many nuggets of knowledge you’ve acquired? No, you don’t need to share the business-shaping strategies that define your platform … just pick out an issue that is important to your industry and discuss it.
Add your insight. Use your unique voice. And do it on a regular basis.
Let your site visitors get to know you as a resource they’ll want to tap into again and again!