From the way you answer your phone to the style of your letterhead, to your online presence everything your company does sends a message about the way you do business, for better or worse.
The best communication programs are created on purpose to control how people perceive your company. They support the company’s business plan. They serve specific marketing objectives. Bad programs are not programs at all, but a patchwork of projects that react to real or imagined needs and urgent situations. Their overall effect is accidental.
Make a commitment to handle your company’s communication program with the foresight and professionalism it deserves. Resist temporary or stop-gap solutions. Make sure there’s a reason to do something before you do it. Resolve to do it right.
Here are five ways to make sure things turn out the way you want:
- Plan as comprehensively and as far ahead as you can. Think program as well as projects. Think long term as well as short term.
- Tie every element in your plan to specific marketing objectives. There’s no other reason to do any communication project.
- Be consistent. Don’t confuse your audiences with conflicting messages. Find a central theme and make sure it’s reflected in everything you do.
- Be persistent. Remember the tortoise and the hare. Steady, straight-line programs beat stop-and-go, zigzag efforts every time.
- Beware of false economy. Money won’t guarantee success but lack of it will guarantee failure. Put enough behind your program to make it work; quality communication is not an expense, it’s an investment. (What Is the Average Marketing and Advertising Budget for a Company?)
There is no magic bullet
Promotion is just one part of marketing. It can help you accomplish great things if the rest of your house is in order but it can’t fix what’s wrong with your product, your pricing or your distribution. In fact, if you have a crummy product, aggressive promotion will only make things worse.
Effective communication can correct unjustified negative perceptions of your company or products but if you’ve earned them, fix the problem first.
No single effort will make you rich
Please regard your communication program as a long-term effort. The magic is in the doing – month after month, year after year. Be persistent. Be consistent. Don’t expect any single ad, mailing, or brochure to work miracles. It doesn’t work that way.
Work hard to make every project a winner but don’t let your passion for perfection paralyze your program. A good ad in the books beats a great one yet to be imagined. A good brochure in your prospects’ hands beats the perfect one still in committee.
The audience, the process, the tools
Your audience is anyone and everyone who could possibly influence the purchase of your product or service. Your job is to:
- Make them aware of your product or service
- Help them understand your product or service
- Motivate them to accept (specify, purchase, or recommend) your product or service
Moving an individual from total lack of awareness to full acceptance is a process of giving them the right information, in the right form, at the right time.
Generally speaking, awareness information tends to be more abstract and impersonal; acceptance information is more concrete and personal.
Face-to-face communication is hands down the best way to help someone understand and act on that understanding. But with personal sales calls averaging over $300, it is very inefficient to rely on personal contact for awareness, a job mass communication will accomplish at much lower cost.
The entire justification for mass communication and sales tools is to lower sales cost. Nationwide, it takes about four sales calls to close a sale, and each company has about four buying influences that need to hear from you. A daunting task. But the value of good traditional and online advertising, brochures, trade shows, etc., has been proven beyond doubt.
Statistically, you can expect to close 54 percent of the qualified prospects you meet at a trade show with a single follow-up call. Of people who request product information from an ad, 34 percent actually buy or expect to buy the product type they asked about. Over half of them keep the literature on file for future reference and 94 percent of them have never been contacted by a company salesperson!
Clearly, a good system of communication tools can help you reduce selling costs and make more money.
Divide and conquer
One of the most important concepts in marketing is that of market segmentation. Not everyone that shows they might use your product has the same information needs. You may need to approach one group in a totally different manner than you will another. Segment your market as your situation indicates:
- SIC (Standard Industrial Classification)
- Type of buyer
- Product usage
- Plant size
- Sales volume
You may, in a growth market, for example, choose to go only after the cream of the crop, what I call mining the mother lode. One model for this strategy is Pareto’s Law, the familiar 80/20 rule, which states that 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your customers, 20 percent of your sales staff, 20 percent of your SKU’s, etc.
Extend this theory to prospective buyers and you might assume that 80 percent of your new business dollars will come from about 20 percent of your total prospective market.
That means that if you have about 500 prospective buyers, about 100 of them could represent your best prospects, your statistical cream of the crop.
Whatever you strategy, focus your efforts and resources with enough intensity to get results. Don’t spread your efforts – or your budget – too thin.
Accomplishing one important thing well is better than poor results from a half-dozen efforts.