By Len Monheit
So much in life really is about communication. Some of us are better at it than others, and some of us just don’t get it.
In a face to face interaction, verbal and non-verbal cues impact the message. In a telephone dialogue, factors including words and a reliance on tone of voice are important. Written correspondence and materials use images, word selection and formatting to convey meaning, and similarly, electronic communication depends heavily on choice of words and overall presentation.
As a business professional, presumably you’ve identified your target audience. The next step of the process, identifying the manner to most effectively reach your audience and the style to communicate, often never occurs. We see this with traditional communications including brochures, presentation and tradeshows, and increasingly, we’re seeing lack of thought in electronic communications, particularly as e-communications becomes even more widely used as a business tool. Consider the following examples:
- You’ve decided to sponsor a luncheon at a business event and planned for your highly intelligent, top-most scientific researcher to make the luncheon presentation. You’ve set yourself up for potential disaster unless you’ve trained this scientific professional to handle a business environment- at the very least you’ve not effectively spent your promotional budget.
- You’ve invested thousands of dollars in a tradeshow including booth transportation and marketing materials. Your show floor personnel have no idea what their show objectives are and so sit back and watch the traffic go by. In another example, you’ve planned a major product introduction, but forgot to promote it to your contact list and elsewhere prior to the event.
- You’ve invested heavily in marketing and PR programs and wonder why you’re not getting results. Your press releases are never at industry events (if you’re trying to reach the trade) and your last release or update on your website is two years old.
- You’ve decided that the Internet is a primary communications tool for your company and your message. You’ve forgotten to incorporate your electronic communications into your strategy so the two diverge. One message appears in your printed materials, a different one on-line and your e-mail signatures are out of step with both. You do not have a mechanism to collect e-mail addresses.
While none of these examples will destroy your organization, they will all cost money and waste scarce resources. (In some cases they may cost jobs and credibility)
Although ‘spam’ is typically associated with e-mail, many would agree that less than professional or inappropriate messages are delivered by phone, fax and in person. We’ve developed strategies to filter out some of the messages; in some cases we just don’t answer the door or the phone. And the companies evolve; they get better and more creative with their approaches. ‘Spam’ is no exception; it too is becoming more sophisticated as the technology driving it advances. More corporate filtering is occurring to eliminate undesirable messages, and if you’re using e-mail to deliver part of your message, you need to be aware and differentiating your message to pass through the filters and to achieve desired results.
We’ve also all seen examples of communication, where the desired result or action is unclear. It seems frequently that materials are generated (electronically and print) to fill quotas and not necessarily to deliver a targeted and appropriate message. Unfortunately, the effect of these sub-standard materials is to dilute the effectiveness and response to the rest of the more targeted, meaningful messages.
In general, when dealing with the question of audience and audience behaviors, consumer marketers are ahead of business to business or trade practices. Surveys, accepted models and standards exist and are part of the business process. The planning process includes examining consumer response, either predicted or as studied through focus groups.
Too often in business to business communication and marketing, we, who know our product best, position it without giving consideration to audience and buyers. For instance, if you’re launching a new ingredient and have determined that a release or announcement is appropriate, you need to understand what will impact potential buyers. If the Internet is part of your communications strategy, then the announcement must be on your website, must be communicated electronically, and must be delivered to the right person. Many companies and organizations we’ve spoken with say they are committed to operating in an electronic environment, yet do not have an e-mail list of existing clients let alone prospective ones. Many websites don’t have a signup form to receive additional information. Even if you don’t distribute information electronically at present, this is an invaluable way to obtain e-mail addresses with permission from interested viewers. Even if you are not yet distributing an electronic newsletter (operative word is ‘yet’ as the numbers below attest), capturing this information now is a great way to start the program.
95% of business decision makers check their own e-mail. Personalized, targeted, pleasing, sophisticated e-mail can deliver a pitched message. This type of well constructed program can deliver a response up to 5 times that of direct mail if developed properly with consideration of audience and audience behavior. In fact, a recent Research.net survey of C-level exec’s said that 73% preferred to find out about new products or services on-line. These C-level executives are spending an average of 16 hours per week on-line, almost double their time watching television. (57% indicated they preferred learing about new products in magazines, 29% from newspapers)
If C-level execs are part of your target audience, then programs and processes must reach them repeatedly and reliably. It’s all about communication.