“People want to work for, and are more likely to invest with, a company they trust.”
I wrote this in a recent article I authored for Money Management Executive and it struck me that this simple statement is just as relevant to the health and wellness sector as it is to financial services.
Transparency is no longer a buzzword—in business, it’s a mantra.
But as a business owner/founder/jack-of-all-trades, how do you trust that what you communicate to the marketplace at large—including clients, co-workers, stakeholders, even competitors—will benefit your business goals?
Just say no to the “under the radar” approach
As a business owner who started my agency at the age of 26, I understand concerns about over-communicating, including:
- What if someone (a reporter, another entrepreneur, the next Shark Tank graduate) steals my idea?
- What if I look too big/small/average/fill in the blank?
- What if the competition finds out about me, thinks I’m great, and then steals my employees?
All of these are valid, albeit paranoid concerns—which, in entrepreneur-speak, is entirely normal.
You should be protected from No. 1 if you have a trademark, patent or whatever necessary legal documentation to lay claim to your business product or service—standard operating procedure for any size business.
Regarding No. 2, while I suggest always being yourself, I also recommend a healthy dose of confidence in every verbal or written communication, both internally and with the public. There is little room for modesty in business and there is nothing wrong with bragging—in a gracious way—about your accomplishments, objectives, and goals.
As for No. 3—welcome to the world of business! While you can protect your high-level employees from competitive pilfering with contracts that outline non-compete terms, the rest of your staff is looking out for number one, and rightfully so. If you value them and do the best you can to make their job rewarding and sane, you’ve done your job. Don’t take it personally if they leave. Sheryl Sandberg left Google and they’re still doing pretty well over at Facebook.
Hooray for getting & staying “on the radar”
I see communications as a two-way street that’s driven by two critical components: rapport and consistency.
Develop real rapport. The NEXT Natural Product Industry Forecast cites authenticity and an emotional connection as two areas for critical success in the natural products industry.
Rapport comes in many shapes and sizes in today’s multi-channel marketplace, but I think that rapport is all about connecting with the product and the people behind it—both in person and across the digital spectrum. By way of example:
- A consumer who watches a YouTube video of you and your product—no matter how simple its production value—feels like they know you. Or at least she feels closer to you than were before watching it.
- An impressive speaking engagement in which you or a member of your staff wows the audience can turn into the best sales lead of your life.
- Interaction and responsiveness using social media channels like LinkedIn (important for B2B), Facebook (important for B2C) and Twitter (important for both) drives a real and meaningful connection that builds and strengthens rapport.
Keep it consistent. An effective communications campaign is equal parts creativity and practicality.
Get your to-do list out, open up your corporate calendar, and get to work: communicating regularly is hard work.
We’ve all been to a website for a product we love where we’ve found a blog post that ended up being two years old. It doesn’t matter if your Facebook page is fresh as a daisy – if there is a blog, it needs to be tended to or taken down. Gaps in your regular communication signify disorganization, lack of commitment or worse, incompetency, to your fans and friends.
Outline your communications strategy (even if it’s limited right now) and synch it with real dates tied to employees who are deadline-accountable. Here is a sample communications plan:
|Monthly Communications||Due Date|
|Send an email, letter or newsletter to existing clients on product & service updates||Weekly|
|Blog about trends in the natural products marketplace to establish thought leadership positioning||Weekly|
|Social: Respond within an hour to all questions & concerns on all social channels||Daily|
|Town Hall meeting on Google+||Monthly|
|Publish a series of “how to” added value print & online newsletter articles||TBD|
Let me know which communication tools you’ve used to spur connectivity, build rapport, and strengthen trust. I'd love to hear your examples in the comments below!