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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

On the roller-coaster ride of running one’s own business, I used to think that having a fantastic product would be enough. As you know, this is far from the truth. This probably accounts for the 1% inspiration bit.

As I have discussed before, everyone expects you to be an expert in your business and in a small business, if you are on a shoe string and a one-man band, this means being an expert in everything. Is this the perspiration bit? The 24/7, never switching off, always being on task? Reading the paper on a Sunday looking for relevant articles, checking emails late at night when it’s quiet, cooking, etc..? I think the perspiration bit is also connected with the resilience of taking the failures as lessons to be learned, to stand up after falling, to get on with it and persevere when things may not be as rosy as one would wish for.

But we are in the 21st century and I would add another element. Yes, you had your 1% inspiration in your great idea and you are working really hard, which is your 99% perspiration. What about the communication bit? I think this changes the 1%+99% equation. Nowadays, entrepreneurs are required to twitter, to tell their story, to shout out their values and they are also allowed, and indeed expected, to drive their enterprises ethically. Green issues, fair trade, sustainability…

I think this is a great time to be an entrepreneur because it’s become the norm to have ideas and to communicate them effectively. I’m starting to learn how to communicate with people out there about what I’m trying to do – introduce new adventurous flavours of food that come from local growers and those who are far away, who share my passion for great food and respect for the environment and people. 21st century communication media – what a great opportunity to relate with possible customers and, hopefully, make a difference.

You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com

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All start-ups must consider how they pinpoint the ‘relevancy’ between what their business offers and what there website does. Follow the R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T marketing approach and soon you will find your online activities gathering pace.

Relate to your site visitors needs
Spend time understanding how users find your site, what they do when they’re there and how they exit. Building a picture of your typical user will allow you to quickly identify their needs, what information they’re looking to acquire and how you may persuade them to interact with you and your business. Knowing the pitfalls encountered on your website enables you to react and adapt to maximise your online ROI.

Engage your visitors
Don’t be afraid to ask. Use your website as a communication tool – not simply as a corporate brochure. Giving your customers what they want – relevant and topical information – will build confidence in your offering. Think of it as a conversational piece: the first question they ask is through their initial Google search, so make sure your page(s) respond to that question.

Learn from your visitors
Know how visitors interact on your website and communicate with them directly. Make sure this critical information is leveraged in your business’ best interests. Communicate internally. As an example, if the same question is being asked repeatedly online, see how this can be adapted to your own offline sales techniques. Understanding what your customers’ current requirements are from their search requests can have massive impact upon your business.

Excite your visitors
Once you give the end user what they’re looking for, whether product or service offering, catch them there and then. Don’t be afraid to offer them further free information in return for their email address, which will allow you to communicate directly. They’re sat there thinking – “GREAT! Finally found what I was looking for” – but we know that potentially a competitor’s website is just a click away. Retain your visitors’ interest by giving them what they want and by offering a little bit more.

Value your visitors’ time
First and foremost – give your customers what they’re looking for. Structure your website so they can find exactly what they’re looking for. Not only does a well constructed website get a general thumbs up from the end user, it’s also a great search engine optimisation tool.

Anticipate your visitors’ needs
By using specific trigger terms within search (eg “buy”, “shop for”, “info” or “help”) you can quickly understand your visitors’ needs and wants. If you’re a retailer, structure your website to offer both an easy route for product information and an even easier route to buy that product. Certain high value products may require a customer to go away and think about the potential transaction. Anticipate this by offering a link to your site RSS feed, a telephone number or a simple email enquiry.

Nurture your visitors’ trust
If the information you provide upon first glance ticks visitors’ “Yes, this is what I’m looking for” box, then capture their attention and nurture the relationship. Remember, whatever your industry, the visitor may or may not know of your business and it offering. If your offline sales process is complex, don’t simply throw your visitors into a website with “BUY NOW” buttons flashing and scripted content that can be found on any of your competitors’ pages.

Test your message
Sceptical about which approach works best with which visitor? Use free offerings such as Google Website Optimiser, which allows you to offer different pages to individual visitors. This A/B approach allows you to quickly identify which messaging works best and provides you with the necessary focus for future marketing activity.

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The two most common complaints in business are that no one asked me and no one told me. While, in my experience, it’s impossible to ever fully eliminate these complaints, making a concerted effort at addressing them can lead to a big boost in team morale.

As a manager, I feel that if I don’t tell people what’s going on, I can’t complain if they fill in the gaps with negatives. And if they don’t feel that their input is taken seriously, they will become de-motivated and probably work less hard, as well as putting up with things that frankly, they should be screaming about.

In fact, listening is the key to continuous improvement. I do try to practice what I preach and I interview all staff, including those in junior roles, on a regular basis. It doesn’t take all that long, it’s amazing what you find out, and the very act of listening leads to a big improvement in morale.

Another angle that we have tried is to hold a series of workshop sessions with all staff whenever we review our strategy. These enable us to get useful input on the broad thrust of the strategy, and identify many of the potential pitfalls. It also means that we communicate and get buy in as we go along. By the time the strategy is completed, everybody is on board and starting to act on it. This is hugely better than a brilliant strategy done by outside consultants but that sits beautifully documented but largely untouched on the shelf. With that sort of strategy, you wonder a year later why the business isn’t really following it, and why it faces resistance at every turn. The lesson is that it’s important to explain where you are going to everybody even when you are a small company.

In most businesses, money is not a great motivator, but can certainly be a great de-motivator. So it’s important to try to be consistent in how you reward people, and also to explain pay policies so that there is a degree of buy in. Sometimes, it may be better to reward with bonuses rather than pay rises, as rises institutionalize pay differentials in ways that may become unfair over time, They can’t easily be unpicked and when discovered will destroy morale.

Motivation is a funny thing, and is pretty hard to achieve. I hope that some of the ideas here will stimulate your further thoughts.

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When you communicate with your target market, can you be sure they actually understand a single word you’re going on about?

A common mistake made by business (large and small) is to communicate in industry lingo.

This is fine, if you’re selling within your industry, but 9/10 times you’re not.  You’re either communicating to Joe Public or businesses outside of your sector.

Take these bullet points, selling website hosting – aimed at people just like you and me:

2,500 POP/Imap Email Accounts

 SSH (Secure Shell), SSL, FTP, Stats

CGI, Ruby (RoR), Perl, PHP, MySQL

2000/2002 Front Page Extensions

Do you have the faintest idea what a ‘Secure Shell’ is?  And who the heck is Ruby when she’s around?

Here’s another example (if you’ve spoken to an Estate Agent recently, a few bells might ring):
“Yes, we have spoken to the vendor further up the chain and the mortgage indemnity issue is in hand.  Before we exchange I am still awaiting answers to the queries your purchaser has raised namely; the restrictive covenant issue regarding the easements, and they are still requesting you undertake the Chancel Insurance”
Pardon?

To the industries in question, the above makes complete sense and has total clarity.  This is why it’s “hard for them to understand that they’re hard to understand!”.

But to people who don’t speak their language, they may as well be speaking in Latin (or Vulcan).

People like to do business with people they’re comfortable with and if they can’t understand you, this becomes very difficult.

Therefore, if all of your competition speaks in jargon, how much business do you think you could win if you’re the only one that speaks in a language your customer actually understands and is comfortable with?

A way to do this is to take your sales copy and give it to someone completely outside of your industry to read (please don’t be afraid to give it to a ten-year-old).

If they can understand it –  you’re onto a winner.  If they don’t, please go back to the drawing board.

Before I leave you, this communication breakdown happens to the biggest of the big boys as well (Google).  Have a look at this post by Seth Godin and check out the video!

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