Marketing and communication often are viewed as the same, but they have different traits and characteristics. The purpose of marketing is to promote a concept or idea and, most important, focus on an offering or product. Communication’s aim is to inform and inspire, priming the customer or client to make a purchase.
While the use of systems, tools and automation can result in successful marketing, effective client communication must be personal and specific to the recipient. It needs to be experiential, meaning it’s based on what you know or what you’ve experienced with that client.
Effective client communication focuses on the recipient. It makes the recipient feel informed (“I now understand”), included (“I have a connection that others lack” or “I’m a member of the in-crowd”), valued and important (“They really care about me”).
In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s difficult for a business to stand out. Focusing and improving your approach to client communications is one way to get noticed.
Give Clients a REST
Whether you’re an experienced communications professional or the owner of a small business, there are four elements that can generate positive experiences for clients: Relevance, Empathy, Specificity and Timeliness.
Relevance: First and foremost, the message has to mean something to the recipient. Communicators like to believe we always create messages with the audience in mind; a “What’s in it for me?” perspective. Is this really the case? Review your content. You might not see that perspective in every message.
Empathy: While it’s important to communicate what’s important, it’s similarly critical to consider the recipients’ emotional state. How and when will they receive the message? What other factors (micro and macro) may also be pressing when your message arrives? There’s no way you can ever fully answer these questions, but customers expect you to understand their situation and the how your message will influence it. It is easy to overlook this element. It should not be.
Specificity: General, generic information stinks. It shows you don’t really care to know what matters most to your clients or, better yet, what matters to their clients. Details are part of what make a communication valuable. Include items you’ve previously discussed, such as a goal they have for their business or a key milestone you’ve reached during your time working together.
Timeliness: Although the parameters can vary based on the situation, client communications must be timely at all costs. Look at it this way, the moment an error or issue is uncovered internally and you’re brought in, a proverbial clock starts.
Communicators should always make sure they have all pertinent facts prior to reaching out with a message. There are instances when you lack some of the information you want, but must craft a message regardless. It's a judgement call. In the end, that “clock” may be the main reference as to whether the communication was effective.
For example, take an incident like a cybersecurity breach. You may think that 30 days is a timely response. Some clients will want notification as soon as the breach is discovered.
Effective client communication is critical to business success in the digital world. While many businesses have been able to save money by trimming office space and offshoring some key business functions–the cost of poor client communication outweighs the savings.
This simple messaging formula contains essential pieces communicators need to put a client’s fears, anxieties, uncertainties and frustrations to REST.
Ryan George is assistant VP of marketing and communications at 1st Global.