The Webster dictionary definition is: “A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour… a verbal or written message.” Whilst the Oxford dictionary definition is: “The activity or process of expressing ideas and feelings or of giving people information” and the Collins dictionary states “the imparting or exchange of information, ideas, or feelings.”
But what does this mean from a business perspective? Put simply, communication is at the heart of all that any business does. Not only must it communicate efficiently internally with staff, suppliers, and contractors but also with all the other stakeholders in the business and every other body that it interacts with. Crucially though, it must communicate with existing and potential customers and it is this area that has the widest possible definitions and interpretations as to what communication actually means.
Business communication can have many different forms and underlying messages, and these can, and do, change over time, both for the individual business, but also in terms of general best practice. This was best demonstrated during the coronavirus lockdown period in the first half of 2020 when marketing communications switched focus from the ‘hard sell’ to ‘we care about our customers and will protect you’. Any business trying to communicate and advertise in the more traditional way was seen as not caring and this caused potential damage to the business.
So, in the second half of 2020 what are the top tips to making sure that any communication that you and your business does has the maximum desired impact?
- Empathy – There is no doubt that post lockdown all communication, irrespective of who it is with, has changed. It is highly important that communication, both internally and externally, now displays a softer, more caring side, and that this is genuine. Do the right thing for the right reason and that will still, nevertheless, support your business and will be beneficial in all ways.
- Marketing – As already touched upon, advertising and marketing is still a crucial part of maintaining or growing sales, but be aware of the change of mood of your customers. Whatever the marketing activity or the message that you want to get across, ensure that it reflects the true concerns of your customers and potential customers now, rather than what they were six or 12 months ago.
- Internally – During any time of uncertainty it is lack of information that is often one of the most difficult things to cope with. Fear of bad news is often worse than actually receiving bad news and then being able to move forward. Employees that feel taken for granted or not treated well will very rapidly lose motivation and productivity, and once lost this is extremely difficult to recapture. Communicate well and regularly with any staff about anything that might impact them. Trust in your staff and most will repay that trust many times over.
- Finances – One mistake that many businesses make is not to keep their bank or other funders informed early enough if they see a potential need for further funding or to renegotiate existing funding. As far as any bank is concerned no news is always bad news, whereas entering into communication early can often resolve any issues.
- Contact Information – Over the years there has been an increasing move towards making it more and more difficult for customers to find and access contact information and speak with a person about sales enquiries or complaints. Whilst this is done in order to save costs I have yet to meet one customer of any business that does not see this as detrimental and it often leads to loss of sales and an increase in dissatisfied customers. Just as empathy has made a huge resurgence recently, so has demand for personal service. This is an area that early stage businesses can truly stand apart from their competition.
Good and clear communication has always been important in any walk of life, and it is no surprise that great orators have often also been the best generals or company leaders, as they have inspired trust and people to follow them. Good and clear communication is now more crucial than ever and getting this right will not only enhance every aspect of your business, but it will also enhance the bottom line. The perfect win win situation.