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Growing your business [Part 4] Open the doors of communication

So far in this series of blogs, we have covered the importance of attracting and maintaining a good bank of customers and prospects. We’ve also covered the absolutely essential part of the process that is knowing what your key messages are and how they align with your customers’ needs. So you almost have every part of the prep in place, bar one thing – what platforms will you use to communicate with?

Back in the day we had phone, face-to-face and post. Oh and if you were really edgy you’d boast a fax machine too. Today, the myriad of ways to communicate are vast. Digital communications has opened up a lot of new doors and ways in which we can gain traction with prospects, maintain relationships with existing customers and connect with more people than we ever imagined possible, across the globe.

So how do you choose what’s right for your business? We’ve made a list below of things to consider when you create your own mix of communication platforms.

Phone: of course – although less so for sales and marketing – great for customers and enquiries. Who likes to make or receive a sales call? Exactly.

In person: of course as long as travel time allows. Face-to-face still has an important place in marketing, sales and customer care as long as the time investment makes sense.

Email: yes but make sure you don’t hide behind it. The human touch can be lost if you don’t allow customers access to you and your team at the right times. Email is fantastic for regular contact via newsletters, offers and educational information but don’t be a nuisance.

Website: there are very few businesses who wouldn’t benefit from a website (maybe a secret agent?!) so always make sure it is up-to-date, clear, clean and easy to navigate with exactly what a customer might be looking for. Try it out on a few willing volunteers – ask them for honest feedback and listen to what they have to say that could make the experience better.

Social media: there are so many and it’s likely that you’ll have use for at least one. Some businesses (generally consumer-led) work well on Facebook. Others have a great interaction on Twitter. Visual businesses thrive under Instagram and other image-led sites. Be reasonable, rational and try things out. A word of warning – we would advise against the easy practice of posting in one place and letting it filter out to all of your platforms. The platforms are designed to behave differently and it is unlikely that your beautifully crafted Facebook post will translate to Instagram in any shape or form. Take your post, top it and tail it according to the platform, always add a photo or image, and assess the impact over a period of time.

Linked in: this is sort of like social media but all grown up. We believe that the very nature of this popular networking site is all about people so we’re not convinced the business pages are that effective. However, set one up, update it when you update the other platforms and see how it works for you. Some businesses thrive on the forums and discussion side of Linked In and that provides a valuable basis for discussion independently of it.

One of the key things to bear in mind is not whether or not you like to tweet or not, it’s whether your audience likes to engage in this way. If enough of a percentage do, then add it to the mix. There is hardly anything – other than traditional, printed and posted mail – that makes the time or cost investment prohibitive to communicating as widely as possible. Be open-minded about your choices and don’t be quick to make generalisations. Unless you know for sure that “that won’t work”, give it a go.

If you only pick up one customer via Facebook, does that matter? It only matters if Facebook is your single route to market, you have a full-time social media person on it and your product sells for £5. Common sense prevails in most businesses as long as the activity is reviewed regularly. We have clients who have low followers across all of their social media but the combined activity is worth a few minutes effort, just a few times a week. Being socially active doesn’t just result in sales, it  tells people you are alive and kicking and contributes to your overall brand.

In our honest opinion, we say you should open as many doors as possible. Why be prescriptive or limiting in how your target audience communicates with you?

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