Do It Your Way: Connecting with Customers and Members
Communicators have become lazy and cheap. When they get a new message, or when the last message didn’t reach the intended reach, unfortunately, the modern communicator can be heard muttering under their breath “we’ll just put it on Facebook.” There is much more to truly communicating with your customers or members than just posting another social media post.
When electronic communications became reliable a few decades ago, the market quickly realized that it had found the holy grail. After all, this new medium was free and only required the time to compose a message and maybe add some graphics. As long as we had our own list of email addresses, the cost would be zero or close to zero, considering the investment in application tools to help. Social media didn’t change this seemingly profound business tactic, but it did exasperate it. The problem is, and was, that it is a flop, achieving a much smaller goal than we care to admit.
I, for example, generally don’t use Facebook, except for my work; So, if I am a member of that Chamber or Association, am I receiving the communication when it is published there? If I am a VIP customer of that organization, am I getting the message? Obviously not. Replace Facebook in the above with ’email’, ‘Twitter’, ‘YouTube’, ‘Parler’, ‘Rumble’ or any other means of electronic communication and there is the same problem: not all members use that electronic means. Or, maybe they do, but not often. We’ve been doing it wrong!
do it his way
Leaders, members, customers, staff… all people, in fact, have preferences. They do things the way they we want to do them, not the way we want them to do things. This is especially true in communications. We need to go where they are, not try to force them to be where we want them to be. Do any VIPs in particular prefer email? Text? A phone call at 11 p.m. after the family goes to bed? We have to meet them where they want to be.
With mass communication to clients or members, we need to be more fluid and complete. We need to cover the media, not just pick one and say it’s done. So whatever your favorite is, we’re there. The problem is that, going from the macro to the micro, more specifically to the individual, we don’t know which one is their favorite. And, time and funds are not unlimited. Most of us can’t afford to hire a complement of full-time employees just to post to all the relevant social networks while communicating through traditional media.
the secret sauce
So if we need to be where our members and customers are, but we don’t know where they are, how do we select the right media mix? The answer lies, as with most recipes, in selecting the best ingredients for the desired reaction and determining your mix. In our case, we must mix electronic media with physical media.
Electronic means include email, email newsletters (which we often mislead ourselves into saying are different from email), our website, and social media. The best mix for small, nimble staff is to use a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly email newsletter with few and few additional separate emails reserved for only the most important annual communications. This should be strongly supported with three to five social media platforms where we can copy and paste the same message and then make minor platform customization tweaks. Social experts would argue that each platform is different, with a unique language, tempo, and vernacular; therefore, such an approach is sloppy and unsophisticated. Although I agree when I discuss the finer details of comparing and contrasting platforms, this is simply not realistic for the small organization. Stick to cutting and pasting to get the most impact in the least amount of time.
If we stop communication at the electronic gate, we will lose more than 30% of our members and customers. Some will never see it as it will be buried in their e-waste heaps. Others will drop out. Still others will change jobs, which will change their email or social address, without letting us know. And yet others will compromise us with junk, spam, or electronic archiving 13. So the tried and true print media must also be part of our plan. Postcards, magazines, fold-out brochures, letters in letterhead envelopes, flyers, and tri-fold brochures are all options. So are text messages, voice calls, and even robocalls, if done right. The art of communication is in the mix, the portions and the touches with each medium. Of course, most of the physical media are exorbitantly priced compared to the electronic ones, which is why most of the cameras, companies and associations have abandoned these media altogether. But that’s also why physical media is so much more effective than it was for our fathers and grandfathers: it’s just not used much anymore, so when used correctly, it makes a splash.
Communication is about style, substance, writing the perfect copy, the best timing, and having something worth saying. More importantly, though, it’s about being where the recipient is so they can receive that magnificence that is their hard work. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a message is sent in a medium that your customer is not monitoring, do you make the sale? Keep customer or member? Survive as an entity? The mix of media, doing it your way, might even be more important than style, copy, substance, or timing. At least you make your way.
If you found this article helpful and insightful, you may also appreciate the other three articles in this four-part series on communications: Break the noise with your communication, The Goldilocks Zone of CommunicationY Anatomy of a communication message.