A form of corporate shyness has infected the business world. Businesses seem to keep what they’re doing a secret and expect clients to intuitively know how their business is growing and what it can offer them. But clients don’t have crystal balls. The failure to communicate regularly to your existing and potential clients can mean that you risk slipping from their attention - fatal when there are limited opportunities in a difficult market. Think Richard Branson: would you call him shy or reticent? Hardly. He’s made an art-form of exploiting publicity for his own benefit. And while we can’t all be like a Branson, the business of regular communication is something you shouldn’t shy away from.
Four tips to stay on your client’s radar:
1. How often is often enough?
There’s no magic answer here. If it’s significant news (the recruitment of a high profile new executive for example) you can get that out immediately. Otherwise more routine news can wait for your regular newsletter. My view is that you need to be reaching out to your market at least once every quarter. Anything less and you risk being forgotten. Too much more than this can risk making you a nuisance.
2. But I've got nothing to say!
I’ve often found that professional firms regard what they do as very unexciting, and not worthy of communicating to their clients. But if you bring in a fresh set of eyes (someone external to the business) you might be surprised at just how much happens in your business which your clients and potential clients would be interested in.
News about new projects and clients that have come on board, new challenges, staff changes, and other initiatives are all worthy news items.
You already have a fair idea about the sorts of things clients want to know and news that touches on any of these ‘selling points’ is valid because it reinforces your business reputation and skill set. Think about when you've been pitching for work against competitors, and what it is that clients have wanted to know most about your firm? By identifying and focusing on your point of difference and where your real strengths are, you avoid becoming a ‘commodity provider’ that competes only on price because they are seen as the same as every other competitor.
For example, let’s say you’re an engineering firm with specialized skills in advanced energy saving technology and green building design, but also work across other fields. You would emphasize your specialization through case studies and value-add examples and become the ‘go to’ experts in this field. It doesn’t mean you won’t win business in more typical fields but you will have established your point of difference and your reputation as leaders in your field.
3. Mix and match.
Good communication should also aim for a mix of content that appeals to differing groups of clients. Some may be more interested in personnel changes, others might be more interested in technical advice. Mix your content up –include articles, videos, visuals. If your communicating through written content - vary the length and keep some items very brief while others longer.
4. What to avoid.
Try to avoid speaking in the language of your profession. Jargon, acronyms and abbreviations might be understood within your own professional circles but when communicating with clients, plain English has a lot going for it. I’d also suggest you do your best to make your communication engaging. Avoid the polished ‘corporate speak’ that sounds like it came from a corporate brochure written by a committee of lawyers. Be honest and write much in the manner you’d speak to your clients, for a more effective message.