The easiest ways to communicate effectively with customers

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I’ve been hearing the saying ‘Do more with less’ a lot lately. Spawned by the recent global economic situation, more and more companies are feeling the effects of layoffs which result in too few people having to do too much in too little time.

The danger is that customer communication can often be the first thing to suffer. Communicating takes a lot of effort and though everyone knows it’s important, it often appears to not be as urgent as other tasks.  Then, suddenly one day we realise that we’ve lost market share because we’ve become too busy to keep customers engaged.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your customer communication strategies stay on track and are easier to manage.

Email and printed newsletters:

As a rule, staying in touch using low-key educational strategies such as email and / or printed newsletters is an excellent way to stay in front of your customer with fairly minimal effort.  I’m not suggesting that a newsletter involves no effort, but there are ways to minimize the time necessary to implement this strategy.

First, sit down with a calendar and map out a reasonable frequency schedule.  For emails it should be at least once a month if not more than that.  Daily is probably beyond the scope of most bricks and mortar businesses and for the most part not necessary.

Printed newsletters should be done at least quarterly.  A good frequency is every 2nd month.  If this is too much for your budget, do it every 3rd month, but no less frequently than that.

Once you’ve decided on your frequency, decide on themes for each communication for at least 6 months. Then map out the content you’ll need to support each theme. Gear your theme to be of interest to your clients first and about your business second.  Gathering and creating content is the biggest challenge, but if you follow my suggestions, you’ll find it manageable as well as highly effective.

Assign a specific topic or column to specific staff members along with deadlines for submissions.  Make the topic flexible so that they can gear it to their own experience.  If they’re nervous about writing, get them to simply jot down points or thoughts around the subject.  This ‘raw’ material can then be fine tuned by a professional writer.  Make it clear to the contributors that you’re not looking for a Pulitzer prize winning effort, but a candid ‘behind the scenes’ peek into their world at work.  This helps keep the articles ‘real’ and provides a good relationship building tool that customers appreciate.

Make use of guest writers whenever possible. It could be someone within your industry, a complementary industry or even a customer.  The only criteria is that it should be of interest to the reader.   Most people are very flattered when asked to contribute to a publication and are even more pleased by the free publicity it creates for them.  If your candidate is hesitant because they ‘don’t know what to say’ then offer to interview them.  Record the interview, then have someone transcribe it.  You and the interviewee can then edit for publication.

If all else fails, make use of free articles from article directories such as ezinearticles.comOr hire a professional writer to create content exclusively for you.

Planning your communications at least 6 months in advance means you’ll be able to get your material together long before the deadline for each issue, making implementation relatively easy and sustainable.

Setting up a template for your publication whether it’s to be printed or emailed is critical. This will save you both time and money.  If it’s to be printed, consider having a graphic designer create a template that you can simply paste the content into before sending to the printer.  A template not only saves you time and money but also helps maintain a professional corporate image.

If you’re emailing your newsletter, services such as Constant Contact have pre-made templates which are easy to customize and use.  These services are very inexpensive and many of the templates are free. The beauty of planning ahead with email is that your newsletters can be created within a short space of time and scheduled for delivery whenever you require them to be sent.  It’s pretty much ‘set it and forget it’ – always an appreciated factor in business.

Set up a blog that reflects and expands on the information in your newsletter. Invite your readers to participate by commenting and contributing.  Set up RSS feeds so that they can subscribe and be automatically notified each time the blog is updated.

Now you have 2 to 3 strong, yet fairly ‘hands off’ communications strategies at work that can be preplanned and set up freeing you from any involvement for the period covered.

Add to that a phoning schedule for specific staff members, perhaps sales and customer service, to call through the customer list so that each customer is contacted by phone at least every 2nd to 3rd month, and you have a 4th foundation solidly set.  Provide either a script as a guideline or a few points to help those calling stay on track.

Layering communication this way ensures that every customer and prospect is kept involved with your business in a non-threatening. low key and easy to manage system. Teaming up the various strategies can give you a greater ‘reach’ for new business development at little or no extra cost or time investment.

For instance, set your blog up so that it automatically populates your accounts at a variety of social media sites such as

LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Squidoo

That way, one post is published in multiple venues giving you much greater exposure.

For more insights and tips on setting up an effective, easy to manage communication system, please email me at jackie@jackiecooperwriter.com

Feel free to post your comments and suggestions!

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