Archive for Communication channel

Thank You Notes Are Not Only a Courtesy, They Can Lead to New Business

Andrea Nierenberg

Andrea Nierenberg

One of the easiest and most effective ways to stay in touch is with the power of the personal note with a “thank you” to a business associate. In research I’ve conducted, I ask the question, “How many of you send out personal notes?” I also ask, “How many of you receive personal notes or cards from clients or business associates?” The response indicates that few people take this practice seriously. As a follow up, I ask, “Has anyone received notes of appreciation, and how does that make you feel?” I trust you know the answer to this last question.

Here are eight opportunities to send a “thank you,” and when and how to do it effectively:

1. When customers do business with you, every time. Write a short, personalized “thank you” on an interesting card, letterhead, or even a postcard that says, “I appreciate your business, thank you.” You can never say thank you to someone too many times. We all appreciate the fact that people go out of their way to make us feel important and recognized.

2. When they compliment you. When a client compliments you about something, it’s an opportunity to jot off a little note of thanks, saying, “Thank you for taking the time for making my day. I appreciate it.” Compliments are given so rarely, so take the lead to say thank you when you get one.

3. When clients offer comments or suggestions. It’s a wonderful gift when your clients give you a suggestion or comment on how you might do something better or different. They’re also giving you an incredible buying signal. They might really be saying, “If you make that change, your product or service will be more attractive to me.” Here’s how to start this type of note: “Thank you for your suggestion on how I can better serve you. I’m in business to do exactly that. And you make my job easier and so much more enjoyable when you provide input.”

4. When customers try something you recommended. When clients buy into something new, solely based on your suggestion, they’re going out of their “comfort zone”. They’re putting trust in you and your product. This calls for a special note that could read, “Thank you for your trust in me. I value your business.”

5. When customers recommend you. This is the best form of advertising you can ever get. It’s so easy to take the time and go back to our advocate, and say, “thank you for referring me to —–. I will keep you posted and informed on what develops. It means a great deal to me to know that you’re willing to recommend me. I appreciate it.” This type of “thank you” might include a small gift as well.

6. When customers are patient, or not so patient. Our clients help us when they give us time to learn how to best serve them. Often this requires their patience. On the other hand, they give us a “wake up call” when they ask us to hurry up. When this happens they might really be saying, “Hello, remember me? Keep me in mind, or I might get swept away by the competition.” In either case, pull out a note card again, and let them know how important they are to you. Perhaps say, “Thanks for keeping me on my toes. I appreciate how you help me keep your business.”

7. When clients say “no” to you. You’ve just pitched an account and you didn’t get their business, this time. It’s still the opportunity to write a short note. Thank them for their time, their consideration and their honesty. Keep the door opened by being friendly and courteous. Research I conducted in the last three years shows that almost 20% of my business comes from prospects that said no the first time. People remembered the notes I sent and it made a difference. Such a difference that I got referrals, even from contacts that were not able to use my services themselves.

8. When customers make you smile. I have one client who e-mails me jokes all the time. Another one will call up and just give me some good news. Whatever it is, it makes me smile, and I want clients to know that they’ve made me feel good. I’ll send them an interesting note or card. This technique always gets noticed and remembered.
So, if you’re not using personal thank-you notes, you should start now and watch how they help your business grow.

Andrea Nierenberg is president of The Nierenberg Group , an international business consulting firm specializing in customized training, workshops and keynote addresses that equip executives with the tools they need to “Find, Grow & Keep”® the clients that are key to their success and to be more effective business communicators.

CEO as Chief Communications Officer

CEO as chief communications officerThe CEO has a great opportunity to become the company’s Chief Communications Officer. This isn’t in addition to his or her regular duties. This is the essence of the CEO’s job.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have the power to profoundly advance or ruin a company’s reputation. It’s the Wild West out there with lots of misinformation flying across the web. That’s why the CEO must be communicating regularly to employees, customers, regulators and other stakeholders with the real story.

First, there is the company’s own internal communication programs.  And, as I’ve stated before, speed is of the essence in communicating important news to employees. If you don’t tell them they will turn to the web for the latest dirt on the company and share it with each other.

Instead, turn them into ambassadors to spread word about the good things happening in their company. That’s why the CEO has to be talking directly to the company’s stakeholders regularly with quick takes on new developments. Many CEOs are turning to Twitter and posting their own tweets – such as George F. Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, who is giving advice to his peers about social communities and wrote a blog “How can CEOs understand social technologies?”

If the tweets are authentic and genuinely represent the CEOs own voice, the followers will come, especially the company’s own employees. Who would have thought just a few short years ago that the company’s chief communications channel could be Twitter! But if that’s what it takes to get the message out, then that’s what CEOs should be doing.

A few tips for the CEO as Chief Communications Officer:

•    Write the updates in your own voice. A 140-word Tweet that links back to the company’s own website with more information is golden.  You should be writing them yourself and not someone from the PR Department.
•    Speed is of the essence. If something dramatic happens (think of Domino’s employees contaminating a pizza) get out there right away with a Tweet or write a blog for the company’s website. Now, this minute. Getting the PR department to write a press release that needs to be vetted by 10 lawyers is too late.
•   Write often. Be out there every day, if possible. When you’re checking your Blackberry one last time before going to bed, think about something good that happened for the company and put out a 140-word tweet. It will take less time than brushing your teeth.
•    Encourage feedback. That’s what so great about the social communities. There’s two-way communication. You can get instant feedback from customers and employees. They will tell you if they don’t think they are getting the straight story. So be authentic.

This is the time for CEOs to be bold and brave. Trust your employees, customers and other stakeholders to believe you. Be a good leader and they will follow.

That Sound You Hear is the Crash of Advertising

I remember the days when ad people looked down at PR types. They had the big bucks budgets while the PR people toiled away on the leftovers writing press releases, arranging company events and the like.

Advertising sells! Well, maybe not so much anymore. 

A story about a company in a prestigious newspaper like The New York Times has always been more valued more than an ad in the same paper – that old third-party endorsement. The shrinking newspaper and magazine landscape is evidence that advertisers are gravitating to other communications channels, most particularly social media. And what they are doing is not called advertising. They are reaching out to their customers through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+ direct feeds, webinars, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Increasingly, they want to interact with their customers at company-sponsored events, product samplings, and through community service.

Funny thing. It’s the PR people who are leading the way  They are writing the blogs, articles and opinion pieces. They are the ones creating community relations programs – like they always have – but now these communities are more often than not reached online. These are the company’s primary activities and not just an adjunct to advertising.

Here’s another thought: maybe the terms advertising, public relations, publicity, promotion and direct response should be consigned to the compactor. Those words just don’t seem to work in the new online communities that are forming like runaway amoebas.

How about new terms like collaborators, community builders, prophets, enablers?  Or maybe one word that summarizes everything we are: communicators.

Advertising? That’s so 20th century.