By Bob Salvas
The chorus of the song by Led Zeppelin goes: “Communication breakdown. It’s always the same. I’m having a nervous breakdown.
Drives me insane.” While the rock band may have had a different meaning for the words when they wrote them in 1968, that
refrain rings true today. There is simply TOO MUCH communication going on in today’s world and it is driving us crazy.
A recent search indicated that there are 15,330 active radio stations, 27,831 television stations worldwide, and 1.5 BILLION
websites. On top of that there are over 60 social media platforms with 2.6 BILLION users on them. And the king of the hill
is our old friend, email. It is estimated that 205 BILLION emails are sent DAILY!
How is it possible for a small business to compete in this kind of environment? They do not have the time, the money or the
expertise to cut through this immense communication clutter.
Don’t give up just yet. There is one thing that the small business person has in their favor: RELATIONSHIPS. If they do it
right, the small business can build a strong bond with each customer that will keep that customer coming back AND referring
their friends. To do this, they must go beyond just being offering a good product or service. The business needs to be
personable; it must differentiate itself and then over-deliver on that differentiation promise. They should also reward
customers in some way (a nice useful branded gift item is a terrific idea!). But what about before that? How do we plant the
seeds of our success in our basic COMMUNICATION?
Marketing expert Jim Cecil said that relationships are usually defined by both the QUALITY AND QUANTITY of the contact between
the two parties. Think about that. So, if you ONLY send me a Christmas card each year- that might be a QUALITY communication,
but the QUANTITY is lacking. If you send me emails daily that are pushing me to buy something- that might be QUANTITY, but the
QUALITY is certainly not there…in fact, I’m irritated.
There must be a middle ground. First let’s consider quantity. It is very unlikely that a prospect or client needs or wants to
hear from you every day (though there may be exceptions) but they DO need to hear from you. The general rule of thumb is to
communicate to them somewhere between weekly and monthly. It is said that you lose 10% of your influence with someone
when you go longer than one month without any communication. We always want to stay ‘top of mind’ and remind people we
are still here. That is at risk if you only do a quarterly newsletter or an annual holiday card.
What about quality? One of the keys to success is to send your customers, prospects and referral sources quality communications
at least 80% of the time. Quality communications are communications that educate or delight your audience. You can thank a
person, say Happy Birthday, wish them well for a holiday or a season. You can also educate them on your industry in a way that
helps them. Please note, in ANY of these quality communications, you should not ask for the sale or referral. You should only
ask for that with the other 20% (or less) of your communications.
One of the absolute best ways to communicate is to occasionally send handwritten notes. Many of the most successful people in
business today STILL send notes. Business expert and best-selling author Harvey Mackay had this to say:
“Short handwritten notes yield long results. In sales, never underestimate the importance of the personal gesture, and right
at the top of the list of effective personal gestures sits the handwritten note.”
And when it comes to cutting through the communication clutter, author and sales expert Danielle Kennedy said this:
“In this electronic communication age, the handwritten note with a postage stamp gets more attention than ever.”
There is something about a tangible piece that contains a personal, non-business, type of message that helps to build a
relationship quicker than most things. And that often leads to business down the line. You might not be able to always send
tangible notes. It’s ok to mix them in with some electronic messages if you remember that 80% of your overall communications
should be QUALITY communications. Build those relationships. Plant those seeds of success!