The Communication Trifecta

Content, timing, media – this sums up the marketing communications trifecta. And they all have one goal: communicate with your customers in ways that are meaningful to them.

If you don’t communicate with customers in ways that are meaningful to them, your messages will be ignored (or, even worse, your customers will become angry with you). Don’t waste your marketing budget on direct mail pieces that will be thrown in the trash or email messages that will be marked as spam. Here are some things to consider as you design your communications with customers.

Talk like a customer.
The most important element is the content of your message. Communication is for your customers, not for you, and the content should be designed for the customer. Sometimes, companies fall into the trap of creating communications for themselves, instead of for their customers. In their latest ads for Windows 7, Microsoft developed a hilarious message… by poking fun at their customers. Watch as the customer in this ad enters a dream world, imagining an impossibly idealized version of herself:
How is this ad supposed to be meaningful for Microsoft’s customers? Microsoft made the mistake of designing an ad they found funny, without considering what their customers might think.
At least Microsoft didn’t fall into the trap of many technology companies by listing all their new technical features. You’ll notice they didn’t even mention the technology. That’s because almost no customer cares about technological details. They care about having a computer that is easy to use, and Microsoft knows that.
It’s 3AM. Do you know where your marketing communications are?
Beyond the content of your messages, you must consider the timing of your communications. Telemarketers are infamous for calling people as they sit down to dinner. Telemarketers are also known for their low success rates – The Direct Marketing Association reports that the response rate for outbound telemarketing is between 2.9 – 4.4% (they also report this rate is the best for all direct marketing methods – yikes!). Consider when your customers would like to hear from you. For example, if you are emailing a B2B newsletter, don’t send it out Monday afternoon. It’s likely your customers are already busy and won’t have time to read it.
So many choices.
Completing our trifecta of communication is the medium you choose. There are more media than ever from which to pick: magazines, direct mail, newspapers, pay-per-click advertising, social media, local events, radio and many other choices. Fortunately, choosing a medium is not as difficult as it might seem. The only media that matters to you are the ones that matter to your customers. An assisted living facility might advertise in a well-respected local newspaper, because that’s what their customers trust. An organic bakery, on the other hand, might not do any traditional advertising at all, if they determine they can best reach their customers at the local farmers’ market or on Facebook. One media tip: the more local your business is, the more local the communication should be.
Communication is more than just advertising.
Traditional marketing communications like we’ve been discussing are the flashiest and most obvious element of communicating with your customers, but, really, communications include every time you talk to your customers and every time they try to talk with you. While a large part of communication is advertising, you need to evaluate every point of communication with your customers.
Some of the non-advertising communications you should evaluate include your billing documents, receipts, the experience of calling your business on the phone, handling a customer service issue or walking into your store. The strength of the small business is that you can give thought to every experience your customers have with you and your company. Making beneficial changes to non-advertising communications with your customers is usually inexpensive and can make a big difference to the bottom line.
New isn’t always better.
I know many small businesses feel the need to try out new and various ways of advertising, and they spend a lot of money trying to find “what works.” But you don’t have to guess, and you don’t need to listen to high-pressure sales pitches. You can evaluate every new advertising opportunity with the question, “Will this be meaningful to my customers?” By making all communications customers have with you meaningful, you will be able to stretch your marketing budget further and with more success.

Talk like a customer.

The most important element is the content of your message. Communication is for your customers, not for you, and the content should be designed for the customer. Sometimes, companies fall into the trap of creating communications for themselves, instead of for their customers. You can see an example of this in my post, “Microsoft, why do you insult your customers?

At least Microsoft didn’t fall into the same trap as many other technology companies by listing all their new technical features. You’ll notice they didn’t even mention the technology. That’s because almost no customer cares about technological details. They care about having a computer that is easy to use, and Microsoft knows that.

It’s 3AM. Do you know where your marketing communications are?

Beyond the content of your messages, you must consider the timing of your communications. Telemarketers are infamous for calling people as they sit down to dinner. Telemarketers are also known for their low success rates – The Direct Marketing Association reports that the response rate for outbound telemarketing is between 2.9 – 4.4% (they also report this rate is the best for all direct marketing methods – yikes!). Consider when your customers would like to hear from you. For example, if you are emailing a B2B newsletter, don’t send it out Monday afternoon. It’s likely your customers are already busy and won’t have time to read it.

So many choices.

Completing our trifecta of communication is the medium you choose. There are more media than ever from which to pick: magazines, direct mail, newspapers, pay-per-click advertising, social media, local events, radio and many other choices. Fortunately, choosing a medium is not as difficult as it might seem. The only media that matters to you are the ones that matter to your customers. An assisted living facility might advertise in a well-respected local newspaper, because that’s what their customers trust. An organic bakery, on the other hand, might not do any traditional advertising at all, if they determine they can best reach their customers at the local farmers’ market or on Facebook. One media tip: the more local your business is, the more local the communication should be.

Communication is more than just advertising.

Traditional marketing communications like we’ve been discussing are the flashiest and most obvious element of communicating with your customers, but, really, communications include every time you talk to your customers and every time they try to talk with you. While a large part of communication is advertising, you need to evaluate every point of communication with your customers.

Some of the non-advertising communications you should evaluate include your billing documents, receipts, the experience of calling your business on the phone, handling a customer service issue or walking into your store. The strength of the small business is that you can give thought to every experience your customers have with you and your company. Making beneficial changes to non-advertising communications with your customers is usually inexpensive and can make a big difference to the bottom line.

New isn’t always better.

I know many small businesses feel the need to try out new and various ways of advertising, and they spend a lot of money trying to find “what works.” But you don’t have to guess, and you don’t need to listen to high-pressure sales pitches. You can evaluate every new advertising opportunity with the question, “Will this be meaningful to my customers?” By making all communications customers have with you meaningful, you will be able to stretch your marketing budget further and with more success.