Disclaimer: The art of communication (and how we use this to maximise relationships with our clients) has always been important. It is not revolutionary to discuss how crucial positive and successful communication is when you are striving for professional success, however your success is measured. The difference however, is that as we sit inside at our remote working desks in May 2020, we not only recognise how fundamental this business function is, but we have no choice but to make sure we are good at it, because our organisational and commercial success depends on it. And, I don’t think it’s actually a bad thing… Wait, before you slam your laptop screens shut in an aghast flourish…
Hear me out.
This “new normal”, a world that few of us could have predicted would hit us with such incredible chutzpah, has forced us to completely change our commercial models, strategic processes, company objectives and… priorities. This somewhat forced adaptation has prompted us to delve deeply into the way we execute every part of our organisations and has lead to an analysis, in particular, of how we communicate with our clients and prospects, whilst we all gaze at our computer screens from every corner of the globe. Everything is riding on the way that we communicate, whether to our teams, our clients or our prospects. We all know that this change isn’t just short-term; it will shape the way we do business for years to come.
In the last two months, exhibition organisers and sales teams all around the world have begun to move away from the smile and dial telesales technique that has become characteristic of the industry. Communication channels have shifted; recoiling from the in-office structure, towards platforms that are more accessible during this working from home culture; video calls, instant messaging and social media. Many of us are looking to adapt strategies and refocus our content, emphasising the need for giving value rather than taking it, whilst nurturing relationships.
There are a few business communication lessons that we will all learn and hopefully start to implement throughout the next few months which, if continuing to receive prioritisation and development, could be processes that remain integral to your business strategy for decades to come. How can we maximise client communications as we transition into a new normal?
- First and foremost, we now really need to make sure that the client is at the heart of our communication strategy. For real this time. We must mirror their preferred comms channel, whether this be WhatsApp or LinkedIn direct messages, as well as the actual structure and content of their responses. Does your client always initially contact you via SMS rather than e-mail, and yet you're still opening up your email app absentmindedly whenever you need to reach out…? Just, no. They've given you the clues (waving a red PLEASE CONTACT ME VIA LINKED IN flag in-front of your commercially-blinded eyes), use them!
On the other hand, is your client short and almost blunt in messages? Respect their communication style and mirror it - provide them with the info they need and do it efficiently; they will be Drivers or Analyticals (two of the social style groups... a lot more on that!) that want statistics and facts rather than to be told a story.
Yet on the other hand, some of your clients may want exactly that type of drawn-out communication, palaces built out of paragraphs; with daily dreams of having a 90 minute Zoom conversation just because it makes them feel that human, natural, communicative connection. It's okay to need that too. As business people who put our clients first, we got you.
- Secondly, we mustn't be afraid to reach out; we are going through a global pandemic, sure, but the world hasn't stopped. On LinkedIn, find yourself a connection request format that is friendly, offers value and gives context. Use video messages to personalise messages. Keep sending out those invites, not with a sales pitch, but with a bit of humility and empathy. Get in touch with your current accounts just to say... How are you? No really, how ARE you? This demonstration of human connection within your communication is important - many of us, your clients included, will be relying on this engagement to keep sane. Provide that communication lifeline. Be present.
- The next important communication process that should be implemented across all events, exhibitions and trade show strategies is the significance of content. Whatever your department.
You hear it all the time; "content is king!" they scream from the rooftops on a starry Wednesday evening, and the rebellious roof walkers are not wrong. Good content offers value to your customers. Good content spreads industry insight and knowledge. Good content provokes think-tanks and client brainwaves. Good content givers are credible, demonstrate their wealth of knowledge and will do nothing but improve the industry reputation of the exhibition organisation that they represent. Good content should form 80% of every single piece of communication you emit. Your clients will love the added value you bring with regular, consistent and GOOD content. I promise.
- Finally, make the most out of your continuously developing client relationships by utilising non-commercial client touch-points, regularly throughout the sales cycle. I cannot stress enough how important this is, for those long-term, developing commercial relationships in particular. Write down their birthdays. Record the date when they got their new dog. Send them a card when their son is born. Subscribe to Moonpig. Send them relevant news articles. Divulge industry insight that will pique their business interests and support their own new normal. This type of communication is invaluable - you cannot put a price on such a demonstration of investment in them as a person.
Using these four tips, please go forth and prosper, fellow humans of the communication world. As an industry, the fantastic world of events, now is the time to assert ourselves on the global business stage as organisations that use the art of communication to its most positive and successful level, maximising our client comms as we all, together, transition into this new normal.