Whether you have a shoe shop, a coaching practice or a marketing agency, your business needs the right words.
The right product is essential, the service you offer needs to be great, but if you’re not communicating with your customers or clients none of this will matter.
It’s true that a high street presence, a Facebook page or a website might get you seen by those people looking for your service – but if you don’t effectively communicate the benefits you offer, your potential client will find somebody who does.
We use words to communicate these benefits every day – and in so many different ways. So, if you struggle to get the right message across to people, it’s worth considering which communication you struggle with, and why.
How does your business communicate? And are you doing it well?
Lots of small business owners – myself included – find our clients while out networking. How we get our message across when at face-to-face or online meetings is therefore really important. For some people, these meetings – with new people and opportunities to tell them about ourselves and our business – is easy, but for others it’s terrifying.
There’s the 60/40/30-second pitch!
For many people, the idea of standing in front of a group talking about ourselves is nerve-wracking. We get embarrassed, nervous and question why anyone would listen to us. It can be tempting to avoid these situations.
But networking can be incredibly powerful, this is a place where people are trying to get a sense of whether you can help them – so use it. Visit a variety of groups to find ones which are less uncomfortable, maybe you could make sure there’s a friendly face in the audience; there are plenty of tips online for dealing with this situation so research ways to feel comfortable in this space.
The message you present in your pitch needs to be informative, engaging and it needs to reflect you. Getting across the right tone can be difficult when we’re nervous but fortunately most people are understanding – at least you can be sure you’re coming across as human, especially if you manage to smile.
Some networking meetings give people the chance to present – telling people about their business, industry or personal history.
Again, if you don’t like standing and talking in public then this can be a terrifying idea – but it might be worth taking the chance. These opportunities allow you to add a bit more depth to people’s knowledge – both about you and your business – giving them a much better idea of how a relationship with you could be beneficial.
This is also giving people the opportunity to see your personality, which is obviously a good thing too. I often find that even those who struggle with a short pitch – while they may be nervous doing a longer presentation – often actually relax a little as they get into it, again allowing you to see them more clearly.
Meeting new people
Actually, just the ‘standing round talking to people I don’t know’ might be the thing which puts you off networking. But remember, you won’t be the only person in the room feeling that way – and the more you do it, the more faces you’ll recognise and hopefully the easier it will become.
The personal conversations you have at these meetings are where people hear your message most clearly. You’re able to tailor the communication to them – which means listening to what they’re interested in and considering how you can support them and their business. That doesn’t mean you’re listening out for opportunities to sell, it means you’re learning about your network and able to show them who you are by your responses – are you helpful? knowledgable? approachable? friendly? These qualities will be as important to prospective clients as your services.
One to Ones
Meeting individuals is my favourite bit of networking, you both find out much more about each other and – normally – it feels more relaxed. Because of this we often don’t think of this as something we need to worry about.
I believe that how we communicate in these face to face situations – when we’re talking to actual human beings and thinking about what they’re saying to us – is actually how we should be communicating in every aspect of our business. The tone we use should be recognisable across all our communication, as should our focus on the person who we’re talking to!
So much of our business is now done digitally – but you already know that. Our presence online is supposed to tell people what we do and why they should come to us – often without our smiling face and soft voice to convince them. So, how do you communicate online, making sure your message is consistent and you are recognisable?
Your website has words and pictures, maybe videos and products, it’s supposed to tell people about your business and what you can do for them. It’s supposed to represent you.
Does it? Do the words sound like you? Do the pictures reflect your style? If someone found your website then met you in person – would they recognise you?
Alongside that, would they understand your business and most importantly how you can help them? A website needs to do all these things, it’s no wonder this is a difficult communication to get right.
A lot of the focus on social media platforms is the same as for the website, in fact many people have decided a website is redundant when they have a Facebook page.
Social media does (potentially) allow you to have increased visibility for your audience, when you post it’s likely someone will see it. But this is someone else’s platform which you can only use the way they dictate – make sure you know the rules.
Again, anything you put on your social media pages needs to be recognisably you – a consistent message is essential.
Blogs are potentially a very valuable part of your communication. For most businesses, the blog will be part of your website and can also be used in social media. This is a space where you can:
- pick any topic your audience cares about
- show people how much you know
- identify subjects of interest to people you want to reach out to and, using the right keywords, increase traffic to your website
- encourage your audience to interact and engage with you
The only other things I’m going to say here are – communicate well and be recognisably you.
For many people video is preferable – to create or consume – than writing. It also has the advantage that people’s words on video are often considered more trustworthy (because of facial expressions among other things).
But creating videos and making them seem natural can actually be very difficult. Identifying the message and ensuring you are clear about it will take preparation. Think about what you can do to make it easier?
Ok, ok… have you got the message?
In fact, there are even more ways than this in which we communicate the message for our business. We’re doing it all the time.
In Your Shop
Whether your shop is made of bricks and mortar, a stall with luscious goodies or a beautifully crafted online space. You may not have use that many words – but it’s essential you make them count.
On paper or email, the difficulty here is the nature of an open communication – we don’t know the reader – like our website words it can be difficult to provide the right focus in this situation if you’re not confident of your message. But just like all our other communications, the importance here is to be useful and recognisably you.
Leaflets and Flyers
Yes, design style is important but so are the words – you need to inform and encourage people to do something – call, visit or pass on to someone else.
Yes, even phone calls count! This is your message, the you on the phone should be the same as you in an email and on your website – and if you’re not confident, preparation is still the answer.
Are you confident in your message?
There are so many opportunities for you to tell people about your business, it’s important you identify those which will work best for you – and more importantly your potential customer.
There’s a tendency for us to focus on those areas in which we already feel comfortable – avoiding networking if we struggle with social interaction or sticking with the social media platform we already know – but sometimes our business needs us to step out of our comfort zone to reach the people we can really help.
For me, preparation is key:
- If I need to do something I’m unsure about I research the best approach before I start.
- If I need support from someone else I know I can get that.
- If I need to do a difficult job myself I’ll ensure I have as much information as I need so I’m as comfortable as I can be. I might even promise myself a reward for completing it.
Communication is essential for your business, unless you get the right messages to the right people you won’t grow.
If there’s any area of communication you struggle with – talking to people you don’t know, writing articles or planning your newsletters – think about what is causing this stress for you, and consider how you can fix this so that your words are getting to the people who need to hear them.