How do you know if your efforts to communicate are actually being heard by the audience you are after? Social media pundits aside (already a wealth of info on the net about how to reach your SoMe audience), what I want to talk about today is at the heart of the matter in Communications: in order to communicate with or for another, you must understand their perspective. But, how?
Take Marketing verses Sales, for example. Don’t get me wrong, my entire 25+ yr career has been intertwined with Marketing so I know and respect their expertise and challenges. Yet, how many times has Marketing presented a fabulous new program supported by the “perfect” words of prose developed hand-in-hand with Communications – and the Sales team was, frankly, scratching their heads? If you are lucky enough to actually hear the comments, they all too often sound like, “They don’t have a clue what the customer thinks!”
I have to give a shout out to colleague Andrea Starr who reminded me recently of this scenario. Having spent most of her career in Sales account management, she knows a thing or two about outcomes and lack thereof when communicating with Sales teams.
So how do you know if what you are trying to communicate will actually resonate with the intended audience? Keeping the “Marketing verses Sales” scenario in mind (although applicable with any target audience), here’s how you can Stop, Look and Listen for greater impact!
Business has a penchant for surveying everything. We do Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Workforce, Voice of the Man from La Mancha … well, you get the idea. We either over survey to the point that people ignore them altogether or we under survey by never actually using the survey tool with the intended audience. Stop! No, I am not saying stop surveying, but stop the barrage. Find out more about your target audience before you add to their Inbox. What is their day really like? When will they have time for your survey? Who else is asking them to do the same thing? Are there other ways to get their feedback/input? And for gosh sakes, if you want to survey, segment as tight as possible so you know you really have the right audience.
Do you want effectiveness and ROI for your program, or do you simply go along with what management is telling you to do? I know, it is the biggest challenge of all to look a leader in the eye and tell them (politely) that their approach isn’t resonating with the Sales team or won’t resonate with the customer. But that’s your job, isn’t it? Weren’t you hired to provide qualified expertise? But Look first! Look at the data. Look at the competition. Look at what those closest to the target are telling you. Look at the target, really look. Then build your case for looking at the project differently. Good leaders take in all relevant information to make a decision. Sure, you may not always win, but it won’t be for the lack of looking for the best option!
So, here’s a novel approach: call or sit down with a sales manager or two – whatever it takes, get your ear closer to the street! And actually Listen! Do this individually not as a group. Group think can change the dynamics. Find out who the sales team listens to for advice. Win the trust of those experts and they will tell you the truth. And while you are at it, ask a few brand new sales people for their opinion. They offer a fresh set of eyes without the “company” mindset. Your communications and your programs will be better, guaranteed!