Communication is an important part of marketing – how you communicate your message in terms of what your business offers and your value add is crucial.
Is there consistency to your messaging, which helps in building a good solid brand; whether it is on your website, your sales brochure or when you speak directly to your clients, and is it clear and easy to understand?
Communication is important in building strong customer/client relationships and retention. All SMEs want to keep their existing clients as well as grow their client base.
Your clients will be more forgiving if for example, you are late on a delivery but you communicate this beforehand rather than just not saying anything. Don’t cause your suppliers, customers and staff frustration by not communicating timeously. Your customers will lose trust in you and you will lose them to your competitors in no time.
It is also important to get your communication foundation right from when you are small, because otherwise when you grow as a business, your communication issues and challenges will grow with you.
Practical tips for small business owners to become better communicators
- Create a communication- friendly environment. If you as the owner, value good communication, you will set the tone and encourage others to follow you.
- Hold useful weekly meetings with staff (time is money, so get to the point and don’t waste time talking about irrelevant items)
- Listen (news flash: you may not have all the answers) and if you don’t understand something, then ask for clarity and seek to understand.
- Ask for feedback. Yes- I this might be very uncomfortable for some of you, but you have to do this. This opens communication with customers and staff and will build trust and loyalty in your business.
- In the event of a crisis or conflict – Respond quickly; acknowledge what is going on and that you are attending to the issue. Don’t ignore the feedback or be in denial.
- Read objectively through all of your marketing material and customer communication – is it concise, clear and consistent? If not, review and make changes. You may need some help with this.
- Stop assuming everyone knows what is going on in your head. As small business owners, you are often having to run around performing many of the roles in the business, so you may be too busy to notice that not everyone is up to speed with what you are busy with, important information or challenges you are facing. No one is a mind reader.
- Combine a few communication methods or different channels to best suit your clients & prospective clients. Not everyone loves email newsletters, but perhaps your clients prefer short mobile communication.
- Be aware of your body language (this speaks to non-verbal communication). Actions speak MUCH louder than words, so make sure you are aware of what your body language is communicating, as it might be negative. Be professional at all times.
I do believe that as a small business owner, you need to be very honest with yourself– do a communication check, and what I mean by this is, how do you rate yourself as a communicator and communication levels in YOUR business? How do staff rate you, what are your customers saying? What do you need to improve, to help your business grow?
The good news is that every small business owner can improve on this. And you will improve in your personal life too. After all – we all want to be better communicators at home, with our kids, our spouses, our partners, family and friends.
Remember, the way you communicate will either enhance or inhibit your success and growth as a business. Paul J Meyer said “COMMUNICATION- The human connection – is the key to personal and career success. We couldn’t agree more! Jessica Cilliers is head of Marketing and Communication for SAICA Enterprise Development. Our vision is to play an active role in economic transformation in South Africa through advancing the sustainable growth of entrepreneurial Black businesses