How to Maintain Effective Communications with Clients, Suppliers & Investors (Covid-19)

Over the first two weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic my inbox was flooded with emails from companies from whom I’d bought something in the past.

Regardless of whether that was one month or two years ago they were keen for me to know that they were ‘here for me’ in these uncertain times.

The stinger was that what they really wanted was for me to know that they were open for business and please would I buy something from them?

The good news was that these companies were clearly working hard to stay front of mind and maintain cash-flow.

The bad news is that their tone of voice was often wrong.

That’s not a reason for not communicating, but it’s an important lesson in ensuring that you are communicating with integrity and sincerity.

As the poet and activist, Maya Angelou, said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

If are a start-up or SME how you communicate effectively with investors, clients, potential clients and suppliers is a critical part of managing the pandemic.

Invariably if you are short of time marketing and communications falls down the priority list.

If that is starting to happen, ask yourself, ‘Am I confident that when the pandemic is over, XXX will have a clear memory of what my business stands for and how we add value?

Here are some practical steps to take to help you stay front of mind to those who matter to the future success of your business.

1. Review existing communication channels

Review all of the existing channels that you use or have accounts for. For example

  • Social Media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc
  • Video: YouTube, Video
  • Chat: Skype, Whatsapp
  • Newsletter: Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact

Which of these channels do already use? On which ones do you have a significant following? Where do most of your clients or prospective clients hang out?

Ditch the ones that produce a negative answer.

If you don’t use any of these channels now is not the time to set one up and learn how to use it.

That is not a good use of your time. Instead focus on mastering what you already know or have an account with.

2. Categorise and prioritise existing contacts

Your contacts are either going to be in Outlook, your Smartphone, an .xls or some kind of Customer or Email Management System like Mailchimp or Salesforce.

Categorise your contacts and consider which are the ones who are the communication priority.

The most effective way of doing this is to think in terms of those who have the most the influence on your short and long-term future.

In some instances this will be those with whom you have the best working relationship.

Think in terms of:

  • Financial: Investors and backers, anyone who has put money into your future success.
  • Suppliers: Those who you are crucially dependent upon, as opposed to those who you can make do without?
  • Clients – Services: Differentiate between those who occasionally use your services and those who do so regularly.
  • ClientsProducts: This may vary depending on the volume of products you sell. Prioritise your communication between those who frequently purchase, as opposed those who do so infrequently.

With the occasional buyers of your product or services you can get away with a more generalised communication i.e. spend less time on it.

Those who are loyal or with whom you have a close working relationship need a more tailored approach.

3. Adopt adaptive communication

Once you’ve worked out those who need general communication as opposed to a tailored message, here are some suggested approaches:

A. Tailored communication

This is where most of your energy needs to go. It should be via a combination of:

  • Personal emails – that address the real concerns you know they may have and how you are managing them.
  • A phone call – no need to schedule something. Just call and if you get a voice-mail leave a message.
  • Video message – (see below) it’s not used as frequently as it might be but this is an extremely powerful way of making sure that you stay front of mind.

If you follow 80/20 thinking you can argue that that 80% of the time you allocate to communication is focussed primarily on the 20% who are essential to your business.

Why waste precious time and energy on those who are probably not going to influence your future?

B. General Communication

These are the emails that we’ve received plenty of over the past few weeks.

Try to avoid the empathetic sound bite at the very start, instead address the issues that you understand to be the main concern and the steps you are putting in place to manage the situation.

By all means end on a warm and caring note. But put this at the end. It makes it sound as if this is not the only reason you are writing to them.

Keep the email short and to the point.

4. Communicate frequently

Contrary to what many think, frequency of communication builds trust.

We associate frequency with normality and we are more likely to remember that which we see or hear on a regular basis.

This is why tone of voice is so important. Bullish, strident, ‘together we can beat this‘ messages have a place as do calls to actions (CTA) and promotions.

However, in these times what is really required is leadership and sincerity. Try to get these into your tone of voice and you are more likely to establish a relationship.

Remember, people do business with those they like and have a relationship with.

5. Master the video message

One of the benefits of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has made us much more receptive to using the video feature in web collaboration tools.

This is a feature of remote working that is worth building on.

If you can’t meet or speak to someone personally, consider sending them a video message.

This achieves three things:

  1. It makes you stand out amongst all the email noise that is going on
  2. It helps to communicate honesty and sincerity
  3. It is more memorable.

It doesn’t have to be long, nor does it have to be perfect. All it has to do is help you connect.

As my example below shows…

6. Discover in-house talent and expertise

Whether you are a large or small organisation, you will have hidden talent amongst your team.

Find out if you have colleagues or friends who:

  • Draw or create graphics
  • Know social media inside out
  • Film or edit short videos
  • Have a blog and like to write.

If so, they may be able to help you with some aspect of your communication.

So long as they have the time and it is not taking them away from an essential business task, see if you can tap into their expertise.

As everyone knows we are all in this together and this applies to maintaining effective communications with those who need to see and hear from you.

If in-house communications is not possible consider getting some external advice or support.

Most agencies, including mine, want to offer companies advice and support to help British businesses to keep on communicating.

The consequence of non-communication is invisibility. Then before you know it you are out of sight and out of mind.

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