Business is a communications exercise. If you are not communicating well problems emerge almost instantly. Independent of supply chain, service delivery, execution and the operational functions of a business, communication is the most critical element of business success.
The good news is that much of what you need to be a successful communicator you have been practicing for a long time. Assignments that you received in primary school have prepared you (perhaps against your will) for business communication success. When trying to improve your communication skills it might be helpful to tie back into this learning from school and bring it to a contemporary parallel.
Broadly it helps to look at communication from two contexts: people who know you, and people who don’t.
On the “people that know you” side: Consider messaging as a means to prevent issues or minimize the impact of situations that go badly.
An informational message is similar to a book summary you wrote back in primary school. You capture the important points, highlight how they are relevant, and describe the overall outcome of the narrative. This translates into status reports, project proposals and all manner of status communications.
On the “people that don’t know you” side: Consider marketing.
A marketing message is very similar in spirit to the persuasive letter many of us were tasked to write in grade school. A persuasive letter contained a series of concepts designed to help the reader: establish rapport and credibility; write simple statements outlining the request; and create a call to action. These fundamentals easily translate into marketing concepts and can help improve its effect.
Underpinning all good messages are a few important philosophies.
- Emotional content compels personal action. Rational content compels organizational decisions. Use emotions in your marketing – not your status updates.
- Simple messages remove the chance for misinterpretation. Simplicity is often hard to achieve. Take the time to make things simple if you want a better outcome.
- More communication is better than less. The severity of an issue or problem is a good indicator of how often you should connect.
- Never surprise the person you are communicating with with bad news. Alert people to the possibility of a negative outcome when it remains a possibility and is not yet a fact.
Taking these philosophies into account can make the difference between a browser and a buyer, or a furious or delighted customer. Communication is a skill and as such it takes time to develop. Invest in developing the skill and it will pay huge dividends for yourself and your business.