Business is communication. We are social animals and we survive and prosper by how we interact with each other. Without communication in business there is no selling, no branding, no awareness. There is no interaction between staff and departments. In short, no sales so no business.
And yet most businesses spend little time considering communications. They brand and they sell but the role communication plays in achieving results is largely overlooked. Firms invest in financial, engineering and technical skills but how all these people communicate internally and externally is largely assumed. It’s what we do already isn’t it? You’ll usually find the Communications function of larger firms consigned under Marketing, that oft-derided budget black hole.
Of course, in business it’s not a case of Not Communicating. Every business communicates to exist. The question is How We Communicate. How effectively you communicate determines how your business functions internally; it dictates how many prospect doors it kicks open and keeps open. The problem for most businesses, particularly small ones, is that they don’t realise how their communication is affecting their performance. Unlike other areas of business Communications is rarely objectively defined and applied: it’s Just There.
There are broadly three types of communication: Broadcasting, Dialogue & Listening. Most companies are pretty good at Broadcasting, which is easy. The principle is the same for companies as it is for 1-2-1 friendships. We can all name a lot of people we know who sit and pontificate, the Broadcasters. We probably have some good friends who we can banter with, The Dialoguers. We have a few friends who will happily sit and let us talk, The Listeners.
Business is the same. Communication is everything to business but its role has become even more critical with the advent of social media. Marketing is communication: in the past this largely mean ‘broadcast’ communication. Now it is very definitely about all three.
If you take time to understand the different types of communication and when they work best and are appropriate in business you will dramatically improve your communication.
Most supplier/customer relationships are dominated by Broadcasting. Until the last 10 years most marketing was the same. One side tells, the other listens. Whether you call it awareness or broadcasting, the purpose is the same: to tell you about me.
Broadcasting helps you set out your stall because it tells the market what you’re about – or what you think you’re about. It is the first step in communicating with new audiences. It generally tells, advises and informs about news.
The problem with most businesses – and people – is that they’re stuck in Broadcasting mode. Telling is so much easier than listening or engaging – it’s usually quicker, less complicated and doesn’t require the teller to re-evaluate anything. Which may all be well and good, but don’t expect loyalty from customers or staff if yoi work solely on the Broadcast frequency.
Communications dialogue may well be the most abused term in the English Language. A favourite of politicians, who love to tak about ‘opening a dialogue with the public,’ it’s probably fair to assume that anyone offering you a dialogue is suggesting the opposite: they’ll sit, let you speak, then Broadcast their view to you.
Proper dialogue involves listening and learning. It means adjusting your view, as required, based on what you hear. You need a dialogue with customers, prospects and staff in order to earn their loyalty, commitment and support.
Dialogue doesn’t mean being swayed by the vissitudes of others’ opinions. You need to be able to hear, assess and decide. If you don’t agree then a decent dialogue will enable you to explain why and show why your view is the better one.
Dialogue is the most valuable communication tool available to you. You need dialogue where you want to ensure loyalty and commitment to your business or idea. But at other times, for example when announcing something new or requiring rigid enforcement – like a price rise – engaging in dialogue can appear weak and be inappropriate.
As a species we generally like to be listened to rather than to listen. Which is fair enough. But we have two ears and one mouth, which may suggest that listening is worth paying attention to.
Listening is, of course, intrinsic to Dialogue. But sometimes it’s important just to hear. To keep quiet and listen. When you need to improve but can’t see how, when things go wrong, when complaints roll in, listening is critical to solving things. Listening to customers and staff provides another perspective. It enables disputes to be resolved quickly.
Listening doesn’t necessarily work when your audience wants to be led, when they expect decision and leadership.
If you suspect that all this sounds like the science of the bleedin’ obvious then of course you’d be right. But simple or obvious it may be, few businesses apply 1-3 properly and effectively. My own interest in Communications is around marketing. Understanding the role and value of each of these three techniques informs how I promote my business but it also infuses what we do, particularly around our events. Event marketing tends to be sidelined in the marketing mix precisely because it is less about Broadcast and more about Dialogue and Listening. Because Broadcasting is relatively easy and highly visible, its main proponent – advertising – tends to grab the lion’s share of budgets. But a marketing strategy built around broadcasting and awareness, although important, will ultimate fail unless it converts through dialogue and retains through listening. Events are critical to this process because they deliver small group or 1-2-1 engagement. They enable dialogue and the opportunity to listen and learn. In this sense a well structured event will be more powerful than the similar budget spent on broadcasting. Ultimately success in marketing depends on engagement to drive desirable customer behaviours. As anyone who has sat in a room with a pub bore will tell you, broadcasting is not the way to win hearts and minds. Dialogue and listening is, and events are critical to that process.
Great Escape Cars offers a unique range of event formats built around its fleet of 30+ classic cars. We’re not just about a great day: we understand the business imperatives that determine an event’s true success or failure. To find out more about our corporate events click here. To join our Events Managers Road Trip in March 2016 call 01527 893733 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.