Entrepreneurs and businesses often pour considerable resources into crafting great marketing strategies and messages. Why then do so many fall short in other areas of business messaging, specifically communicating with customers?
One challenge is the need today to act quickly, especially in our hyper connected social world. Customers expect prompt responses to inquiries, and grievances can go social and viral quickly. Businesses often do not have the luxury of time when it comes to reacting.
Keep in mind two goals for your message.
The first is that it must be effective, delivering the five elements of an effective communication, namely being concise, clear, credible and compelling while delivering value to whomever receives it. Whether it is trying to persuade them or change their minds, it should move the recipients to an action or a result.
Second, it needs to be efficient, respecting the time of your audience, especially given the volume of information we receive today. Whatever you do, do not craft messages that will waste time.
The real secret to crafting great business messages, however, does not involve spending hours agonizing over a specific word or sentence (although I am guilty of both). It comes down to asking yourself a few simple questions before you start.
1. What is the purpose of your message?
Whether you are answering a customer inquiry or writing a correspondence to a business partner, the purpose of your message will set the tone, style and structure.
This is not as straightforward as you may think. For instance, your supposed purpose for a customer message might be to establish credibility or trust, but ultimately, you want recipients to buy your product or engage in your business. The way you write your message should lead to that result.
2. Who is your audience?
Have you considered the makeup of the audience with whom you are communicating? Again, knowing general background information will help you structure the tone and style of your message.
Composition: What is the age, education, vocation, social status and cultural background of your audience?
Level of understanding: Will the audience understand the information you are providing or does it require additional explanation and supporting documentation?
Expectations: What are they expecting from you? Keep in mind that some people might have hidden agendas or ulterior motives.
Also, even if you believe your target audience is one person, if your message is sent digitally (email or social media), you should write your message as if it will be seen by many (because it just might be).
3. What information do they want?
Business owners often do not understand exactly what is being asked. Instead, we look at the task through our "filters" and assume that we know what information is needed, then we rush to provide it. Indeed, many customers also do not fully know what they what to ask, which makes getting to the root problem more important.
Before you start, be certain you understand what is being asked of you and ask clarifying questions if necessary.
4. What information do they need?
Once you understand what information they want, be sure that you only provide the information they need. Producing more information for the sake of building credibility or making a point will ultimately raise more questions and could have the opposite affect you intended. Choose your information, make certain that it is accurate and ethical, and leave it at that.
When in doubt, leave it out.
Some may look at planning something as simple as a customer message as being a task that will take up more time than it's worth. From my experience, however, just taking a few minutes to think about what you want to say saves an immense amount of work, energy and even embarrassment later down the line.
How do you go about planning your business messages? Please share your tips with others in the comments section below.