Lift Your Nose Up from the Grindstone
There’s an old saying — “Imperfect action always beats perfect inaction every time.”
It’s pretty good advice when we need motivation. Instead of sitting around and waiting for the perfect idea to pitch to your dream client, pick up the phone and say hello. Instead of letting your customers go months without hearing from you, send out an eNewsletter update or a mailer. Instead of holding off on writing that thank-you note because your Crane’s Crest stationery hasn’t come in, jot down a note on an ordinary paper and send it out.
We’re all hamstrung by procrastination and uncertainty. Thousands of great ideas sit on the desktop of someone’s computer because they never got their boss’ sign-off. Mountains of business cards of promising contacts collect dust on desks as the moment of opportunity sinks under the waves. Imagine the impact if we had a national day where we all dusted off one unfinished project and saw it through.
“Because That’s What We’ve Always Done”
But sometimes companies have the opposite problem. Communications — blogs, social media updates, newsletters, emails and even advertisements — are sent because they always have been. Large companies speak with many voices, with individual departments and divisions each adding their message to the pile. Organizations jump onto the next social channel for fear of being left behind, even if they have nothing to say. You have to have something to say on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, in the annual report, eNewsletter, magazine, mobile app, responsive web site, not to mention YouTube, Vine, LinkedIn, your Podcast, the blog, Google Plus, the employee publication, the shareholder update… it’s frankly exhausting.
The wonderful thing about our modern media is that it’s a smorgasbord for the consumer. They can fill their plate with information in so many ways, from many sources. Each of us tailor our media experience, from the apps we use, to the Netflix shows we binge-watch. That’s left many communicators to flail about like a fish out of water, trying to spread their limited resources over so many channels. In the meantime, we’re losing the forest for the trees.
Remember when I said action beats inaction most of the time? This is one of those times where action doesn’t always equal success. In the scramble to always be saying something across so many platforms, some companies are wasting resources by doing what they’ve always done, and then continuously piling on whatever latest thing they’re supposed to do. When’s the last time you took a break and evaluated your communications?
Take a deep breath. Step back from the computer. Go ahead, close Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. The four people who are following you on Vine can wait a little longer for your next video.
Take out a piece of paper and write down every time one of your customers might hear from your company, even if it doesn’t come from your shop. Hit the usual suspects but also think out of the box. Will they hear from someone in accounts receivable, see banner ads, or pass your billboards? Might they view your YouTube video or browse your Tweet? Perhaps an employee might also be seeing the same messages as a consumer in addition to internal messages?
Now take off your business hat and think of yourself as someone who buys from your organization but doesn’t live it every day. Where would you want to, or expect to hear from your company? Where does the organization have something meaningful to add to the conversation?
Put yourself back in a communicator’s shoes. Are you sending redundant messages across multiple platforms, or worse, conflicting messages? Are you sending out meaningless social updates every day that wind up looking like noise in social feeds? Remember that although social media is a place to add a personality to your brand, companies aren’t people (except to the supreme court). You wouldn’t buy ad space on every channel on the cable dial, but many companies feel they need to be on every possible communication channel for fear of missing a single eyeball. If you were at a party, wouldn’t you rather have a great, meaningful conversation with one person you’ve always wanted to meet than to briefly shake everyone’s hand and say hello?
Questions to ask yourself when evaluating communication:
1. Who are my core customers? What can I provide to them that is useful and informative?
2. Where does my brand have something original and novel to contribute?
3. How do my customers expect to hear from my brand?
4. Which platforms best suit my message and will reach the most customers (or potential customers).
5. When is the best time to reach people? Are my customers most likely to be online early in the morning? On weekends? At night
6. How does my brand’s image fit with the platform? Will it put us in a good light?
Social Media Curmudgeons?
Believe it or not, there was a time when the thought of a business having a Facebook page was absurd. Of course, there was also a time when the idea of a company having a web site was useless too. But in 2011, it was reported that 93% of marketers use social media for business. It’s likely that number is even higher today.
So there’s no reason not to explore new platforms, following your customers as their tastes and behaviors evolve. But before you jump into the latest social site, get to know the platform. What kind of content are users sharing? Who is the main audience? What are they there for?
As a marketer, you can take the same approach that your customers do, creating an ala carte experience by selecting the platforms that make the most sense for your brand. Allocate your resources intelligently among print, email, app and social platforms, and you’ll do a better job tailoring a communication strategy that’s efficient, impactful and memorable.