Connect With Your Clients – Create a Plan

Posted on February 3, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Are you a small business owner who wants more business?

I believe – as do 99% of marketing and sales professionals – that business is built on the strength of your client relationships.  Sure, there are strictly transactional sales processes, like when I pick up some gum at a random corner store, but they don’t sustain business for the long term.  (Hmmm, I’m sure there’s a post about the decline of the local corner store there.  Remind me.)

How do you want to connect?
That said, how do you build relationships with clients, or with the people that you hope to make your clients over the longer term?  By connecting with them in a variety of ways.  Let me give you an example:

Mind mapping my communications plan
This morning, I pulled out my roll of newsprint to get a handle on the many ways I want WordSpring to connect with my target market, and become a successful business.  In less than 10 minutes, I had a spider-webbed mind map of the various ways I want to interact with and provide service to my clients.  Some of them will bring in money, and some of them are simply smart ways to help them know, like and trust me.  I’ve included a picture of my handiwork – it’s not beautiful, like Christine Merkley’s drawings, but it is at least a framework for me to follow.
03-02-09_09421
Remember to include the other details
I can’t overemphasize how important that framework is, no matter the size or scope of your business.  My little web is going to form the basis of my communications plan, which I will write out in further detail and make a part of my business plan.  Here, I have mapped out the “what” of my plan.  As I convert it into a more detailed document, it will include the “why”, the “how often”, the “what method”, the”who is it for”. 

Communications plans work for EVERY business
These are the steps I go through with my clients as well, in preparing communications plans for them.  When it is done, you can actually figure out exactly how often you “touch” your client base, and for what purpose.  You’ll also know how much time and money you are spending on each activity, and be able to calculate the much-talked about Return on Investment. 

The advantage of diverse communications
You know what is the best part of a multi-faceted communications plan?  You are planning a diversity of relationship-building communications, and not restricting yourself to what comes naturally.  Your chances of making that crucial connection increase vastly because you are using a variety of formats.  Heaven knows, many people don’t read blogs at all, while others are happy to use Twitter, but couldn’t imagine stepping into a business networking meeting.  And yes, some people would probably rather get a nicely written note or even printed newsletter from you every so often than deal with anything on-line.

Obviously, my business lends itself naturally to this process.  What is marketing about, if not connecting?  But believe me, it is important as well for mechanics, chiropractors, and ink jet refillers.  Tell your people how you go about your work, why you are unique, and why they – as clients – are important to you.

You don’t have to do this alone
Perhaps you are so busy working in your business that you would rather delegate some of this communications planning work to someone with experience.  While the core information still has to come from you, the small business owner, most reputable PR and marketing professionals will work with you to create a communications strategy.  Certainly in larger companies, communications plans drive the marketing department activities, and marketing is in constant communication with the executive to make sure that their marketing efforts fit with the overall company strategy. 

Here’s your challenge: take 10 minutes and a big piece of paper.  Jot down all that you do to connect with your customers.  See if it forms a picture that you are happy with.  And why not send me a comment with your results?  I’d be happy to give you a hand, if you need it.

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