For more years then I care to mention I have worked with many different kinds of businesses; corporate, entrepreneurial, even the “mom and pop shops”. Through this experience I’ve seen a common thread with regard to communication. Particularly now, for every business, the marketplace is seen as being highly competitive, aggressive, and above all, requires speed and agility. However, most of us are busier than ever, pursuing bigger and better opportunities and putting out fires. The demand for quickness and instant responses when adjusting to change leaves less time to think strategically about a company’s position and message. In addition, the tactics utilized by the competition and their newest product or service offering can easily take over any spare moments in your thought process. Meeting the threat of better, faster, cheaper, and newer, results in short term thinking, inconsistent messages and above all, a focus on products and services rather than on the overall value that a company or person delivers.
Because of the increasing demands on our time, most of us engage in what I call “drive by” communication. Communication is squeezed in between other things and stuff in our lives, without much forethought or focused attention. This is prevalent in all business communication, both internal and external. Living hurried lives has two important consequences for a company: first, it’s easy to be unfocused, with “flavor of the day” messages rather than one that is as focused as a laser beam. Second, if there is a focus, it’s often on the wrong thing, namely the products or services being offered.
There are three main problems with being a “drive by communicator”. How many times have you gone to see a prospect or client and been really clear and focused on what message you want to leave them with? Or is it more typical that you just “wing it”? You kind of know what you want to say and how to say it, but really you are making it up each time. This leads to the first and one of the biggest problems of being a “drive by communicator”. There is no consistency in the message.
The next problem of the “drive by communicator” is that frequently there is an incongruity between marketing and sales, the strategic and the tactical. The marketing materials say one thing, and the sales presentation says something else entirely. Again this leads to lack of consistency in the message and will negatively impact sales.
The third problem facing the “drive by communicator” is that even when you take the time to focus on the message, it may not be the right one. What I mean by this is that the message is focused on you, not on the prospect or customer. This shows up in what you say and how you say it. You have certain information you want to get across, but it’s different than what the client wants to hear or know about. To focus on the client means you use language they understand, images they can relate to, and information that allows them to determine what’s in it for them.
So having “drive by” communication, and being a “drive by communicator” essentially means you have no message and you are not communicating powerfully. The raw material, the information is there, but it’s buried under an avalanche of other information so it doesn’t get through. The way to bring out the critical information, the message, is to focus on your clients and prospects, every time, in all communication situations both tactical and strategic.
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