Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Connect with your customers, and stay connected, through writing.

How do you connect with your customers? Call them? Meet them face-to-face? Send them a piece of sales literature, a link to your website, an RFP? Or, do you meet them through a mutual business associate?

Whatever the means, chances are great that somewhere along the line you will use the written word to connect to your customers and, just as importantly, stay connected to them. After all, writing is inexpensive way to maintain a connection. A stamp costs, what, 41 cents and an e-mail is free!

If you’re using writing to connect or stay connected to your customers, you’ll want to be certain that what you are writing is well written. What does “well written” mean? It means that you clearly understand your purpose and your audience. It means that you write messages that are written with clarity and coherence and easy-to-read design features. It also means that you write messages in the active voice, using action verbs and characters as subjects, as well as short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

These recommendations for well written documents apply to any form of written communication – letters, memos, e-mails, RFP’s, and even hand-written notes, as well as social media, such as blogs, white papers and writings on social applications such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, and so on.

What, you say? I can connect to my customers with writings on social applications? Yes, absolutely yes! What do you write about, for instance, on your blog? You write only about that which will interest your customers and potential customers. And, what interests them? Typically, they want to read about business trends, technology trends, business stories, current events, FAQ’s, “Top 10” lists, interviews, book reviews, business problems and solutions, and the like.

If you don’t want to blog because you can’t spare the time (and if you blog you know you must write regularly and respond regularly), try writing a “white paper.” White papers typically focus on business stories, especially business problems and solutions. In other words, they discuss that which interests the audience. Just as a blog cannot be a personal or corporate rant, a white paper cannot be used to overtly further some corporate sales objective. If you use these media to write about how great you and your company are, eventually you will be found out and no one will read your papers, white, brown, green, red or blue.

When you use writing to connect to your customers, you are attempting to engage them in an on-going conversation, a dialogue, wherein you can learn their interests and their issues (their pain) and help them figure out solutions to their problems. Then, as you communicate with each other, you slowly and subtly grow your relationship, one which is based on mutual understanding, trust and, competence. You will find that your written communications will tell the story of your growing business relationship and support the other channel activities that you use to keep your relationship strong, that is, face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, IM’s, tweets, reports, RFP’s, Steeler games and cocktails at Happy Hour!

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