How would you rank yourself?
On a scale of one to ten, how great of a communicator are you?
The depth with which you are able to bond with others is most often determined by how well you are able to communicate with them.
Sometimes the way you connect is with words. And much of the time words aren’t involved.
But if you think about your closest friends, significant other, or your family, there is an element in the way you communicate with each other that makes your relationship work.
Conversely, poor communication can destroy bonds that are supposed to be unbreakable. Studies show the number one cause of divorce can be traced back to not doing this effectively.
Communication is a cornerstone of lasting relationships. In your quest to discover how to build a business that thrives, this is one of the skills you must develop.
As a result, you’ll know how to talk to your customers in a way that keeps your bond strong for the long haul.
How businesses fail with their communication
Most companies recognize the need to talk with their customers often. But the way many of them go about doing it often leaves much to be desired.
Thus, instead of building a stronger connection, they push their customers away. No bueno.
Here are 5 common mistakes businesses make with their messages. Avoid these missteps as you work to strengthen your connection with your customers.
1. It’s purely transactional
Have you ever encountered a business you could clearly tell wasn’t interested in building a relationship with you? They don’t even try to pretend they care about you, your needs, or your well-being.
When this happens, the focus is constantly on them and their products. There’s never a consideration for how to transform your life for the better.
So if every.single.message you receive from them looks something like this:
- Sale! 25% off everything
- Don’t miss out on this fantastic deal
- Check out our new fall line
Then that is a sure sign that the business is only trying to get in your wallet, and they aren’t interested in building a long-term relationship with you.
In real life personal relationships, if the only time someone communicated with you was when they wanted something, then that relationship probably wouldn’t have any depth to it. You wouldn’t stick around for long.
That’s why this approach wouldn’t work so well for your business.
Here’s a better way.
Add value most of the time when you talk to the people you want to serve. Then when the time is right to have a conversation about your product, it will be better received.
MindBodyGreen does this well. I get an email from them every day. Every day.
And because they spend so much time educating me, I have no problem receiving an email about their courses from time to time. When I saw one that interested me, it was a no-brainer for me to buy it.
MindBodyGreen has struck a nice balance between education and sales that shows it’s not just about a transactional relationship.
There are ways to do this even if your business isn’t run entirely online.
When I go to my favorite grocery store Whole Foods, I appreciate learning about where my food comes from, how it was raised, and even the brief features they do about the butcher’s who work there.
It helps me connect to my local store on a deeper level.
In addition, they frequently provide recipes, food samples, and give you the option to donate to their charity to help others in need.
Bottom line: Your products should not be the primary focus of the conversation every time you talk to your customers.
2. It’s blah, blah, blah
Sadly, even when a business has the best intentions of building a relationship with their customers, the way they go about doing it leaves much to be desired.
You can have the most amazing products and services, but if the way you talk about them is forgettable, or indistinguishable from other companies that do the same thing, it will be difficult to make a connection.
Here are two examples of homepages for two different accounting software for entrepreneurs:
You’ll notice that the core messaging for each is quite similar. They are almost interchangeable.
Both are easy, and you can figure out how to use them in minutes. Both offer a free 30-day trial with no credit card required. Both offer invoicing capabilities.
When you can’t see the logos for each, it is hard to distinguish which company is which.
The way you communicate needs to enable you to earn the right to be a part of your customers’ world.
That means you need to make sure your products and services, as well as the way you communicate about them, are distinguishable from other businesses within your niche.
3. It’s impersonal
Lot’s of entrepreneurs try extremely hard to sound like a big company. In the process, they strip out all the personality and the uniqueness that enables them to do a better job of serving their customers.
Instead of trying to sound like a cold, impersonal, faceless company, communicate in a more warm and friendly way.
Add a more personal touch to your messages. Help your ideal customers connect with you on a personal level through your words.
Wistia does a great job of this. On their homepage, they immediately talk to me like I’m a normal person, which is distinct from other web video hosting services.
They carry that personal touch through within the content they include on their website that educates their customers. This level of connection enables them to connect with their audience at a deeper level.
4. They are inconsistent
There are some friends who you can be away from for years. You can live in different cities. You can go months without talking to each other. And then you’ll pick up the phone and pick up right where you left off as if no time has passed.
It is possible for that to happen with your business and your customers. But that’s a big gamble when you think about how many other things are competing for your ideal customers time.
Consistency, especially in the beginning is what leads you to solidify your place in the relationship.
That doesn’t mean you have to communicate every day, but at the very least on a somewhat frequent basis.
That consistency keeps you top of mind.
A few weeks ago, I went on a social media fast for a week. It was divine! Facebook noticed that I hadn’t logged in for a while. So they made a point to start sending me frequent messages to try and show me all the things I was missing out on.
They started to tell me about who was updating their status. They were working super hard to get me to come back to my account.
Why would Facebook do this? They recognize the importance of frequent communication if they want me to continue using their product.
The longer I spend away, the easier it will be for me to stay away. So they went into stealth mode to try to give me reasons to return.
5. It’s irrelevant
Have you ever talked to someone, and then realized that you had nothing in common? Maybe at one time you did, but increasingly, the flow of your conversation highlights that the two of you are in much different worlds when it comes to the things you care about.
You want to talk about politics, they want to talk about not being able to get into the spin class at the gym. You’re trying to figure out how to pay for your kid’s college tuition, and they want to talk about their $30K kitchen remodel.
This happens in businesses too. You are trying to figure out how to get more customers, but they keep talking about this new can’t be missed tool to increase your productivity.
You’re trying to reach six figures, and they are trying to tell you about the challenges of making their first million.
There’s a mismatch. It’s not that anyone is wrong, but it just isn’t the best fit for where you are.
Make sure you stay in tune to what your customer needs from you right now. That way you can tailor your communications to help them solve their most pressing issues. When that’s resolved, you can start to tell them the information they need to know to get to where they want to go.
What to say (and when) to build lasting customer relationships
It’s not just about sending communications to your customers just for the sake of talking to them and keeping the lines of communication open.
You’ve got to be strategic about what you say and when you say it to help move the relationship along.
There are stages you need to work to get your ideal customers on the path to becoming loyal customers. Here’s a framework for what those phases look like:
And the way you communicate with your customers varies, depending on their stage.
This mirrors what happens in your relationships in the real world. You engage with someone you just met differently from someone you’ve known for years.
You share at a deeper level with loyal customers than you do with someone who is just getting to know you.
Your level of intimacy dictates your conversation.
There isn’t a specific time limit of how long it takes to go through each of these phases. With some people you’ll progress rather quickly. For others, it will take time for the relationship to grow.
In real life, you can be a little more relaxed to let these relationships develop on their own.
But as you work to build your business, you’ve got to be more intentional to make sure you create an environment for moving the relationship along.
Let’s dive how to do that for each phase.
1. Stranger to acquaintance
Your ideal customers have thousands of things competing for their attention.
To turn a stranger into someone who actually gives you their focus, you’ve got to do something that makes them stop and take notice.
That doesn’t mean you need to introduce a new gimmick or do something crazy. A better strategy is lead with something that makes them want to tune in. Start with something that is important and relevant to them.
Jon Morrow recently launched his new blog Unstoppable. Tens of thousands of people got introduced to him and his work through the first article published on it. Granted the piece that he wrote was beautiful and inspiring and just amazing on so many levels.
But Jon engineered this post from the beginning to reach a large number of people.
How did he do it?
By entering the conversation that was already happening in people’s heads.
Notice the headline of the post. There are many people who are working to improve their life. And a smart way to do that is from gaining wisdom from the experiences of other people.
Here’s what popped up when I searched for “life lessons” over at BuzzSumo, a site that shows you what content is most popular across social channels.
Notice how many social shares there are for the articles that pop up. They range from nearly 100K and up. This is clearly a topic a great number of people are interested in.
To get your ideal customers’ attention, start the conversation by talking about something that already occupies a large chunk of their headspace.
Address them with messages that speak to their dreams, desires, fears and frustrations. And then show them how you can add value by giving them information that speaks to them like none other.
That’s how you use communication to begin building a relationship with a stranger. Use that as an entry point to grow the relationship into something more.
2. Acquaintance to friend
Your goal is not to be a one-hit wonder. You don’t want to invest all that time and energy to turn someone from a stranger to an acquaintance, only to have them say “well, it was nice meeting you” and walk out of your life forever.
Your mission is to communicate in a way that moves the conversation forward. That means your message has to intrigue them and compel them to want to know more about you and how you can help them.
Your words should inspire them to feel like they would like to explore the relationship at a deeper level.
But you can’t leave it up to your ideal customer to progress the relationship. You’ve got to be the one to move it forward. A great way to do that is by getting their contact information so you can reach out again in the future.
That could be with getting their email address, phone number, scheduling a free consultation, getting them to start a free trial of your product, or to join your Facebook group.
That’s the approach Erin E Flynn takes with visitors to her website. She encourages them to join her free membership group for web designers so she can connect with them at a deeper level.
Acquaintances won’t just fork over their information just because you ask. Give them a compelling reason to want to stay in contact with you (there’s an idea list for this at the end of this post).
Since you started the conversation by entering what was already going on in their heads, then that’s what you’ve got to do to continue the conversation.
3. Friend to fan
Your goal is not to stay in the “friend zone” with your ideal customers. That’s great for building a network, not so much for growing a business.
So as you work to deepen the relationship, your objective is to upgrade the way your ideal customers think of you, so they move from being a friend to a fan.
When they are a fan, it helps to elevate your status to expert. Your ideal customers start to consider you as someone they would consider paying to help them solve their problem.
A fantastic way to deepen the relationship to this stage is to communicate on a consistent basis.
But it’s not about you shooting the breeze telling everyone what you ate for breakfast, posting gym selfies, or bragging about how much money you made last month.
You have to add value on a consistent basis.
If someone enriched your life in some way every time you interacted with them, wouldn’t you become a fan of theirs? Wouldn’t you want to keep them in your world more often? Wouldn’t you be happy to hear from them whenever they reached out?
Indispensable. That’s the standard you’re striving toward. You want to be the one who always leaves them a little better than the way you found them.
You can provide regular value-added communications through emails, social media posts, live events, and even good old-fashioned phone calls.
Steph Gaudreau is constantly adding value to her Stupid Easy Paleo audience with recipes, food porn, and demonstration videos on building strength.
4. Fan to customer
Your business needs customers. And because it may not always be that your customers are banging down your door to get you to take their money, you’re going to have to present them with a product offer they can’t refuse.
When your product offer is closely tied to the conversations you’ve had with your ideal customers over time, presenting your product or service as a solution to further help them achieve their dreams and desires, or eliminate their fears and frustrations is the natural next step.
And when you shift the conversation to more of a sales focus, it doesn’t need to be a pushy, sleazy, hard sell either.
James Clear writes a thoughtful blog about habit formation, behavioral psychology, and performance improvement. So when he offered his course on habit formation, it made it easy for those in his audience to take their relationship with him to the next level by making a purchase.
Converting your fans into customers isn’t just about saying “hey, here’s my product.” You also have to give them enough information that peaks their curiosity and lets them see your product is perfect for them.
Here’s how James does it:
And you also should make sure to provide additional information to help them overcome any objections they may have about taking the next step forward with you.
James does that in this email with testimonials:
The words you use matter. Make sure you deliver ones that help move your customer forward.
5. Customer to loyal customer
A hallmark of thriving businesses are loyal customers. That’s when you’re able to develop a relationship with your customer at the deepest level.
Just because someone buys from you doesn’t automatically mean they will progress to becoming a loyal customer.
Again, the way you communicate with them during this stage will help you to achieve this status.
A great way to do that is to help your customer be successful with the product or service they bought from you. This will go a long way toward making sure they don’t feel like you left them high and dry once you got their money.
If you sold them a service, follow-up to make sure they are getting the most value out of it. Offer up tips to help them utilize more features that will enable them to love your product even more.
You could provide how-to guides, a knowledge base showing them exactly how to use your product, or a “this is what you need to do next” message to help them get set-up efficiently.
I use the Rainmaker Platform as my website solution. There’s a lot of stuff included in the product, and I appreciate that they provide different training sessions to help me get the most out of the software.
Continue to communicate with your customers after their purchase.
It’ll help them get the most out of your product or service. It’ll help them be more successful. And as a result, you’ll be more successful. A win for all involved.
It’s time to deepen the relationships you have with your customers
The is how to build a business people love to buy from.
Don’t let poor communication be the reason the relationships with your customers fall apart or never fully materialize.
Use the right words, in the right places, at the right times.
As a result, you’ll be able to increase the number of people you’re able to serve. You’ll help them solve their problem at a deeper level. And you’ll be more effective at creating a transformation in them in a way that makes life better.
Invest time in cultivating your communication skills.
The results you receive will be well worth it.
*If you could use some assistance enhancing the way you communicate for your business, here are some ways I can help.*
And here’s a list of content ideas you can use to help you figure out how best to communicate with your customers at each stage.
Where do I begin? 1. I’ve communicated with people I didn’t share a language with & have been unable to with folks I’ve known all my life. I’ve not always put my ego aside so that I may understand before trying to be understood. (I’m growing!)
2. You’ve sent me to my mad scientist lab: Fan’etwork, Clien’tomer, Friendchisee. I imagine when we get folks to these levels of delight with what we offer, they become advocates, ambassadors & evangelists.
3. I’ve gone from WIIFM? (what’s in it for me?) to WIMFY? (what’s in me for you?)
Sonia, I’ve signed up for practically everyone you’ve used as an example. You’re just using them to illustrate a point & I now receive their material. Hmmm…
P.S. I’m too shy to ask for money. I don’t do direct sells but I aspire to create products & services folks won’t be denied.
Sonia Thompson says
Isn’t communication amazing that way?! That we can say so much without ever saying a word.
But we gotta work on you getting more comfortable – “letting your ideal customers know that your product is perfect for them” – it feels less like “asking for money” and more like – helping someone solve a problem.
Anyaogu Ikechukwu says
Communication is really the key to get ideal customers and also keep them.
Sonia Thompson says
So glad you’re enjoyed it!