Have A Sardine And Let’s Get Naked: The Art Of Communicating With Customers

Have A Sardine And Let's Get Naked: The Art Of Communicating With Customers

It’s Heeeeere!

It’s the official Superheroes of Marketing crossover episode! That means Ralph is over at Superheroes of Marketing with Alisa Meredith, and Kelly Kranz is cohosting on the Web.Search.Social Podcast.

So after you’re done here be sure to bounce over there and catch another super-heroic episode. Twice the fun and twice the marketing goodness.

Enhance Collaborative Opportunities And Holistically Enable Your Cross Channel Connections

In other words: communicate with your clients! Today we take on the subject of what makes communication effective and what to do when it breaks down. As head of Client Services at OverGo Studio, Kelly has experience with the good, the bad and the crazy.

Technology: Good Or Bad?

Right before recording this episode I got an email from a listener that said, “Have a sardine.”

No, she wasn’t interested in my dinner menu. She had just become the victim of autocorrect.

That begs the question: now that we have so many methods of communication, from email to Skype chat to social media, phone, video conferencing and more, is that good for us or bad for us?

Kelly thinks its more good than bad and I agree because in spite of the pitfalls, it does give us many options to keep the lines of communication open.

Everyone prefers a different method and it’s our job to know what our clients need.

Should You Respond To Clients Immediately?

A down side to technology is the immediacy. People can come to expect you to reply nearly instantly and it can be a problem if you don’t.

Kelly likes to be immediate. She says she wants every client to think they are her only client.

I’m on board, but I also think it’s easy to set expectations a little too high. And sometimes we have to let clients know that even if they don’t hear from us for a whole hour, we’re probably not dead and have not taken off to Tahiti with their money.

Old Farts Vs. Young Whippersnappers

Kelly is what marketing people like to refer to as a “millennial”. I’m just old. But does that make us so different in how we communicate?

Kelly thinks younger people like to avoid meetings and phone calls when they can. I wonder if it’s just a personality thing because even though I’m not often mistaken for a twenty-something these days, I tend to prefer email to voice when I’m someone’s client. Sometimes it’s just about expediency.

In the end, we can’t decide what “young” means anyway. We’re all young at heart!

Understand Your Customers

The truth is, everyone is different. Even the same person can be different from day to day. The client who hates phone calls may really, really wish you’d make time for a phone call when the circumstance warrants it.

It comes down to knowing your customers and being aware of the danger for communication breakdowns. If you sense a problem brewing, fix it before it becomes one.

Also, Understand Your Customers!

We love to centralize our communications in a project management system. And though we try to get all our clients on board, there are some who will never click that “log in” button to see all the fabulous information we’ve put there just for them.

But effective communication isn’t about “do it my way”. It’s about recognizing what your customers need from you and giving it to them.

You have to understand their preferences, their computer skills, their tolerance, and work together to find the best way to communicate.

Getting Everyone On The Same Page

When you’re working with a client, how do you make sure that what they think is happening is what you think is happening and is what’s actually happening?

Since even technology has not gotten to the bottom of reading minds yet, there are some practical things you can do to be clear.

First, be specific. Let people know exactly what you’re doing and when you’ll do it by. Take a “this is the next step” approach and lead people along.

Then document it. Even if everyone is crystal clear that doesn’t mean they will be in five minutes. Life gets in the way and we don’t always remember that next step so write it down. Send a email or for those low-tech clients, write it on a piece of paper so it can be a reference point.

Finally, never end a conversation without an action item. Whether you’ve had a five minute call or a two hour meeting, somebody is probably expecting something to happen next.

Find out what that is and make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.

My Insurance Guy Must Hate Me

Every year I get a renewal form from my business insurance guy and all I have to do is sign and return it. I usually tell him I’ll send it tomorrow.

My poor insurance guy is probably sitting there thinking great, I’m pretty sure I won’t see it for two months.

And he’d probably be right.

Yes, I’m a bad client!

This is where consequences come in handy. If my insurance guy said hey, CL, if you don’t get this back to me in a week then your insurance will be cancelled, I bet I’d be a little more motivated.

You can use this, too. If you’re going to need something from a client, let them know what happens if you don’t get it in a timely fashion. Maybe a crucial deadline will be missed. Maybe it will cost something. Maybe you won’t have room in your schedule to attend to whatever they’re sending.

Everyone needs to be held accountable.

When It Goes Off The Rails

We talked about good communication but sometimes things go wrong. Then what?

Kelly says: kill it with kindness.

And I love that idea.

She has a particularly thorny client who she manages by being super nice. And the one time he opened up and told her a personal story, she sent him a gift to commemorate it.

Ok, so this story had sort of a happy ending. The gift went over well but five minutes later the client was back to being mean.

But I think that’s a fringe case. I think most people can be won over with honest and persistent kindness.

Kelly Calls Our Outro “Wordful”

Since Kelly cohosted I asked her to read half of our exit script and that devolved into 20 minutes of hilarity. Lucky for you all but about 30 seconds of that got clipped out but I left in the best-of-the-worst because really, we both just had to go eat dinner.

In all the mayhem and giggling I forgot to tell our audience to go listen to Kelly and Alisa over on Superheroes of Marketing so this will have to do. Go listen! Now! But wait, first…

Your Marketing Action Item

From Kelly: Download an app called Sidekick that integrates with your email.

It will tell you when someone opens or clicks on any emails that you sent to them, how many times they opened it and from what device.

If you work in sales you can see that someone has opened it and quickly pick up the phone to follow up. Whether this makes you seem psychic or creepy, you decide. But it’s a great tool to keep an eye on whether your communications are being received and reviewed and to take action either way.

From Carol Lynn: Switch up your communications with a client. Try something different than what you normally do. Email them a lot? Pick up the phone next time. Talk to them a lot? Send a handwritten note. Do something unexpected. Mike Brooks calls this a “pattern interrupt” – get clients to pay attention to you and let them know you’re paying attention to them.

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • Now we’re talkin’ turkey! Nothing … and I mean NOTHING! … is more important in life (and in business) than communications — the kissin’ cousin to clarity. Without good communication, things can fall apart in a heartbeat.

    Although I really enjoy talking to family and my closest friends by phone, I definitely prefer email for clients. Skype is appropriate sometimes, too.

    I was SO surprised to learn Kelly contacts every client every day. Unheard of! And admirable. Let’s assume she doesn’t have 100 clients. 😉

    Love the crossover idea! Hope you’ll do this again.

    • I thought the same thing… Kelly must have like 2 clients! I couldn’t possibly contact every client every day. We also don’t work with our clients consistently. I have some I work with once every few years so while I may want to keep in touch I certainly can’t be calling or emailing them every day. I can’t even do that with active clients if I still want to sleep 🙂

      But it does at least make you think… am I really communicating or just doing it only when I absolutely have to?

  • This morning I tuned in to Superheroes of Marketing to catch Ralph’s conversation with Alisa. Cool crossover! Amid the moments of goofiness were some rock solid tips about starting a podcast and podcasting, in general (along with stories about bird poop.) 😉

    Just for fun, here’s the poem I wrote for the show:

    Most podcasts aren’t good
    And listeners need to know
    Ralph Rivera is always right
    Just go and catch his show

    Interviewing people is tricky
    Surprised to hear Ralph say
    Convo’s are his strong suit
    Interviewing is not his forte

    Ralph has a top notch editor
    Who happens to be his wife
    Carol Lynn is a smart cookie
    And a podcast partner for life

    Alisa is a bird poop magnet
    And a trusty bird poop shield
    Really happy I tuned in today
    To hear her secret revealed

    Some podcasts are poopy and they really stink. (Pepe probably smells better than most of them.) 😉

    • Well you know Ralph, goof and goodness all rolled into one! I’m so happy that they have their own poem too and that I made it into it! I actually didn’t hear the episode end to end, I only heard it as Ralph edited it…. all 5 hours it took, lol! He wanted to give editing a shot and decided that I can keep the job.

      • I LOVE when that sort of thing happens. Someone tries walking in YOUR shoes, for a change, and decides the army boots you have to wear to get your job done are killing their feet. LOL! However, I’ll applaud Ralph for giving podcast editing a whirl. The man is a trooper. Learning what you love to do is important. But equally important is nailing down what you’re just not cut out for!

        Of course I included you in the poem! You and Ralph come as a matched set. 🙂

  • Nadia Bracken

    That Nadia girl sounds really great (but I hear she’s not much of a texter; a terrible communicator.) Another awesome episode, thanks!

    • I know, right 🙂 And the perfect into to our topic. What karma!