If you don’t, somebody else will

Remember what Woody Allen said? 80% of success is just turning up. Trouble is, most of us don’t do it often enough. “But I’ve got nothing to say,” a friend of mine lamented recently. “They know who I am, and what I do, and everything about me.” Everything? I was doubtful. So he and I sat down, pulled out a chunky pen and a pristine sheet of paper, and 30 minutes and two skinny cappuccinos later, we had a list of 12 things he could tell his clients. Things that would surprise them, inform them, entertain them, intrigue them. But more important than anything else, things that would tell them that my friend was still around, still doing business, still waving not drowning.

I forget what I can’t remember…

We humans forget – fast. It’s said that the average person sees 300 adverts a day. And often, we remember what we saw last. So if you’re not in touch with your clients, and somebody else is, you can just guess what’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter that they don’t need any products or services from you (or your competitor) right now. What matters is that you’re not making an impression and the competitor is. Governments understand communication – only too well. They have entire departments working round the clock to make sure everything angle is optimised, every story spun and every last drop of political capital extracted. Take the swine flu epidemic. Here in the UK, we had blanket coverage. Nobody, but nobody, could have escaped the deadly virus that is 24-hour news. But still the government needed to be seen to do the right thing. So it cranked up the printing presses, ordered forests of paper, and primed the postmen to do a leaflet drop. And so last week, this sailed through my letter box and floated gently onto the welcome mat: There was one problem: 20-odd million leaflets take time to print, so it was about two weeks too late. The media spotlight had moved on to MPs’ expenses, abuse in Irish Catholic institutions and emergency surgery using a household drill (ouch). Nonetheless, it created the impression of action. The leaflet explains that there’s no cure, though antiviral drugs do help. And as for the face mask, the must-have Mexican fashion accessory this season:
The available scientific evidence shows that these basic face masks don’t protect people from becoming infected.
That didn’t stop the the government ordering 30 million masks. Why? To send out the right message. Or even to send out a message. Any message. The leaflet does have a great catchphrase, though: Catch it. Bin it. Kill it. Don’t you just love it?

Talk to me (like lovers do)

If you are going to stay in touch with your clients (and you should) make sure you get it right. Just yesterday, I had a call from my mobile phone provider. They like to stay in touch – a bit like a too-persistent friend, but never mind. At least they try. “Is that, mmm, Kevin Walsh?” a woman with a voice like a bag of marbles asked me. I confirmed it was, and she then told me who she was and why she was calling. “To keep you up to date with products and services,” she said unconvincingly. In other words, a sales call. Tip #1: Don’t stretch the truth. I told her I was busy. “OK, love,” she croaked, “I’ll call you a bit later.” Tip #2: don’t get over-familiar (love, honey, pet, darling…) No, I insisted. If I wanted information, I’d check out the website. Politely but firmly, I told her not to call again. “OK, love,” she said again. And one last thing, I said. Could she refrain from calling me ‘love’? I didn’t really think it was appropriate. “Sorry, love,” she said, and rang off. Tip #3: If you’re going to talk to your customers, try listening to them too.

I just called to say…

So what have you got to say to your clients right now? Nothing? You’d better find something – fast. Before somebody else does. Find out more