When your audience or market believes you always have their best interest at heart, every message will resonate — even in the midst of crisis.
Nothing drives the impact of a message more than the presence (or absence) of trust.
Trust provides a more effective platform than any pulpit…from sanctuary to bully. Once earned, it lifts communiques above the noise and confusion of any market place.
Trust shapes context and tone, making it possible to eliminate all of the ifs, ands or buts that characterize average messaging.
Trust makes it possible to accomplish more in less time, with fewer words and less falderal than the grandest strategy.
Trust is the product of an intentional, disproportionate investment in listening. This is the brand of listening that, to borrow from St. Francis of Assisi,seeks less to be understood than to understand. This kind of listening speaks volumes.
Where there is trust, there is mutual respect, a ready ear, and fertile ground for motivation, collaboration, innovation and change.
If You’re Wrestling With Communication
The degree to which an audience embraces a message — whether it be partners, work force, professional allies, vendors or a target market-at-large — is in direct proportion to the degree to which the audience trusts the messenger.
This should be good news where genuine relationships have been cultivated.
Even so, many wrestle with the content of messaging in a crisis. What should a communication plan look like? Here is a suggested framework.
Be proactive — when it comes to communicating with stakeholders, internal as well as allies and vendors, take the initiative — communicate early.
Be honest — trust is a powerful building block, but nothing can destroy it more quickly than blowing smoke.
Be transparent — akin to honesty, this is about pulling back the curtain, and telling the whole truth — done properly, nothing deepens trust more quickly.
Make it about the audience — messages that resonate address real issues or needs, and deliver value.
Use this framework for your communication in the midst of today’s crisis, and you’ll accomplish two things: you’ll have a much better shot at delivering a message that resonates; and, you’ll strengthen the bond of trust with every facet of your audience…which will have its own payoff on the other side of Covid-19.
Years ago I worked with a Managing Partner who regularly referred to the Marketing Department of his law firm as the PR Department. I’m certain it was a habit rooted in the days when law firm marketing efforts centered on work that was public relations in nature.
Though I believe he knew the marketing group’s responsibilities covered a broader terrain, the habitual use of the wrong label both perpetuated and was emblematic of a narrow view of the discipline.
Today many professional service firms do something similar — saying marketing when what they really mean is sales.
Or perhaps more to the point — expecting (or hoping) that marketing efforts designed to create visibility and awarenessmight be able accomplish the lead generation and one-on-one work required to land new clients.
You know this. But in case we need to underscore the point — marketing and strategic business development (sales) are not the same thing.
Confuse them, attempt to blur the distinctions in hopes that one will cover for a lack of focus on the other, or ignore either, and be prepared to be completely unhappy with the sum total of your investment.
I need to inject two relevant notes here.
First — I do my part on a daily basis to spread the problem. The very title of this Blog — Marketing Brain Fodder— suggests that everything we discuss here falls under the marketing banner. This is not true. An audit would probably reveal that the majority of content for at least a decade has focused on business development / sales. So I’m guilty…and I’m considering appropriate options.
Second — I believe the siloed-nature of our organizations works against us…diminishing the value of resources, inhibiting creativity and strangling innovation. Turf wars and resource battles consume too much time and energy. Underscoring the distinction between sales and marketing can easily be twisted to be an argument for more defined silos. While the topic for a separate post, we should underscore that this is not a case for more defined departments, teams or silos.
Hit Resume — Here’s The Point
If this is just a labeling issue, that is one thing. Anyone working in the legal space for 15 years or more knows of the problematic nature of the “Sales” word. Again — a topic for another post.
For now, if while we’re using marketing as the umbrella, we all understand that when it comes to the pursuit of new business in the professional service arena, sales is a different animal, then we might debate the value in saying what we mean.
On the other hand, where we’re not clear about the difference, we run the risk of inadequate planning, misappropriation of resources, faulty expectations, and poor ROI in both marketing and sales.
Understand The Difference
If you’re part of a leadership team, prior to judgements as to whether your marketing efforts are effective, be certain you’re not looking for target identification, lead generation and qualified pitch opportunities. These are the purview of a strategic approach to sales (or, if you’re squeamish over the label, business development). An increase in sales requires appropriate investment.
If you’re in marketing or sales, clearly articulate the difference. Great marketing is an asset, to be sure. But perpetuating confusion between the two serves the objective of neither. Marketing is not the same as sales.