Communication is not just about providing a message; it is about having the message heard and understood. Ideally, communication goes a step beyond. For our message to really make a difference, to be ‘successful’ communication, we need the receiver to interact and take action. Sometimes our communications are purely informational, but that is rare indeed; usually we are attempting to invoke an active response: renew your membership, sign up for our newsletter, buy this widget, register for our conference, or call your legislator. Thus, anything short of interaction is a fail. But, how do we break through?
People are People
Your receivers are your clients, members, or perspective customers. They are not dollar signs, numbers, bots, or head counts. So, first and foremost, remember that you are dealing with people. Each human being is different, with different sensibilities, likes, dislikes, and thoughts about you and your message. Long gone are the Henry Ford days when he arrogantly proclaimed you can have his Model T in any color you want, as long as it is black. Today, we want to be treated as the unique souls that we are. Luckily, tech can help with that. Build your mass message as if you were sending it only to one of your favorites, then use tech to mass customize the message by replacing words, phrases, names, and titles to adapted it to each specific receiver.
Roar Like a Guerrilla
Try guerrilla tactics. Guerrilla tactics are the art of surprise and catching the receiver off-guard, in this case, of course, in a good way. Your message can really breakthrough to the executive if you can reach them while they are relaxing with their Saturday morning coffee rather than at the bustling office. Or, if you can catch their eye right after a game of golf or racquetball. Or, while they are at a conference or on vacation. Meaning, be there in the unsuspected place in an unusual manner.
Define guerrilla differently. Think of a guerrilla approach as something your organization hasn’t done before or in a long while; not necessarily as something new to the world that has never been tried before. Set a percentage of your communications aside for the guerrilla in you. Perhaps 10–15% of your communications plan and budget. Then, as always, monitor it, test it, analyze it, and even graph it. If it is a successful tactic, next year it becomes part of the main plan with 10–15% tried on something new.
What’s Old is New Again
You can be a guerrilla by digging up old approaches and re-applying them as a piece of your current plan. A great example of what’s-old-is-new-again is direct mail. Once the mainstay of marketers and communicators everywhere, direct mail has been nearly abandoned in the last two decades in favor of the inexpensive mass electronic mediums. This makes direct mail prime for reaching your receiver. Except during election season, receivers simply do not get that much direct mail; thus, the scourge of the piles of paper junk mail has become a thing of past generations. Direct mail maybe be ripe to be used in your communications plan once again.
Other breakthrough tactics include sending holiday cards on non-traditional holidays when yours may be the only one the receiver receives, or sending chocolates with your logo emblazoned, or painting your vehicle with your company colors in a wild, flamboyant fashion. Consider, renting out a movie theater and inviting them to the premier of a new anticipated blockbuster on the Thursday before the official release, complete with popcorn and soda. Maybe try hiring actors to dress like superheroes for selfie photos in front of your step-and-repeat at the town fair or before the big game. The point is: observe others, get ideas from TV and movies, be different, try new things. Breaking through can be about… well… being different, being unpredictable, being creative.
Breaking through doesn’t meaning breaking the fundamental rules of communication and marketing. It doesn’t mean to send fewer communications or too many. It doesn’t mean rewriting the book or forgetting the proven science of the past. No, instead, breaking through means really remembering. Remember the golden rule, that you should treat people the way you want to be treated. You want to feel special. Make them feel that way. Remember to always use strong writing skills with proper grammar and punctuations, while being as uniquely you as you can be. And, remember to stay within the guidelines of your organization’s philosophy, style, and image. After that, breaking though is about having fun with it, capturing their attention, then telling them something worth hearing, seeing, or reading.
If you found this article insightful and useful, you may similarly appreciate the other three articles from this four-part series on communications: The Goldilocks Zone of Communication, Anatomy of a Communication Message, and Do It Their Way: Connecting with Clients & Members.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM provides insight on nonprofit management, executive decision-making, business operations, personal finance, marketing, construction issues, and occasionally, on political philosophy / history. To see more by Christian, visit www.Malesic.us or to receive notice of the newest articles written by Christian, follow him on Parler @CDMalesic or Twitter @CDMalesic.
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