Communication is a key component of your marketing plan. In order to successfully market to your target audience, you must effectively use all forms of communication: visual, written, verbal, and body language.
Visual communication is your brand. This includes your website, marketing collateral, proposals, letterhead, business cards, vehicle and equipment, office décor, and the list goes on. Your office lobby also says a lot about your company, as does the appearance of your vehicles. Through all of the above, you are communicating your brand visually.
The other day, a residential real estate agent was asking about the design and building industry. I mentioned the name of a firm, and he responded, “I’ve heard of them. They have really nice trucks driving around town. They’re a good company.” That’s a form of communication and branding that the company portrayed with just the condition and graphics on their vehicles. Pretty amazing that this person formed an opinion of the company based on just seeing the trucks! He had no prior experience working with them at all.
The opposite is also true, however. A negative opinion can form if a poor visual is used to communicate. For example, an outdated website communicates your company is not forward-thinking or making continued improvements within the company. While that may be a false statement in reality, the perception and the visual you’re communicating to your clients and prospects is just that. Old and lacking innovation.
Strong written communication portrays a solid, experienced company. Emails and texts should be clear and concise. Provide all the pertinent information in the simplest and fewest words possible. Everyone would appreciate this since we all get too many emails and texts as it is. Proposals are another area where clients and prospects read your written communication. They want to make sure you understand “their” project and how you will overcome any unforeseen issues or problems. If your firm can point these out during the proposal and interview process, you have communicated to the client that you’ve thought out specific details. It shows you are truly engaged with their project and gives them confidence in your ability to handle it.
Verbal communication is the strongest form of communication. By simply talking with clients and prospects in regards to setting expectations, answering questions, and addressing issues and concerns, you will be ahead of your competitors. Many in the design and building industry are poor communicators, so improving these skills by just 10% will lead to better projects and better clients. Regular conversations before, during, and after a project are instrumental in building relationships (more on that in later chapters).
When interacting in person, body language can speak even louder than words. If you have a disgruntled look on your face, roll your eyes, or stomp around, this will communicate a particular feeling (and not a good one). During a meeting, if you are leaning forward and engaged in the conversation, this shows your interest and commitment to the meeting/discussion. Being on your phone, leaning back in your chair, or gazing off into space all communicate your are NOT interested in what’s being discussed. Your actions speak louder than words.
Communication comes in many forms, and everyone in your company must effectively communicate with clients and prospects. Make sure your employees are well trained in this skill, because many times issues that arise are related to a communication problem. If the interaction would have taken place sooner or in a more in-depth manner, the issue could have been lessened or possibly avoided in the first place.
Use all of your communication skills — visual, written, verbal, and body language — effectively to convey your company’s message, brand, operations, and culture. Each time a client or prospect engages with your company, they are exposed to your message in one of these forms. Your marketing can help to ensure all employees are singing the same company song. Communication is vital to any relationship, but it’s an instrumental piece of an effective marketing plan.