11 Communications No-Nos Business Owners make Online and Offline

Communications Online and Offline

The art of communications is as old as the Town Crier, yet it continues to evolve.Communications

Advertising communications used to be the exclusive playground of corporate giants, advertising agencies and was measured in seconds and inches.

Not so today.

Today, anyone with Internet access can advertise and the measurements are in pixels and the number of email subscribers, fan, followers or connections.

Unfortunately, many don’t know how to do communications well.

I’ll walk you through some of the most frequent mistakes I see marketers make online and offline communications.

The Role of Communications

First, let’s talk about the role of communications.

Some associate communications with the shady antics of those in the ad game like Don Draper in Mad Men.  Others think communications, specifically advertising, is a game similar to what one might find in Las Vegas.

That is it in a nut shell.

Communications, regardless of the form, is perhaps the truest representation of what a company and its management is all about.  Watch a couple of ads, listen to the copy, read some blog posts and the call to action and you will know the essence of that company.

Do a gut check. If you gut tells you that this company is lying, it probably is.  If you gut tells you that this organization doesn’t have a clue about what you really want, they probably don’t.

And, in those rare instances, when the communications moves you to take action because it resonated with you, know that what you just experienced is the fine art of good communications.

11 Communications No-Nos

Here are just a few of the communication mistakes I see all of the time – online and offline.

As you review this list, I want you to think of how these errors also apply to your website, your blog, your email campaigns, newspaper, TV or radio ads, online banner ads, mobile ads, your social media ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google, to all of your communications.

1.  No game plan

Often business owners slap an ad in a newspaper or on Facebook one time thinking that’s all they have to do to drive customers through the doors or to the phones.

For advertising or any communications to work, there needs to be a strategy – one that ties to the company’s mission and values:

  • What are the realistic objectives?
  • How long will it take for the communications to begin to penetrate through all of noise and begin to work?
  • Who is the audience and what matters to them?
  • If they respond/don’t respond to this communications, what happens next?
  • Which media is the right place for the ad to run?

2.  Not offering value to the audience

Too often business owners mistakenly believe their communications has to focus on their product or service.

Truth is effective communications is always about the audience, not the product.  Tap into the reasons why your audience wants your product and give them real – not vague or manufactured – reasons why they want to purchase from you.

3.  Ignoring audience perceptions

A recent example of this was a new Walmart ad campaign that generated a good amount of negative reaction.  The ads were great, but they didn’t fit with the perceptions many have of Walmart.  Result?  The communications unintentionally reinforced already held negative impressions of Walmart by viewers.

Be honest with yourself and with your audience.  If your audience has a negative image of your company or of your industry, be big and face it head on in your communications.  After the dust settles, your audience will reward you for being truthful and addressing the issue head-on.

4.  Not tailoring the communications for the audience

Car dealers are a great example of this although Internet Marketers are as bad.  Their persistent message is “come in and buy”.  They ignore the fact that people aren’t motivated to buy simply because they are asked to.  They are motivated to purchase when you tap into their emotional wants and explain why they should prefer you to your competition.

Often this means marketers need a series of communications with tailored messages to different audiences versus yelling the same message to everyone.

5.  Inappropriate tone for the product

There is a health care provider in my state that used to run the most obnoxious TV advertising.  It was so bad, that when my policy was up, I switched.  I felt embarrassed to have them as my carrier.

They were trying to be humorous about what I felt was a serious topic. Worse, the ads weren’t funny.  Instead of laughing, it made me seriously question the management of this company.  If they thought there was something funny about expensive health insurance that I needed, they obviously didn’t know their customers or how they viewed their product.

Humor in any communications is the most difficult to do successfully.  Most importantly, you need to understand how your audience positions and perceives your product and follow their lead.

6.  Using inappropriate images

Infographics and Images have taken on greater importance in recent years. Unfortunately, too few understand the real power of the appropriate visual.

As an example, marketers typically use age to define their audience: 18-34 year old women or 35 – 54 year old men.  With just a little thought, these marketers would realize that an 18 year old woman has very little in common with a 34 year old woman having her first or maybe second child and is a working professional living in the suburbs.

Showing a thin, glamorous 18 year old to a 34 year old women isn’t going to make her want your product.  It’s just going to make her hate you for reminding her that she’s not 18.

Make the images you use in your communications, audience specific.  This leads us to no-no #7.

7.  No pre-testing to determine which communications works best

Do a search and you’ll find countless articles – 579,000,000 results to be exact – on A/B or split testing of the colors of buttons, the copy used on the button, headlines, headline colors, images, offers, layouts.

There is a reason for all of these articles.  Testing really does work.  Here are a few sources to get you testing:  Visual Website Optimizer, Optimizely, KISSmetrics

Caution:  You can’t take the results of another campaign and apply it to your audience and expect it to work.  You have to do the testing and uncover what works for your audience.

8.  Not enough repetition so the communications doesn’t have time to work

I recently read of a study in 2002 that estimated consumers are hit by 3000 messages daily.  This was BEFORE social media, before people started sleeping with their smartphones, before tablets, before Groupon, before Facebook ads.  If it was 3,000 in 2002, it has to be 10,000 or more today.

This is why audiences have become ‘ad blind’.  Their brains have to filter out all this noise.  The result is your communications has to run longer and be repeated more often to cut through all of the noise and begin to make an impression.

As a marketer, you may be tired of a communications campaign because you’ve been living with it for a long time.  But your audience is just beginning to see it.  Give it time to work.

9.  No post measurement to determine ROI

Your communications represents some level of investment that needs to deliver to the bottom line, be that in the short or long-term.

An ad that works great one month may fall flat the next.  You want to keep measuring the ability of your communications to deliver so you can continue to make it better and achieve better results.

10.  No consistency across communications

All of your communications should, in some way, mirror and reinforce the company’s image. This could be through colors, graphical treatment, layout, tag lines, content.

If one visits your website, your Facebook Page, your LinkedIn Company Page or sees your ad in the newspaper or on TV, there should be a familiar look and feel.

The goal is that every time people see your communications, they immediately recognize it as yours.

11.  No integration of communications online and off.

Your email should not stand apart from your website or from your social media accounts.  All should be working together to help magnify your message and your exposure to each member of your audience.

Your Turn

Okay.  That’s my list of communications No-Nos.  What did I forget?

What communications No-Nos do you see out there that you wish would stop?

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Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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