This is the first of a three-part blog series designed to help ag advisors create and send proactive communications to their targeted audiences.
Proactive communication is a good thing, so why does it seem so hard to do?
Too often communication with customers is the result of being reactive. You receive a call when they are dealing with an issue and need a solution fast. While not a bad thing, the ability of an advisor to effectively react to every call and text message during the busy seasons like planting and harvest is severely limited. When customers have to wait too long for a response they can become frustrated, putting stress on the relationship you've worked hard to build.
So, what can you do?
One way to help manage the chaos of being in ‘reactive-only’ mode is to turn the situation around and provide proactive communication such as product tips, industry news, key solutions, and important updates and alerts in anticipation of your customers; needs. This helps prepare your customers for known issues before they happen and gives them insights into the solution, easing the distress of a difficult situation.
Seems simple enough.
Unfortunately, many groups struggle to get started, when, in reality, it’s not that difficult at all. Below are four steps to get you started and keep you proactively communicating with your customers.
Step 1: Commit to proactively communicating
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s the step most people overlook and it’s also the most important. So, what does it mean to commit to proactively communicating? It means you take the task off your proverbial Wish List and put it on your weekly To-Do List. Putting it on your calendar (in pen, not pencil) makes it real and is a constant reminder. You should block out 15-30 minutes a week to craft and deliver the communication to your customers.
ProTip: Make others in your organization aware of the commitment. Talking to colleagues helps hold you accountable to the task. As a bonus, schedule time on a team member’s calendar to ensure creation and delivery of the planned communication..
Step 2: Pre-determine your communication topics
A typical barrier for many advisors is determining what to communicate to customers. Initially, there appears to be an endless sea of things to communicate, but as the rubber hits the road, things become more real and the sea of ideas becomes harder to pin down. This is a deterrent for many and ultimately stops the communication. Creating a pre-determined list of topics relieves the pressure of coming up with an idea in the moment and makes it easier to move forward with your scheduled communication.
ProTip: In the second installment of our blog series, we help you determine the topics, but in the meantime, here is a sneak peek to get your juices flowing:
- Review last year’s most common issues
- Provide information on solutions, not sales
- Inform of unusual findings or relevant issues
- Focus on a smaller group of customers to make the communication specific
Step 3: Find the right tools
With any project, having the right tools is half the battle, and sending proactive communications is no exception. Since most communication platforms aren't equipped to handle mass communications, finding and utilizing a platform outside of your current systems is likely necessary. With the right communication tool, the difficulty of getting your message out goes away eliminating another barrier.
ProTip: Find a tool that is easily accessible and integrated into your current way of working. Planning when to send proactive communications helps your commitment, but the ability to be spontaneous with messages is just as important. Any tool you choose should make it easy and not be a barrier.
Step 4: Rinse and repeat
Regular communication shows a continued commitment and engagement with your customers. Regular updates, tips, and solutions builds trust and helps keep you top-of-mind so when a customer has an issue, you are the one they call. With your calendar reminders set and pre-determined topics list created, you have removed many of the barriers that regularly cause people to stop proactively communicating.
ProTip: Make sending proactive communications a priority by including it as one of your yearly SMART goals. Make it tangible by laying out specifics on the frequency and types of your communication. Then, when your calendar reminds you to take action (from Step 1), you are less likely to disregard it.