A lifetime ago, in what seems like a galaxy far away, I spent some time in the broadcast industry. More specifically, in a radio studio.
In that era, the fast paced “Top 40” genre topped most markets, and was designed to sound slightly anti-establishment with a shoot-from-the-hip tone. In reality, it was a highly structured, tightly formatted, carefully scripted approach to delivering an experience.
The “clock” (a minute by minute kind of info-graphic of a broadcast hour) ruled. It was based on exhaustive research of what would connect with the target audience, and keep listeners tuned in. The job of the on-air talent was to, in the words of the old Simon & Garfunkel tune, “keep the customer satisfied.”
Anyone that lasted on the air learned quickly that allowing “dead air” — broadcast shorthand for silence between programming elements — was the second biggest mistake one could make. The thought was that even a few seconds of dead air gave the listener reason to disengage…and switch to a competitor.
Broadcasters believed (still do) the work product was packaged in the customer experience. And vice-versa.
Business Development and the Customer Experience
The premise — that valued connections warrant a vigilance that continually engages — is a principle that translates to business development and client service efforts almost anywhere.
The occasional email, quarterly newsletter, annual event or however-well-timed-and-heartfelt-holiday-wish is, by itself, not a strategy that leads to what David Maister termed trusted advisor status. Each might be part of a plan, to be sure; but allow too much dead air in your communication calendar, and no one should be startled when relationship growth proceeds at a snail’s pace. Or, goes nowhere.
For that matter, the savvy radio host knows that staying with one topic too long comes with a high-tune-out factor. One-dimensional messaging can have the same effect on business development efforts.
Quality, multi-dimensional and regular communication is the fabric of a growing relationship.
As is the case with almost everything related to business development, a simple, paint-by-numbers solution for every pursuit does not exist. The elements of strategic communication — the frequency, specific touch-points and nature of the message — depend on alignment with the target in three areas.
- Personal and organizational interests and values
- Organizational goals and aspirations
- Critical business drivers
Understand what a target or key client values most, their short and long term goals, and their most intensely felt business drivers, and the framework for relevant communication elements are in place. If a timing benchmark is helpful, think about connecting in some way ten to twelve times a year. Use your best instincts on timing. Listen to feedback — verbal and non-verbal. Be vigilant. Minimize the dead air.
Think of business development — with targets as well as existing clients — as an opportunity to package an experience, and engage the audience. And watch the quality of your relationships deepen.
(Oh…the first big mistake that could cost a DJ back in the day? Uttering one of what comedian George Carlin referred to in the 1970’s as the seven…words that were off-limits. You can guess what they are.)