Talk to Me

Before, during, and after the sale. Beyond your own voice, and your staff’s. Beyond live Customer Service.

What speaks for you when you’re not around?

20 Must-Have Tools

1. Business cards: Come on, small business owners. What are you waiting for???

2. Letterhead. And thank-you notes. Get ‘em. Then use them. You will stand out.

3. Your voicemail message: In my humble opinion, none of us must answer the phone 24/7. But you’d sure better have a pleasant voicemail message. Why not use it to say more than Hello, and give a little tease? At the very least, direct customers to your website, where they may find the answer to their question, or become interested in another solution you have for them.

4. Bio: Printed, for use when speaking, doing press releases, sending promotional kits; on your website, so people who are looking for you online can get to know “the real you” a little better.

5. Capabilities brochures, sells sheets, mini-portfolio: The humble brochure is not dead, but so many folks who create them, apparently, are. Get fresh with the design of yours. Include tips, quips, something to make it a giveaway that’s tough to throw away.

6. Order forms, invoices: Nothing says “we don’t care” like ugly and hard to understand forms. DO something about it.

7. Packaging: For service businesses—maybe not so obvious, but this can include binders or presentation folders for proposals… these days even office-store supplies can be minimally customized for your company. For products—ready for the cliché? Think outside the box. Seriously.

8. Hang tags: For products—some people keep these as if they’re business cards. Make sure yours has plenty to say.

9. Website: Think I shouldn’t have this on the list? Check it out—Over 45% of small business owners still don’t have a website. Jump now!

10. FAQs: A subset of your website, but too crucial not to get its own mention. Answer your customers’ questions, not the things you wish they’d ask.

11. Email: This is duh! to many of you, but I’ll say it anyway. A professional email address uses your business’ domain name. Like —no gmail, yahoo, or hotmail for your business purposes, please? (What you use after dark is your own affair.)

12. Blog: The ultimate communications tool for small business. If you can write interestingly, and can develop a consistent pace, you should do it. Even if it’s only once or twice a week.

13. Press releases: Go modern and e-release for free with prlog.

14. Get interviewed: A fast-growing site to help you become a resource for reporters is Peter Shankman’s If I Can Help a Reporter Out. If you’re the expert in your field, and you want others to know it, mix this in with traditional methods, building relationships with local reporters.

15. Traditional advertising: Why is everyone more excited to get customers from around the globe than from around the bend? (In case you missed it, click here to visit our talk about this earlier in the week.)

16. Coupons: Next to “free,” nothing grabs attention like “% Off.” Use it, sparingly. You don’t want to be the low-price leader, but if you can grab attention with a coupon and hold it with your amazing product or service, there are times when you take the attention.

17. Traditional articles, in traditional newspapers and magazines: If you’ve got a blog already, you know you can do this! If you haven’t, try having a friend interview you to loosen you up. Then ask what he or she found was nugget in that interview that’s going to get others interested, and write—as if you’re simply continuing the talk. Focus on providing information the reader can put to use right away. Start with your small local rags and specialty/ industry magazines that your customer is likely to read—not your industry, theirs!, and work your way up.

18. Great photography: Of yourself, your place of business, your products, your results. Photography gets a separate mention as a communications tool because you’ll need it in so many of the other tools. A picture really does say a thousand words, and a crummy picture never shuts up. Do yours make customers say wow?

19. Public speaking: If there is a better way to communicate with prospects than to, umm, communicate with prospects, I don’t know what it is. I didn’t say 20 easy tools! Try to find a luncheon to speak at, a workshop to teach, a panel to be a part of… get out there and talk about the problems your potential clients face every day.

20. Referrals: A tool? Yes, referrals are your clients or other partners doing the communicating for you. You need this tool most of all! You have less control, but there are infinitely more benefits to word-of-mouth. Make actively encouraging referrals part of your everyday client discussions… as a P.S. on your letters, as part of your email signature, and even with small rewards. Don’t forget to write a thank-you for their referral!

+ 5 Takeaways

To make sure your tools are communicating effectively:

Be engaging! Be witty if that works for you, be thought-provoking, tug emotions. Be yourself.

Stay sharply focused on the customer’s needs and wants.

Get on the web. Most of your clients are, and many of your competitors still aren’t. BUT, don’t forget to reinforce your offline marketing communications. A lot of people still aren’t online, and web surfers themselves are notoriously blind to marketing messages.

Go with traditional, tried-and-true methods: Zig when everybody else wants to zag. Twitter’s great, but I buy my pizza with a coupon. Think about what works for you.

Make it remark-able.

Got a business communications tool to add to this list? What do you think every business owner should have, or have done better, to speak for them when they’re not around?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson