How to Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is arguably the most important aspect of doing business for small businesses. You need to communicate the benefits of your products, your capabilities, manage your employees, and work with your clients. Communication is critical to small businesses working well.

How you manage communication breaks out into two overarching categories. How often do you communicate and how clearly you communicate.

Frequency of Communication

The frequency of your communications can have a huge impact on your message. If you communicate infrequently, this can create problems in everything from your blog to your client relationships. People have a certain level of communication expectations. In your blog, infrequent posts mean readers don’t know when to expect a post and will eventually stop trying. For clients, a lack of regular communication and status updates can indicate a problem and create anxiety. Your client might wonder if everything is going well or assume the worst. Under-communicating is probably the worst thing you can do.
Too much communication can cause its own problems. Frequent blog posts don’t give readers time to read what has already been written. They may feel overwhelmed and simply avoid reading anything. Your clients will feel annoyed and pestered if you are constantly pinging them. You may even give the impression of disorder if you are not consolidating your status updates and questions.

As with everything, there is a happy place somewhere in the middle when it comes to communication frequency. Regular postings give your readers something to look forward to and to anticipate. They will appreciate an unexpected post on a particularly pressing issue or a special situation. Clients like regularity in communication as well. They will also know when to expect a status update. Periodically asking questions, sending an email, or just calling and checking in is nice too. It’s a matter of keeping it all within reason.

Clarity of Communication

Communication problems are more often about clarity than frequency. Understanding between everyone involved in the communication is required for it to be successful. The best way to do this is to ensure a few basic rules are followed.

Setting expectations is a great way to ensure clarity of communication. Knowing when a blog post will go live and when a status update will be emailed is a great way to ensure effective communication. Letting people know when you will be out of the office or unavailable is extremely helpful and avoids any misunderstandings. Expectations around the type of communication—email, phone call, etc.—are also useful. This ensures that the format works for all involved. Essentially, establishing the expectations about when, what, and how communication will occur will make everyone comfortable and help them understand what to expect.

Clarifying deliverables is another critical aspect of good communications. This is similar to setting expectations, but goes a step further to tell the receiver what will be provided. In a blog post you may have an editorial calendar that established a certain type of post on a certain day of the week. Letting your readers know you will publish certain content on a certain day helps them know when they should visit your blog. Clarifying deliverables for clients is critical to ensuring they will be getting what they are expecting. Establish what will be delivered, when it will be delivered, and what constitutes completion. Leave nothing assumed—everything should be clearly communicated.

Don’t wait if you suspect there is confusion. If there is any concern that something is not clear or that there is a misunderstanding, take immediate steps to provide clarification or set expectations. The longer you wait to respond to miscommunication just creates more opportunity for things to get out of hand. The faster you act the quicker problems get under control. Wait and miscommunication could easily spiral out of control in no time.

Finally, if nothing is working, then trying something new. Everyone has their own way of communicating and sometimes it doesn’t work for the receiver. Don’t be afraid to ask if what you are saying makes sense or if there are questions. Try a different way of communicating if one isn’t working. A great example is picking up the phone if emailing doesn’t work, or setting up an in-person meeting if the phone isn’t working. Remember, as the one communicating it is your responsibility to ensure the receiver understands.