Sales are essential for any business but they are not the only goal when marketing and communicating with stakeholders. Simply chasing sales can be detrimental if not part of a broader, sustainable plan. When SRF is asked to provide advice and assistance to companies, we ensure that certain other considerations are taken into account.
Firstly, businesses should charge a fair price and will need a communications strategy to explain and maintain the rationale for that price, whether the figure is high or low. You only need to look at both Poundland and Apple to see how each company campaigns to justify their particular price point. Stakeholders need to be reminded why you sell at that price and how that price is affected. This transparency can be as simple as explaining that fuel costs are variable for a transport company or used as a USP for a business such as wine brand Alit.
Compete on the same terms
Whilst businesses will always seek to obtain an advantage over their competitors, they also need to keep customers informed so their buying decision is based on a comparison on the same terms. So as much as this is making sure your competitive advantages are understood, it can also be about lifting the standards for your market sector and educating the market about its own expectations. Working with respected competitors to share best practice and promoting regulatory guidelines to customers help inform stakeholders about a shared governance.
Many businesses start with the guiding principles of their founders as values. As businesses evolve, however, values need to become part of the structured messaging both within and outside the company. With growth comes a much greater responsibility to communicate the ethics of the organisation and how that organisation interacts with the outside world. Paragons of the environment such as Patagonia which ring-fenced their internal child-care provision even through their toughest years have made their values their message. Not every business needs to be a campaigner but make sure people know what you do care about.
At SRF we are keen on listening and we encourage our clients to listen as much as possible. Whether through user panels, social media or independent review sites, valuable feedback can be sourced and analysed. Many businesses are becoming better organised in these areas and working on methods for applying the lessons learnt from this intelligence. One of the most rewarding outcomes from such activity is reporting back to the customers, both directly and indirectly. This is true engagement, where an authentic dialogue between customer and company results in shared appreciation of an issue and future collaboration can be created. There will be serial complainers but these can be identified and the benefits from engaging with people, who are sufficiently motivated to make contact with you, can be significant.
The Reputation Institute has conducted research which shows that more than ever consumers are placing more importance than ever on the behaviour of business. The scrutiny from outside a company has never been as overwhelming and there is nowhere to hide. This is not about being perfect but being open and honest when mistakes are made. At SRF we mentor our clients in the art of giving sincere apologies, not simply using a scripted response but be prepared to participate in a dialogue which recognises failings, apologises and makes genuine attempts to resolve the problem.
The upside of all these strategies is that whilst they may not directly generate sales, their indirect benefits will include increased awareness, enhanced reputation and improved stakeholder relations.