Communication is King

Nearly a century ago, fans of the American comedy duo Abbott and Costello were made familiar with the popular “Who’s on First?” comedy routine they performed regularly. The premise of the sketch was that Abbott was trying to identify players on a baseball team for Costello, but their names and nicknames were interpreted as non-responsive answers to Costello’s questions. What’s interesting about this comedic back-and-forth exchange is that it was both right (both parties were correct in what they were saying) and absurd at the same time. That’s probably what makes it so funny, even to this day. And what it underscores now more than ever, is that communication is key in life – and in business. In fact, a recent study conducted by LinkedIn shows that the number one skill hiring managers are looking for is the ability to communicate effectively.

So what happens to your business when there’s a communication breakdown?

  • Basic tasks fall to the wayside
  • Schedules become disorganized
  • Roles and functions are not assigned
  • Salespeople and staff get frustrated and restless
  • Customers can feel neglected and lose interest

Why is communication important in business?

Every aspect of your company depends on effective communication. From internal communications to scouting for new business, interaction with someone else is a part of daily culture. Excellent business communication is crucial to maintain healthy workplace relations between the employer and employees. It is also just as necessary to create and maintain lasting relationships between company and clientele. 

Business communication skills include:

  • Verbal communication over the phone or in-person
  • Written communication via e-mail, chat, or text
  • Collaborating and working with a team for a common goal
  • Active listening and problem solving
  • Networking and negotiating

Regardless of the size of your business, you will benefit from assessing how your business communicates internally and externally. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your business communication for success.

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

If you have a clear vision of your goals, you are off to a great start. But it’s important to must communicate these goals in the best way so that all parties involved are on the same page and can carry out what is necessary to complete objectives. That way, everyone knows what’s expected from them and what challenges they may face along the way. Everyone will also understand what they are working towards which will improve overall work performance.

Build a More Dedicated Team

Open communication in the workplace will help create a more cohesive team that can flow from one project or challenge to the next. When employees feel like they are valued and that their opinion matters, they will contribute more and have a better attitude doing it. Increased efficiency and productivity will result. Also, if the team unit is secure, employees will become loyal not only to each other but to the company itself. They are less likely to jump ship when problems arise. If there is an issue, you already have the lines of communications open to put out the fires as the spark. 

Earn the Trust and Loyalty of Your Customers

The same goes for how you communicate with potential and existing clients. If you use effective communication strategies, you will earn their trust and loyalty over time. That means you must anticipate their needs and keep reaching out to them after the initial handshake or sale. Follow up to make sure they are still happy, and if not, find solutions to the various hiccups that can happen after an initial business transaction or decision. Companies who show clients that they understand them, know their needs, and want to help, are more successful every time. 

Improve Customer Service

There is nothing worse than getting negative feedback about your customer service. It only takes one of these unhappy experiences to turn a loyal client against a brand forever.  Be sure your team understands the importance of business communication in customer care. How they react and attempt to solve customer issues will directly impact the company positively, and just as easily affect it negatively. The truth is, so many companies fall short in this department due to poor communication on the company’s end. The best brands are those known to take care of their customers well after purchase.  

Ensure Transparency

Transparency and effective communication will help you manage customer expectations and reduce negative reviews by teaching you how to deal with angry customers and solve problems. The same goes for dealing with your employees. If you’re upfront and open, your staff and salespeople will be more likely to voice their unhappiness or concerns in certain situations that could otherwise bring down the entire team. In turn, they will be more inclined to trust upper management’s decisions in the future.

Sales strategy and effective marketing techniques may rule your business, but communication will always be king when it comes to success inside and outside your organization.

Nothing is Normal

Well, here we are. It has been six months since Covid-19 shook our world, and I am getting tired. I have finally realized that the term “new normal” means nothing is normal anymore. This is a huge admission for me and probably for many others as well.

Anyone who has any familiarity with what a 12-step program is (I am a member) knows that accepting where you are is critical in learning how to survive. Don’t worry as I am not going to get preachy, but I think this is important for all of us to understand.

There is one other strong suggestion that is communicated to people looking for a better life, and it states that we should not spend a lot of time comparing things today with the past. Doing this is a huge waste of time and extremely counterproductive. It can lead to one feeling down and depressed or feeling like things are okay and that there’s no need to change anything.

The reality for all of us is things have changed. We need to accept where we are now, and we need to react accordingly. The cards have been dealt, so now we have to “play the hand” or fold!

Below are some steps that each of us can take to survive, not in the new normal, but to survive in business today and into the future.

  1. Business owners need to get their financial house in order. Bring expenses in line with your current sales NOW! Don’t budget based on 2019 sales! Enough said.
  2. Salespeople should review all customers to examine their viability for the future. This is your pipeline for income. Will your current pipeline provide you with what you need for income? The answer today for most people is NO. Oh-oh… I need to act to change this!
  3. Salespeople MUST acquire new accounts. Look towards companies or industries that are coping or adapting well to today’s world as they will provide the best opportunities for future income.
  4. Owners and salespeople should have all their suppliers vetted. Consolidate your sales with those that provide the best support and services and those that have a strong financial foundation. Many companies are very unstable (both suppliers and distributors). Partner with those that are here for the long term!
  5. Learn how to source and provide Personal Protective Equipment to your current customers and to NEW customers. These sales will help offset unexpected losses in other areas like event planning.
  6. Hone your communication methods and skills to meet today’s new marketplace. Reach out and talk to customers where they are. Also, find prospects where they are. The quality of your communications and presentations say a lot about who you are and what you bring to the table.
  7. Surround yourself with positive people. This might be easier said than done today but doing this or not doing this will have a great impact on your results.
  8. Do not be afraid to ask for help! You can ask industry peers who you know in your local associations. You can call some of the larger industry distributors to see what assistance they might be able to offer. Remember it does not hurt to talk and it just might help!

The ultimate goal is to stay in business and to be successful going forward. To do that, you’ve got to take the time to look at your situation today and to make a solid plan for the future. Once you’ve done this, you can begin taking the steps needed to grow and thrive.

Work-Life Balance: Tipping the scale in the right direction

As I sent my kiddos off to school for our new normal, every other day learning plan. I realized I had my house to myself for the first time in almost six months. I love my kiddos and they are mostly self-sufficient, but the days have been louder than I am used to. I can find the bright spots in the gifts of this strange time but part of being my best is in quiet and solitude and I experienced this wholeheartedly this week for the first time in six months.

Being alone in quiet surroundings is not something I never thought I would crave. Quiet is part of how I operate at my highest capacity. I am an early riser because I know, I’m at my best before the sun comes up. My mind is fresh and sharp. I can accomplish my most challenging tasks very early in the morning. This also feeds my soul with the need for quiet and solitude. I have shifted this time earlier over the years to maximize my efficiencies into this productive time slot by myself.

When the hustle and bustle get moving in the afternoon with three active and busy kiddos, my mind is more scattered, and my thoughts shift to assisting in the coordination of schedules. The evenings are held for family and cooking together unless everyone is off at practice and this is another opportunity to carve out what I need to do. This is all carefully orchestrated. Maximize my skills at my best times. Fully engage with my family at the best times. Every day is a conscious choice to make it all happen.

How do you work at your best? Are you up before the sun or are you a night owl who can dive into a project after the day is almost done? I wish I could be more of a night owl- it is just not me. Knowing how you operate and how to fit each piece of your puzzle of life is important! When you find a way to make your life fit best for you- that is the closest thing to balance that we can achieve.

What choices are you making? Do you have the flexibility of choice to operate your business the way you want to? Do you have the security and peace of mind that everything is covered while you step into each role of your life? The Vernon Company has helped generations of Account Executives to find their stride…to make the best choices for them as individuals and the freedom to craft what they want out of life. More family time. More trips. More time for that run with a friend. Now, more time to assist the family through the schooling process as so much of it is done at home in our current situation.

What is it that you want? We can help those dreams come true. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. Welcome to the good life.

Communication will always be important.

We hosted another one of our Coffee Collaboration Zoom calls last week.  We’ve been holding these since the beginning of Covid-19 to connect with our team in a positive new way.  I am always delighted to see everyone join these forums.  We begin the call with a coffee, toast then a quick way to break the ice.  We then head into smaller breakout sessions with our peers to discuss specific topics.  At Vernon, we’ve found this to be a great way to communicate and “buddy” up with our peers.   We’re finding ways to share ideas, propose solutions to challenges, and balance workloads in these unusual times.  If you’re not with Vernon, reach out to your local association or directly to PPAI to see what events they’re holding and take advantage of our incredible network.

I remain inspired by what I am experiencing on these calls.  No one could have predicted how advantageous and effective collaboration could be in a time when many we ready to declare defeat and wait for normalcy to return. 

Success most often requires teamwork – in an unexpected blow to in-person collaboration, we’ve found a way to succeed together in the Information Age. 

What teens can teach us about brand loyalty.

There are so many things I’m learning from raising boys. When they were younger, it was the usual – and obvious – things. Mine, in particular, were very rowdy. I remember saying, “No, Mom is not your jungle gym,” on more than a handful of occasions. Mine were also louder than others, or so it seemed in our tiny house. And if I remember correctly, they were also very inquisitive and both could negotiate their way out of nearly any situation when challenged. What’s interesting, is that with each step and misstep, I continue to learn from them. I am surprised how often I expect to be the teacher, yet, I constantly am reminded that I can also be their student.

Lately, their strongest influences seem to be their peers insofar as what’s cool, what’s “lit” and what’s a “cap” (which apparently means a lie). Of course, as has been the case for decades, that extends to what they wear and how they wear it. In today’s culture, the fascination and dependence on social media and by extension social media influencers permeates so much of their personalities. It’s not unusual to see teenagers randomly doing dances they’ve seen – and memorized – on TicTok or proudly wearing some “merch” featuring a saying or logo from a YouTuber they follow. It’s literally everywhere. Which to me is a little crazy, given that when I owned a pair of “cool Jordache” jeans when I was a kid, that was a huge deal. Brands were not as savvy then as they are now.

But when I think about the fact that in fewer than 10 years, both of my boys will (hopefully) be well out of college and could possibly making buying decisions within their workplaces, it makes me want to know and understand the importance of creating brand loyalty early and consistently. If anything, we can all learn something from hugely successful brands like Apple and Google. These are the companies that clearly know the value of having brand loyalists who can, in turn, advocate on your behalf. On a small scale, it happens in my own household with one son finding a new, cool influencer and sharing them with his brother and his friends.

So the question is, how hard are you working to build these types of relationships with and for your promo buyers? Are you showing them that you know what’s happening in the promo industry, offering solutions to their marketing problems and assisting them with marketing their brand? For your buyers, YOU are the cool promo expert who knows what can help them create brand loyalists and advocates. The result of cultivating these types of relationships for them, is that they’ll appreciate that you’ve gone the extra mile. They’ll understand that you made a difference in their business. Best of all, they’ll come back to you the next time they have a marketing or branding challenge.

Vernon Company Recognized as Top 40 Distributor

NEWTON, IA—The Vernon Company has been named one of the 2020 Top 40 Distributors in the promotional products industry by the Advertising Specialty Institute’s (ASI) Counselor magazine.  With a 5-year annual average growth rate of 4%, Vernon is 27th on the annual list of top-ranking industry organizations.

“We are very proud to be recognized again as one of the leading firms in our industry,” says Chris Vernon, MAS, Vernon Company CEO.  “We believe our success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication our Account Executives and support staff provide every day, helping clients find effective solutions to their marketing and branding needs.” 

The annual Top 40 Distributor ranking identifies the largest promotional product distributor companies in the nation, based on their previous year’s revenue, as reported to ASI. Vernon reported 2019 audited sales volume at $80.6 million.

The Vernon Company is recognized as one of the largest and most successful promotional product firms in North America. Founded in 1902 by F.L. Vernon, we serve more than 40,000 customers from our Newton, Iowa corporate headquarters.

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