Are there obstacles keeping you from moving forward? Communication expert Ellen LaRose outlines common obstacles you may be facing right now — and strategies for overcoming them.

First, though, you have to believe that communication is a must-do.

If we don’t prioritize communication, it’s not
going to happen

- Ellen LaRose,
Counselor at Morgan&Myers

“Proactive communication is important, has been important and will always be important,” says Ellen LaRose, counselor at Morgan&Myers, an integrated marketing communication agency that offers pasture-to-plate expertise. “If you are not communicating with your customers in some way, they are going to question whether you really want to be their partner.”

Now, let’s get to work and beat those obstacles.

1. How can my message be heard?

“Your customer’s mailbox may be full of 20 different marketing pieces. It can difficult to cut through the clutter and be heard,” says LaRose.

LaRose says to find your niche. See what your competitors are doing. Ask your customers how they like to receive information. LaRose says one method is not enough; try two or three ways to share your dealership’s information and messages. This includes delivery methods, too, because your rural customers may not have access to high-speed internet connections.

Once you hone in on your messages, share them over and over again.

“Define what your dealership is about and bring that message every time. Bringing in a consistent message will help you cut through the clutter,” says LaRose.

2. I don’t have the time.

“We are all stretched to do more with less time. If we don’t prioritize communication, it’s not going to happen,” says LaRose.

Don’t make the mistake of blocking off so many hours in the week, though. LaRose says communication will ebb and flow, based on your method and what you have to communicate that week or month. Instead, it’s more important to assign a person in charge of communication and then to build a long-term calendar, such as for six months. Make that team leader accountable by regularly evaluating their efforts. And, make sure the dealership team is on board to support them.

“You need to agree as a team that you are going to stick to the calendar,” LaRose says.

3. How can I deliver the right information?

LaRose says communication is just like any sales effort in that a customer’s interests and needs come first. Find out those needs by asking questions. LaRose says it doesn’t need to be complicated. Start by asking questions in person, like, ‘I’ve been reading this blog. Are you reading any blogs?’ Or, create a simple online survey, using a tool like SurveyMonkey, and email the link to your customers. You can even gather limited information for free. Encourage participation with some kind of incentive – or not.

“Sometimes, people just like to be asked,” says LaRose.

Ensure you continue to to deliver the right information by encouraging feedback, comments and suggestions.

“It’s not just a matter of ‘Is my message getting out,’ “says LaRose. “You need to have customers looking forward to it.”

Once your communication program is up and running, LaRose says to guard against these pitfalls that will set back any relationships you’re building. First, guard against delivering false information.

“You need to triple-check for accuracy,” she says. And, when you do make the inevitable mistake, be the first to communicate a correction.

Then, guard against one-way communication.

“Every time you communicate, include some sort of call to action,” LaRose says. She says social media tools, like Facebook, offer easy ways to interact. However, even with print ads, you can encourage customers to mention the ad the next time they come in.

Finally, don’t try your customer’s patience and attention span.

“You only have one or two chances to provide relevant information. After that point, you become more noise.”

So, what if you realize your communication program is not what it should be? Make a change and then communicate the new you, says LaRose.

“Tell your customers, ‘We listened to you and we’re changing.’"