Marketing is all about communication.
It’s the practice of communicating a brand’s message to its audience.
Needless to say, as a marketing professional, you’ll need to possess a high level of communication in terms of customer service and within your internal team.
You’ll have the conventional communication responsibilities of a manager as well as needing to be able to create clear and concise campaigns that speak directly to your target audience.
Can you create messages that resonate with those who matter? Can you coordinate those messages as part of an overarching campaign?
The answers to these questions will depend on how great your communication skills are.
But don’t worry — if you’re not quite nodding your head yet, we’ll teach you how to build them.
Customer Service Communication Skills
As well as the ability to advertise, master marketers must also be able to guide and deliver superior customer service.
Gone are the days of traditional advertising and short-term effort on behalf of brands.
Now, customers need constant reassurance that their purchase matters through continually nurturing a brand and buyer relationship.
You’ll need to be prepared to deal with complaints on social media, face up to common concerns on your blog and get geared up to provide consistent benefits for loyal customers. All of which require experience in customer service.
Here are some examples of customer service communication skills:
- Empathy and “Mirroring”
- Effective Listening
- Positive Body Language
- Professional Language
- Accurate Information Giving
- Transparency and Honesty
All of these skills require marketers to balance between being a professional voice and being a relatable friend.
Ironically, giving customer service is less about the “giving” part.
Customers increasingly want to be heard without interruption. They want their problems to be listened to and then dealt with accordingly. If dealt with correctly, brands won’t have to say much — just the right thing.
And although you might follow brand protocol and guidelines to navigate similar situations, you shouldn’t make it feel routine to a customer.
When dealing with a disgruntled customer, personalisation is key. Using a customer’s name and showing personal understanding and empathy for the situation goes a long way.
We call this the “mirroring” technique where marketers match the sentiment of the customer they’re interacting with. Mirroring helps to avoid an “us” and “them” situation where buyers feel brands are against them.
How Customer Service Communication Skills Are Changing
Most of these skills are static — unlike other marketing assets like planning skills — meaning once you’ve gained them, you’ll never have to worry again. However, some are more important than others depending on changing customer behaviours.
Younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials who are becoming the world’s biggest spenders are increasingly interested in transparency and honesty as well as accurate information giving.
For these customers, excuses just won’t work.
They’ll want to see actionable progress and frank explanations in response to their grievances.
The ways we give customer service as marketers will also change as customers begin populating new spaces.
In the last decade, marketers have had to learn how to best respond to complaints on social media, which have skyrocketed in recent years.
This new public approach to customer service has made these types of communication skills even more important as a failure to provide satisfactory services is seen by thousands of followers as well as the individuals involved in the process.
How to Build and Improve Customer Communication Skills
By now, you know why customer service skills are so important. But what should you do to improve them?
Generally, you’ll want to gain some face-to-face service experience and watch how other brands deal with difficult situations.
Do you lack in a specific area? Here’s how to refine each skill:
Empathy and “Mirroring” — Empathy is often built as a result of life experience. However, it’s also possible to consciously hone this skill. You can do this by walking through the buyer’s process regularly. This technique allows you to familiarise yourself with a buyer’s common problems and frustrations, allowing you to understand better why events like delayed shipping or misleading information can lead to such strong reactions.
Effective Listening — Do you catch yourself cutting off the other person regularly? Or are you guilty of just not taking the information in? You’ll need to change your perception of listening from it being a polite social convention to something required for effective communication. Your customer’s feedback is crucial. It provides valuable information about how to approach a problem and paints a broader picture of how your marketing is working. Try leaving a few seconds before you speak to let the other person’s words register and reconfirm what has been said by repeating a customer’s statement to ensure you’ve perceived the information correctly.
Positive Body Language — The key thing here is to become more aware of your body language as you communicate. You can improve this just by recording yourself and noting how a slump in your posture or a closed-off gesture can taint the message that you’re giving. Also, watching others give successful feedback, powerful speeches and motivating talks should give you some new stances to adopt.
Professional Language — Using the correct language will depend on the situation. For example, you might choose to be less formal on social media than you are in emails or reporting. However, creating a brand voice will help to keep your messaging consistent. Your brand guidelines should store this information. In customer service, you should also refrain from using negative language banishing words like “can’t” and “won’t” from your vocabulary.
Personalisation — Tailoring your customer service doesn’t have to get too technical. You can start by making a concerted effort to address the customer by their name. To become a pro, you can focus on remembering individual facts about the customer’s account or use the help of automation to personalise responses.
Accurate Information Giving — Again, the creation of brand guidelines will help you out in this regard. This document will contain much more than the brand voice, also helping to shed light on company policies and figures. Keeping accurate records or using software to do this for you will also enhance your ability to quickly pull up accurate information, as well as having a tight-knit relationship with your team (we’ll talk more about that later).
Transparency and Honesty — To be transparent, you’ll need to learn how to give enough information to satisfy concerned customers yet not disclose anything confidential. Transparency is a company concern and shouldn’t rest on one person’s shoulders. As such, you might want to improve this company-wide by making it a focus for future campaigns. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t rush to generate responses or say things simply to close down the conversation. Saying less and allowing the customer to vent will stop you from making any false promises.
Persuasion — You might have persuasive advertising. But to be persuasive on a lower level, you’ll need to get personal. To be able to persuade a customer, you’ll need to go back to the point of personalisation using your knowledge about them to figure out what they find valuable. Your mirroring technique will also help to get an individual on side, by matching their tone of voice, volume and sentiment before making your pitch.
Internal Communication Skills
Now to the manager portion of your job role.
As a marketing manager, you’ll need to possess internal communication skills that will allow you to effectively manage team relationships.
This is the art of office politics and is what will turn stagnant workers into engaged individuals.
Needless to say, internal communication skills are necessary for productive work. Ultimately, they’ll help to enhance the message you’re sending to your customers.
Here are some examples of internal communication skills:
- Confident Leadership
- Respectful Authority
- Spoken and Written Communication
- SMART Analysis
- Emotional Intelligence
As you may have noticed, all of these skills centre around managing relationships with employees.
Collectively, these skills will carry you through day-to-day conversations and strategic performance appraisals.
Internal communication skills are sometimes referred to as “soft skills” or “interpersonal skills”. Both phrases mean you have the ability to effectively interact with someone.
Some of these skills are regarded as inherent to managers, such as being a confident leader or dealing with a group of people objectively.
Others are listed as a bonus to benefit you and your team, such as being flexible or setting SMART goals. Not every manager possesses these skills — these are the cherry on top of the cake, allowing your organisation to get ahead.
Younger employees, in general, are more receptive to skills like flexibility, which suits their ever-changing lifestyles.
How Internal Communication Skills Are Changing
The growing workforce is forcing internal communication to change.
However, much of a manager’s skill set will stay the same — but as with customer service communication, the context may change.
For example, you may start to deal with an influx of casual workers with a freelance contract or an agreement for a singular gig. To effectively communicate with people, managers need to deploy the same spoken and written communication skills. However, they may also need to learn to be more flexible and patient in this scenario.
That said, we’ve come a long way from treating people like machines as was propounded by Taylor in his scientific management theory.
As a result, some age-old skills were tweaked, such as being“respectful” to authority, creating a more democratic approach to work.
Emotional intelligence has also crept into the mix, given the discovery that everybody works and responds to management differently.
Internal communication is now much more balanced between company goals and employee wellbeing, meaning trends like remote work and flexible holidays are becoming mainstream.
How to Build and Improve Internal Communication Skills
It’s important to note that everyone’s internal communication skills are always improving.
Even established leaders are finding new ways to better support workers and respond to the different values of the emerging workforce.
Nobody is ever done learning.
So, regardless of your perceived skill level, there will be something for you to learn here.
For all seven of the internal communication skills listed, we’ve found ways to improve them:
Confident Leadership — Having confidence is not about masking weakness or becoming a robot. Instead, confident leadership is often about becoming more open and honest — even if that is to share how something is currently going wrong. To refine this skill, it’s advised to network with other leaders and choose a more established leader as a mentor.
Flexibility — We suspect this skill is where most managers will find difficulty. Sometimes being flexible can seem like you’re sacrificing control. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. To be more flexible, you’ll need to refine your preparation skills and use contingency plans. You’ll also need to be clearer about your expectations to shift your focus to an employee’s goals instead of the route they take to get there.
Respectful Authority — As a manager, you’ll need to be the voice of authority, yet avoid tactics that will divide your team or cause resentment. You should feel comfortable to say “no” as a superior but always explain your reasoning. You should also pay attention to the tone of your voice and remove any fluff. While being more direct may sound like a harsh approach at first, in the long run, it will build respect and understanding within your team.
Spoken and Written Communication — You should already be an expert copywriter — so don’t forget to utilise this skill when communicating with employees. Team members need just as much clarity as customers receive in blogs and advertisements. This means drafting emails, thinking about your overarching message and even allowing another senior leader to vet your communication — on the most important things — just as an editor would. If you find yourself frequently asking open-ended questions or being too suggestive, try to rewire this speech to become more concise.
SMART Analysis — As a boss, it’s not enough to set expectations, you’ll also need to show your employees how to reach them. The creation of SMART goals — which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound — is the way forward. To create these, you’ll need to work on being more analytical. To do this, you should learn to review employee data or simply set time aside to assess your team’s dynamic, strengths and weaknesses.
Emotional Intelligence – To be able to respond to things with emotional intelligence, you’ll need to clear your state of mind and focus on other people’s emotions. To do this, you’ll need to focus on continual self-development and maintaining a motivated mindset. Try to avoid being distracted by your feelings and thoughts and work on being present in the moment. Reflection can also help to form emotional intelligence, so if an intense work event has occurred, allow yourself some time to process this.
Objectivity — Being objective stops you from introducing bias and making decisions that are unfair or based on your past experiences. Referring to SMART goals, statistics and reliable feedback are all methods for forming considered responses to an incident rather than a knee jerk reaction. Individuals may find it hard to be completely objective, which is why refining this skill is all about looking to outside sources such as trusted peers and automated reports.