Our friends at Dictionary.com define the word communicate this way:
To impart knowledge of; make known: to communicate information
This is something companies are very good at. They should be. Big companies have entire departments dedicated to communicating. They “impart information” and make their messages known on a grand scale. For decades, big business (and small business too) has spentvast amounts of money perfecting the fine art of communicating.
Trouble is, being a skilled communicator isn’t worth much anymore.
Because, as the definition above implies, communicating is a one-way deal. To be successful, all you have to do is make your story known. If you are heard and understood, you have communicated.
Back in the day, that was fine. It was all we customers expected. We lacked the mother lode of information we enjoy today. Back when guys like “Mad Men” were heroes, customers needed more information about products, services and brands. So companies obliged us.
But times have changed.
As customers, we no longer need businesses to send a tidal wave of information our way. We can get all we need on our own now (thank you very much.) A better way for companies to help us (and attract us) would be to share their knowledge with us. Don’t knock us down with your highly polished and artificial message. Help us up with your rich databank of understanding.
And you do this best by having conversations with us.
Let’s go back to our pals at Dictionary.com. They have another word that works better than communicate:
Conversate: To socialize and chat; to converse with another
With apologies to English teachers for the back-formation, this word says it all. In ten letters it reminds us of how our world has changed. It tells us what we need to do to attract and keep customers. Stop “imparting information”. Stop pushing your story at people. Stop yelling and telling.
Starting having conversations with customers.