I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Repeat annual report content?

Annual report coversMost annual reports contain the same general information year after year.

Whether it is an introduction, history of the business, outlining products, naming directors or key staff, there are sections of an annual report that don’t change much over the years.

Repeat the wording?

The fastest option therefore is to use exactly the same wording in those sections every year, just changing small details as necessary. The freshest option would be to rewrite all those sections.

There are pros and cons to both options, such as:

  1. if you assume most people don’t read annual reports from cover to cover, and probably don’t remember last year’s report in depth anyway, not changing the words would probably escape attention from the majority of people
  2. repeating the wording not only saves you time rewriting the content but also in gathering feedback and approvals on it – it was approved last year so will meet the criteria this year too (if major style changes have occurred, copying old content isn’t an option!)
  3. it looks a bit slack and old to anybody who does notice the wording hasn’t changed
  4. it is easy to make errors when you assume ‘oh it was ok last year so I’ll just skim read this bit’ and miss the reference to ‘our new office’ a year later or forget to update 2012-11 to 2011-12.
  5. content from the annual report can be copied and used elsewhere because it is approved, public information. Updating the content each year is a nice way to update basic information in numerous places so your profile is kept fresh and interesting
  6. depending on how your annual report is presented online, you could end up with what appears to be duplicate content on your site (if four pdfs are all 33% the same, for example, there will be a lot of repetition). Search engines do not like duplicate content and can penalise your site for it
  7. staff can get bored rereading the same words – new content gives them fresh wording to utilise in presentations and on phone calls, too

So what do you think – would you be unhappy getting an annual report that was largely the same as last year’s? Would you even notice?

Repeat what works

“if it aint broke, don’t fix it” is an expression that really makes sense to me. I see no reason to spend time on something that is working when other things need my attention.

Yes, everything in business should get reviewed periodically to check for possible improvements. But reinventing the wheel each time you do something is just a waste of time in my mind.

For example, if your current marketing plans keep you a steady stream of clients that meets your work and profit requirements, then stick to it! Keep an eye on new avenues but don’t drop the past efforts to grab the latest trends like twitter and Facebook – those new things may not work with your audience for one thing, and it will take time for you to learn the most effective ways to use new ideas in your business.

I came across a sales page recently which talked about repeating simple procedures – I thought it made good sense and reminded me of the above quotation. The writer made the point that a surgeon follows the same steps every time a certain operation is performed, a javelin thrower throws the same way every time and a bank uses the same forms and processes for every loan they approve.

Having a simple procedure makes it easier to complete a task, but more importantly, it ensures you get the best results in the most efficient way every time – even if different people carry out that same process.

For things that are working well in your business, do you have a simple procedure to follow? And that someone else could follow for you? Once you write out such procedures you can save time to work on the things that are broken – and prepare procedures in those areas to find an effective way to do those tasks.

It’s not quite the same as leave good things alone, but having a written procedure for things that work allows for almost-mindless repetition so things keep running along smoothly.

No magic bullet

Would you like to find a ‘magic bullet’ that will suddenly make your business a success and bring in all the income you hope and plan for? Sounds wonderful doesn’t it but I don’t think it really exists – although you may find various ways to make improvements (especially if you are new to business).

I came across a list of 5 essentials to a healthy business which basically reminds us that we have to repeat the basics, not matter how boring, to make our business succeed.

Have a read and let me know if you agree with Jack’s list .

Use your words wisely!

Making an offer

A few days ago I wrote about a beautician sign offering 50% off clients, focussing on the poorly communicated message.

I have another issue with that sign, and their special offer for new clients.

Offering new clients a major discount (50% is big) may well bring in more customers and keep them busy, which is obviously a good thing for  business. However, there are some other parts to this offer:

  • how many of those clients will come back to pay twice as much for the same service? Does the business make enough profit from one half price service to warrant the discount if they never return?
  • are they cheapening their services with this offer? are they giving a message that their services are so over priced they can afford to take off 50%?
  • are they concentrating on new clients at the expense of existing, repeat customers?

There are other ways they could attract new clients through specials, such as:

  • new clients get a discount voucher for their second visit – even if it is the original 50% discount, at least they have paid full price once and you are teaching them to come back
  • customer rewards where they get a free {specific service} every five visits
  • new clients get a free {extra service} when booking over $x in services
  • new clients get a goodie bag on their first visit – include discount vouchers, relevant product samples, vouchers from complementary businesses, a chocolate, a branded pen/magnet/etc, and so on

What’s imortant to remember with special offers is that you continue to make a profit and that the offer won’t hurt you more than it helps.

Clear and repeated communications

Again, I am continuing on with a discussion of the Edelman Trust Barometer from February this year. (You can read the business trust and blog trust posts for background.)

Their media release states “Swift and accountable communications: Respondents said they need to hear information 3-5 times before they believe it. Companies should inform conversations among the new influencers on blogs, in forums, and bulletin boards. Australians under 34 are twice as likely to share both positive and negative information about a company online as their older counterparts – this trend will only grow. ”

The repetition of a clear message is important in getting people to trust you (your business) and accept that message. For example, any good presenter/teacher will summarise key points at the end of a topic as that helps others absorb that information.

When planning some marketing, remembering that people like to hear a message 3 – 5 times (and many have long said 7 times) before buying it means:

  • you may not get great results from your first attempt at marketing
  • consider how you can present your message in multiple ways rather than spending your budget on one ad
  • use images and layout to enhance your message – a stronger message may need less repetition than a hidden or weak message
  • every interaction you have with people in your demographic (and beyond) can reinforce or damage that message so make sure all ads, blogs, your website, your business card and so on are consistent, professional and appropriate for the purpose

Prompt communication is important in this information age – discussing an event well afterwards must be managed carefully so it doesn’t appear you are out of date. For instance, I could write that people affected by the February 7 bushfires are rebuilding and still need support all year but just writing ‘donate to the bushfires’ now looks very old.

Blogs, emails and social media are obviously key ways to making communications immediate and relevant – which is why I find it hard to believe they aren’t trusted forms of communication.

Repeat email ads not so good …

If you send out announcements or ads to a mailing list, be careful not to overdo it. I recently received two emails only days apart from the same person for the same ad, although she tried to make it look like two ads – it didn’t impress me as I wasn’t interested in it the first time!

Using a different example, the first message she sent was “Tash is presenting a workshop on clear communications in Mulgrave”; the second message was “Learn about clear communications in our workshop”

I think it is insulting to your readers to assume they can’t tell that this is the same ad in different words – and how embarrassing would it be for someone who tried enrolling in ‘both’ seminars?

If for some reason you are going to repeat an ad to your mailing list, then be honest about it and say so. Some possible introductions are:

  • Apparently some people didn’t get this message so I am sending it again
  • I had to send this again as the date has changed to …
  • Apologies for sending this again, but I felt it was so important I didn’t want to risk you missing out
  • I’m sorry – I sent this to you yesterday but I forgot to add the link so you could book!

However, make sure it is an honest reason you give and don’t do it regularly as it looses any credibility it may have had. I have received emails from people who used the ‘sorry, wrong/forgotten link’ more than once in two months and it looked very tacky and led me straight to the unsubscribe button.

If you are sending an email about somethig with a specific date, such as a workshop, then you can send a reminder closer to the date – note, it should be a reminder not just the same message again. And again, don’t send lots of reminders as that is just as annoying as repeated ads and also makes it less likely that the reader will respond to any of them.

Use your words wisely!

P.S. I am actually giving a workshop on clear communications in Mulgrave on Monday, 26th May. If you can make it, please make sure you introduce yourself to me on the day.